Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
For Wisconsin Outdoors / Wolf River Experience
Written March, 2010

Mid April Mixed Bag Delight
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

Mid April is prime time for fishing here in Wolf River Country. Walleye action is usually good as the fish are post spawn and ready to feed. Anglers can find walleye throughout the system. Those who prefer the river can find walleye anywhere from Shiocton to the mouth at Lake Poygan. Drifting and jigging areas that gather food works as does casting small crank baits towards shoreline cover. Of course water levels play an important role as to fish location. High water will allow hungry post spawn fish to probe flooded areas of grass and wood for minnows. High water will also move the bulk of the fish back to the lower lakes in large groups that ride the rise in current. Changing spots on a day to day basis can be the best bet as the fish move down stream.

Low water levels present a different set of circumstances. Low water levels will usually congregate the fish in deep water eddies where young of the year fish are gathered in by the circulating current. Low water also forces many of the fish to venture far up stream in search of suitable spawning habitat. In the past, large numbers of fish have gone all the way to the dam at Shawano during low water years. So far the 2010 spawning run of walleye has begun that way. The quick warm up and lack of significant spring rains has made for poor water levels in many marshes. If they can't find a marsh, the fish will stay in the river until it warms beyond spawning temperatures then dump their eggs where ever they can. They will then filter back using deep water areas until a large rain fall “flushes” them back down stream. That means that it can take a lot longer for the bulk of the fish to return to the lower lakes of the system.

So what does a warmer than normal spring and low water mean for visiting anglers. Well it means that walleye fishing might be great in the New London area and white bass fishing getting hot around Fremont. You see, mid April is post spawn walleye time and PRE-spawn white bass time. If the walleye are still using the top end of the system, then the traditional white bass spawning grounds around Fremont will see less competition from them for food. If walleye have returned to that part of the system, then more of a mixed bag is what can be expected. Although the traditional white bass spawning time is in May, by mid to late April, some of the early arriving fish have already entered the system. Those fish often end up spawning around New London and provide mixed bag fishing for anglers in that area. A jig and minnow worked in deep water and near steep shoreline drops will usually catch fish. Try a streamer fly tipped with a minnow on a Wolf River rig too. Some small sand flats on inside bends that warm up quickly due to the sun will see some shallow water white bass action. Spinners, small crank baits and red & white jigs “hopped” through the area will catch fish probing the area. A few hearty white bass mixed in with some walleye makes for a great bag of fish.

Don’t overlook the great smallmouth bass and mid April panfish action either. I’ve caught some dandy smallmouth bass while pitching drop offs and eddie currents this time of year. That’s because they too are returning to the river after wintering in the lower lakes and deep water pools of the system. Many are headed to their normal summer haunts up the Embarrass, Waupaca and Little Wolf Rivers. Others will stay in the Wolf, headed for the seldom fished stretches of river near Leeman and rocky areas below the dam at Shawano. Water temperature is what draws them as does the availability of food. Catfish are on the move too, many headed for the same up stream locations. Any heavy tug on the line could be a good size cat.

Crappie are active this time of year also. I’ve had some of my best catches of “slabs” during the lull in walleye action caused by spawning activity. Trees in the river and back water areas with steep banks and bushy cover will usually hold fish. Casting a small jig tipped with plastic will work but I still prefer a small float and live minnow. Casting to small spots is important so make sure to bring extra bobbers. You can collect them from the tree after you’re done. It’s better then disturbing the fish to get the first one you cast to trouble.

Bluegill will just be staring to show up in some of the warmer areas and back waters but mid April perch fishing can be prime. They too are just completing spawning and cruising in large groups looking for food. They can show up anywhere, from the mouth of the Rat River to the Oxbow near New London. Places like the “Big Cut”, “Colic Slough”, Jenny Slough and Templeton Bayou can all hold these fish from year to year. Small minnows below bobbers or fished on Wolf River rigs will catch them. Of course water levels, current and availability of food play an important role as to their location.

So get out and enjoy the wonders of the Wolf River this spring. You are sure to have a mixed bag of fishing action and enjoy one of Wisconsin’s, the Midwest’s and our countries most wondrous natural resources. The birds, wildlife and sunsets you will experience are the frosting on the cake.

Joel “Doc” Kunz is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, 2005 “Readers Choice” Award Winner and member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW).


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