Put the Wolf River in your Summer Plans

The big spring run for the walleyes on the Wolf River is in full swing. Every spring, the little village of Fremont, Wis. becomes the fishing capital of the Midwest.

The warming days of April trigger the spawning run, as fine, eating males travel upriver from Lake Winnebago, Lake Winneconne and Poygan and Butte De Morts lakes, followed by the larger females, to complete their annual spawning run.

The river will be lined with boats throughout April and anglers fishing jig/minnow combinations will be rewarded with limits of these great eaters. The 1/4-ounce jigs in colors like FireTiger and parrot along with minnows are likely the top producers.

Overlapping the end of the run in late April and early May is the world-famous white bass run late into May. This is the run that put Fremont on the map, making it the “White Bass Capital of the World.”

With no size or bag limits on white bass, catches of over 100 fish per day don’t raise too many eyebrows.

During these spring months, Fremont takes on the look of an old prospecting town during the Gold Rush with the hustle and bustle everywhere.

But if you are more a fan of relaxation and quiet, I’ve got just the place for you—Fremont. That’s right, Freemont again.

Once Memorial Day passes, the town seemingly takes on the transformation from an on-the-go fishing frenzy to a lazy little river town. Gone are the huge crowds and wall-to-wall boats. You will think you are in a different place with the peace and quiet replacing the havoc of the spring runs. This tranquility lasts throughout summer and has some red-hot fishing. In fact, it’s probably one of Wisconsin’s best-kept secrets.

There are plenty of white bass throughout the summer, as they will be feeding along the rock walls or seawalls in the river at dawn and at dusk feeding on the minnows.

After these feeding periods, head to Partridge, Poygan and Winneconne to watch for the seagulls. When you see them diving for minnows, it’s a good bet the white bass will be right below them feeding. Get on the outskirts of the gulls and cast Shad Raps or small spoons like Castmasters, Little Cleos, K-O Wobblers or the new Williams Ridge/Backs.

Many other species are readily available in the Wolf River and its backwaters throughout the summer including channel catfish, flatheads, northerns, walleyes and panfish like perch, bluegills, crappies and sunfish.

One of my favorite summer species on the Wolf is the channel catfish. Setting up at dusk and fishing into the night will usually reward you with a cooler of cats that will take two men to lift.

When he has a night off, I enjoy getting out for an evening of catfishing with Patrick Morack, a Fremont resident. Patrick is one of the top guides on the river and seems to know where the fish are at all times. He fishes catfish with a medium-heavy 7- foot St. Croix rod and a baitcasting reel loaded with 20- to 40-pound-test braided line. He uses a “sliding” Wolf River rig and a  number 1 circle hook. The drop line to the sinker is approximately 10 to 12 inches with a 24- to 30-inch leader to the hook. He uses fish livers and cut minnows for bait and primarily fishes above logjams, fallen trees and drop-offs.

He says there are keys to using circle hooks: rod holders and locking your rod in the holder and not trying to set the hook. The tension of the fish running with the bait pulls the hook to the corner of the catfish’s mouth and the fish hooks itself.

As soon as he catches a bunch of white bass in the spring it’s time for catfishing. The bigger catfish now are very active and aggressively feeding.

The last time Patrick and I fished together we started at dusk and wrapped it up at 9:40 p.m. The only reason we quit that early was because we ran out of bait. We did manage to put 35 catfish in the box, though.

Summer also features some prime fishing for walleyes, either working the river with jigs or trolling on Lake Winnebago or Lake Poygan.

If you are new to fishing the Wolf River during the summer months, I would highly recommend a guide at least for the first few times out. Although it still is an extremely productive fishery in summer, the areas and techniques change and having a capable guide to learn from will really cut to the chase and put you right on the fish.

Patrick Morack, owner of Moracktion Guide Service, comes highly recommended. He is a multi-species guide and will be happy to target what you want or he will recommend what’s biting best. He will furnish all the bait and equipment unless you prefer to use your own and can pick you up and get you right on the fish.

One bonus you will find in the summer months is that the resorts are not nearly as crowded as they are in the spring. A couple of my favorites are Larry & Jan’s Resort and Pine Grove Resort.

If you come, bring the family. There’s plenty for them to do including the free Webfooters Water Ski Show Team at 6 p.m. on Sundays and Wednesdays and numerous festivals and activities throughout Waupaca County.

Although many resorts feature housekeeping units with cooking facilities, the area abounds with great eating establishments. People familiar with the area will remember the old Wolf River Diner, which has been closed in recent years.

Well, the good news is that chefs Barbe Adams and Dan Van Epps bought and reopened the diner last year and it’s better than ever, offering a nostalgic retro ‘50s look. In addition to the absolute best breakfasts on the river to start the day out right, they also serve up a good lunch if you want to take a midday break from your fishing.

I f you never tried fishing the Wolf River and the Fremont area during the summer, give it a shot. I’m sure you’ll be back.