The Wolf River came to life over the past two weeks as warm weather and the current freed it from ice that had encased it for months.
Vehicles with empty boat trailers, not only filled the two lots at New London Riverside Park, but stretched several blocks on County X – even extending past Ram’s Creek, one of the waterways leading to the Mukwa Marsh spawning grounds.
It is a telltale sign the walleye season has transitioned from holes in the ice to boats on one of the premier fisheries in Wisconsin – the Winnebago System that anchors the Wolf River Basin.
The Wolf River starts with a trickle of water near Crandon and flows downstream as the river grows, picking up water from the Shioc, Embarrass, Little Wolf, Waupaca/Tomorrow and other tributaries on the way to Lake Poygan at Boom’s Bay south of Fremont.
Saturday, on my way home from the End Stool, a state Department of Natural Resources boat was checking out the flow into Ram’s Creek the upstream inflow for the Mukwa Marsh spawning grounds.
The spawning grounds are off limits for fishermen.
Mike Kanaman took a respite from fishing late last week, bemoaning that walleye had moved out of the main river to spawn. He had one fish to show for hours of fishing.
“It has slowed down from a day ago,” Kanaman said. “There is a lot of fishing left.”
[[In-content Ad]]Natives do a lot of fishing this time of year, many spending day and night on their shanties that line the Wolf.
Dave Herzfeldt is typical of today’s fisherman, relying on technology and not just lady luck to catch fish.
“The temperature was 43.9 degrees and the fish have moved to spawning ground” Herzfeldt said, adding “and that was in the river.”
In addition, many boats are equipped with fish locators that also show depth, and underwater cameras that make it nearly impossible for fish to elude detection. The baits are also tempting – as if a fat minnow or wiggly worm isn’t enough – coming in various colors, motion and even sound and smell.
Dave and his fishing buddy had only three walleye for several hours on the river.
Dick Fritz, later that day, managed to land two walleye at his favorite fishing hole. “I didn’t have a bite for three hours,” he said. Fritz said the water was 45 degrees, adding, while walleye are spawning neither fish he caught had spawned.
Wolf River walleye begin to spawn when the water temperature nears 40 degrees. The fish come in waves, with many staging for spawning over winter and a big run coming later as the flow of water increases in spring.
The water level 4 a.m. Saturday was 7.51 feet on the U.S. Geological gauge in New London, lower than many years when the Wolf overflows its banks opening grassy areas for the walleye to spawn and allow the fry to absorb the food sack before being carried by the current to the river.
A rainy day buoyed the river level to 7.69 feet at 9 a.m. Sunday and a cruel reminder of the long winter, about two inches of snow overnight, showed a 7.95 reading 5 a.m. Monday.
Cooler weather will stall the pending attraction on the Wolf, the sturgeon spawning on the rocky shorelines of the river. The length of that spawning is difficult to judge – taking place in about a day like, last year, or more typical over several days once the water temperature exceeds 50 degrees.
Among the many people drawn to the area by the walleye run were two novice Wolf walleye anglers from Neilsville who stopped at the End Stool for breakfast. They sought insight about where to launch their boat and where to fish.
It was easy to share my limited knowledge – directing them to Riverside Park or Shaw’s Landing to put their boat in.
For the more important information about fishing, the suggestion was Johnny’s Little Shoppe of Bait at Riverside where the local fishermen gather daily.
“Will they share information?” the retired mason, 73, asked.
“They are fishermen after all,” was the response, not needing to elaborate about fish tales or secret fishing holes.