Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
For Wisconsin Outdoor News
Written September, 2009

Wisconsin’s Fall River Hot Spots
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

It’s no secret that fall walleye and sauger fishing is one of my favorite things to do. The fishing can be fantastic and Wisconsin has numerous top shelf opportunities available no matter where you live. With rivers such as the Mississippi, Wisconsin, Rock, Fox and Wolf, each part of our state has a destination fall fishery within a reasonable drive. That allows for single day trips plus the ability to fish numerous destinations each fall season. Another reason for my fascination with fall fishing is the lower number of anglers. Basically the fur & feather crowd is in field and forest, concentrating on hunting and most anglers have winterized their boats. That leaves the competition for the fish to those like me who will fish the rivers right until ice up, even breaking thinner sheets to get to open water and hot fishing.

Tactics are simple with a jig and minnow the usual presentation. Jig weight greatly depends on the fishery and target locations. For instance, jigs of 1/8 and 1/4 ounce are typical this time of year on the Wolf River, but near the dam on the Mississippi, 3/4 to one ounce may be what’s needed. Make sure to have a good selection of colors and sizes to maximize your fish catching potential. Local favorite colors, shapes and hair jigs often make a difference, so keep an open eye when you get your bait.

No matter the river, many anglers will drift with the current and vertical jig while others anchor on prime spots and fish from that position. When it gets cold, I like to anchor and use a small heater to maintain some sort of comfort level in the boat. The ability to warm wet hands is reason enough to carry one of the small self contained units available today. They can produce ample heat and are safer then the old “sun flower” style heaters. Some fisheries allow trolling and I’ve been highly successful pulling small crank baits on bottom bouncers up stream over gravel bars and along current breaks. Make sure to check local rules and regulations for rules regarding trolling, bag, size and slot limits. Here are a few of my favorite destinations.

The Mississippi River will usually stay open below the dams well into the fall fishing season. In fact, there are times when winters are mild enough that boat ramps remain usable and open water fishing continues all year long. From pool 3 at Prescot, Wisconsin where the St. Croix River meets the Mississippi, to pool 11 below Cassville, you are sure to find anglers out in search of walleye and sauger. Your Wisconsin fishing license lets you fish the boundary waters, so launching at Red Wing Minnesota to fish pool 4, for instance, is allowable by law. The Wisconsin DNR has PDF maps of each pool on the web at which should help you find boat ramps and help with navigation. The town of Genoa is a popular fall hot spot, known for good fishing and a chance at a trophy class walleye. Action focuses near the dam but don’t overlook the first 3 or 4 miles downstream for good fishing away from the crowd.

The Wisconsin River provides numerous walleye and sauger fishing opportunities along its length. Each dam from Prairie du Sac north provides good opportunity for walleye and sauger. A popular spot is below the Dells dam where DNR fish managers say the next state record sauger may come from. A potential record fish was caught and released due to the slot size limit on the system. This “slot size” means that anglers must release fish between 20 and 28 inches. The rules are different from Prairie du sac south and read as follows; “Upstream from the Prairie du Sac Dam, the minimum length limit on walleye and sauger is 15", but fish from 20" through 28" may not be kept and only one fish over 28" is allowed. Below the Prairie du Sac Dam, the minimum length limit on walleye is 18" and on sauger or hybrids is 15" with a daily bag limit of 3 in total”. Castle Rock, Petenwell and Nekoosa are also well known fall destinations as is the area around Lake DuBay. There’s good boat access and some of these areas offer good shore fishing opportunities too.

The Rock River in southern Wisconsin is an often overlooked fall fishery. Here good year classes of walleye and sauger should provide quality fishing. Water levels are important as there is no main barrier. There’s a dam at Jefferson but the main concentration of anglers will be found fishing the lower end of the river between Fort Atkinson and Lake Koshlanong this time of year. Fish can be found using the available deep water and areas near bridge pilings, tributaries and shoreline structure. Theres boat ramps in Fort Atkinson, where highway 26 crosses the river and near the mouth at Blackhawk Island. The area also has plenty of shore fishing opportunities.

The Fox River at DePere is probably the most noteworthy Fox River destination but don’t overlook places up stream. Areas below the Eureka dam and Montello dam can provide some excellent fall fishing. In fact, Pro Angler Daryl Christensen has talked with me about numerous rarely fished places along the Fox upstream of Lake Winnebago. Flood stage water the past two springs have allowed numbers of fish to access the upper Fox River system and many have taken root. Casting crank baits near the dam and shallow rocks at DePere and working a jig below the dam at Montello are both on my schedule this fall.

My home waters of the Wolf could be good this fall due to large numbers of eater size fish in the Winnebago system. Water levels play an important role although a good percentage of the young male population will be drawn to the river each year. As in all the rivers, length of daylight and water temperature, along with an influx of fresh water instinctively draws fish to the rivers and upstream of their summer locations. Most years the first 5 miles above Lake Poygan is very good although walleye can be found in any deep water all the way to New London. Don’t be surprised if you catch a few saugers in the lower Wolf. New regulations allow for keeping one as a part of your daily bag limit but I suggest releasing those fish in an effort to help them establish themselves in the system.

In all cases, fishing usually gets better the closer to ice up we get. In fact, I’ve had some of my best days ever after breaking some shell ice to get to my fishing spots. So get out an enjoy some of the best walleye and sauger fishing of the year on one of Wisconsin’s rivers. Prepare properly and you are almost sure to have a great time and catch some fish.

Joel “Doc” Kunz
For Wisconsin Outdoor News


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