High water that has carried us in to November has blessed us with what could be legendary walleye fishing.
Although just slightly above average for this time of year, record water levels in September and October brought large schools of walleye into the lower Wolf River system. Some of those fish are from the lower lakes and some of those fish spent most of their summer in the upper reaches of the Wolf and Embarrass Rivers.
At this time anglers are reporting good catches of fish from Winneconne to New London. From what I’ve heard, all you need to do is spend a little time finding a group of fish and you’re going to do well.
Deep water is always the key as we get to the time just prior to ice up, but right now the fish are using the flats and areas above deep water to spread out and wait for food. That food is being provided by the falling water levels and colder temperatures which push bait fish and young of the year fish out of the tributaries and backwaters where they hide. That makes the main river and its’ deep oxygenated water the place to be as winters icy grip begins to take hold.
A jig and minnow is all you need. Pick just about any access point and find an area of deep water, located on just about every bend in the river.
Start by going above the bend and drift the drop off into deep water. You may find the fish in as little as 6 feet or as deep as the deepest part of the hole. They can spread out on a flat half a mile above that deep water too, but as water temperatures fall, they won’t stray too far. Deep water on the rivers main bends provide an area where fish can rest and food is gathered by eddie currents.
Although they will move as water levels rise and fall but deep water is the key. Being versatile in your presentation will also help you catch more fish. If the standard “hopping” action of drifting and jigging is what is working, most anglers will catch fish. If a more subtle action such as a “hover” or “dragging” presentation is what triggers the strike, many anglers struggle.
Hovering a jig is done by finding the bottom, then lifting your rod tip just a few inches. Movement is very subtle, almost like ice fishing for bluegills. Sometimes the fish bang it hard and sometimes there is just a bit of weight on the line but believe me, they will come up off the bottom and grab it. Dragging is done by letting a bit of extra line out and keeping your rod tip very quiet and letting the jig bump it’s way down the river. This works best in the sandy flats and “whoop-de-do’s” found on many of the straight stretches of river.
Minnows are usually the best bait once the water temperature falls below 50 degrees but never over look night crawlers or leeches as the bait of choice on some days. I prefer shiners but fatheads are often what the walleye will target some days, so I always grab a mix. Dress warm, wear a life jacket, bring snacks and water to help you keep your inner furnace burning and you should have a December to remember when it comes to walleye fishing. You should have a good chance of catching your limit of eaters and may catch a trophy size or “picture fish” for your memory banks. This is a great time to enjoy the Wolf River as Mother Nature has provided us with what could be the fall walleye fishing of a lifetime.