Despite growing up within four miles of the Wolf River, I never took the time to discover all it has to offer.
As a kid, I saw hundreds of flat bottom, tiller boats being trailered past my parents’ house each weekend in summer. Most were headed to the boat landing at Koepke Park, or the landing at what was then known as Diemel’s Bar.
The school bus brought me to school for many years, and the huge crowd of trucks and boat trailers at the landing across from Ken’s Riverside in Shiocton was as regular as the spring season itself.
I heard stories from friends about the walleye and white bass runs. I also heard tales of epic catfish battles that began well after dark, or trophy cats only a setline could snag.
I’ve heard people cheer or grumble about their experiences with Jet Skis on the river. I’ve seen hundreds of people float effortlessly down the river on inner tubes. I’ve even written stories on local businesses that specialize in helping people get out and enjoy the river on a kayak, canoe or tube.
I’ve spent a couple nights on a Wolf River raft, and seen pictures of the catfish caught on similar summer nights. Some of those legendary fish earned names-like, for example, Gypsy Rose Hibiscus De La Rosa.
Truth be told, I never quite understood it all. I’ve known a few self-proclaimed ‘river rats’, but never understood what drew them to the Wolf each weekend and during most of their free time. Their passion for the Wolf has largely remained a mystery to me.
My good friend Jacques Prickette introduced me to river fishing about 10 years ago. We floated the Embarrass River a few times, and also took a couple trips down the Waupaca River. I was amazed at how these rivers had been right under my nose, but I never knew what they had to offer. Despite the cities and towns built around these rivers, they remain incredibly wild and seemingly untouched.
If I thought the Embarrass and Waupaca rivers were wild, I was in for a surprise when we headed north to float the Chippewa and Namekagon rivers up near the Hayward/Ladysmith area. In one day, we came within 20 yards of a black bear, spooked up a whitetail that ran from its island napping spot through the water in front of us and disappeared upon reaching shore, spotted muskrats and otters, were watched by ducks, eagles, and osprey, and got to see some turtles basking in the sun. This alone made for an incredible time; catching fish was just an added bonus.
I learned a lot about the river on those trips, and it’s been fun to gain understanding on how to ‘read the river’ and plan your navigation and fishing tactics accordingly. That knowledge is great to have, but in those 10 years of river fishing, Jacques and I had still never challenged the Wolf River-until this summer.
A few weekends ago, I floated the Wolf with my neighbor friend, Bruce Fletcher. We found an incredibly healthy stretch of river that was full of beautiful scenery and great fishing. I also learned an important lesson about making sure you know how long your trip is going to be. Ours was slightly longer than expected, which resulted in about two hours of paddling practice at the end of the trip to get us to our take-out landing at a reasonable hour.
Jacques and I with the permission and blessing of both our lovely wives finally found our way down the Wolf last weekend. I was once again amazed at the beauty of the river and the vibrant fish population. We caught and released many Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass. We kept a few for supper, but released about three times more fish than we caught. The fish were aggressive and plenteous. On two occasions, we had two bass fighting for the same lure. I had never seen that before, but I think it’s a testament to the healthy fish population in the Wolf.
By the end of the day, our arms were sore from catching so many hard-fighting fish. We had a few pictures of the nicer fish we caught, and Jacques even captured some video of us catching and releasing some fat, healthy bass. Perhaps the most enjoyable part about the whole trip was being able to spend time fishing with a friend and enjoying a day on the river like we had done so many times before.
This trip opened my eyes to all the Wolf River has to offer. Whether you’re looking to take a bass boat, canoe, kayak, inner tube or Jet Ski, the Wolf can accommodate you. The river also offers a wide variety of fish to entice any angler, from crappie and catfish to muskie and bass. Spring, summer, winter or fall-the Wolf has it all. Even if you’re not fishing, the wildlife and scenery on the Wolf provide a perfect setting for relaxation and appreciation of all God’s creation.
If you’ve never taken time to experience all the Wolf has to offer, I encourage you to make time and give it a try. Don’t wait 10 years like I did-check it out this summer. You won’t be disappointed.