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White bass on the Wolf River: Classic scenes in a weird spring

The white bass is weeks later than usual, but it is here on the Wolf River.

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A look downriver on the Wolf River on a late May outing for white bass in Fremont, Wis.
Dale Bowman

FREMONT, Wis. – Along the rock wall by Partridge Lake, a grandfather, father and two boys fished for white bass Thursday morning.

Fishing the Wolf River in spring for white bass is a classic, Norman Rockwellian scene.

At its core, fishing for white bass is a snap when they are in feeding mode. Even when the bite is tougher, a snap is key, as guide Bill Stoeger illustrated.

Stoeger texted last week that I needed to drive up, white bass were about to go. Typically, white bass peak on the Wolf around Mother’s Day. This is not a typical spring around the Midwest. The bite is about three weeks behind.

On our third stop, I caught our first casting shallow with a jig and minnow.

“If we have to, we’ll go to river rigs,” Stoeger said. “That’s a lot more work. I’m hoping to find a school in shallow.”

When I didn’t catch more shallow, we both switched to river rigs.

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Guide Bill Stoeger has a snap of a system for catching white bass on the Wolf River.
Dale Bowman

Stoeger went to braided line years ago. Originally, he used 10-pound braid, but recently switched to 20-pound.

The river rig is a three-way with a sinker on a foot leader of 8-pound monofilament with a long (4-feet) leader with a fly and minnow. It is cast straight out or quartered behind, then worked with a snap after feeling the sinker find the bottom. It sounds easy, but Stoeger out-fished me, 4-1, largely because he has a more compact and effective snap.

“Biggest mistake people make when fishing deep fast water is not using a heavy enough sinker,” said Stoeger, who used 1.5-ounce sinkers. “Then they can’t feel the bottom.”

The Wolf is fast and high. There is a no-wake within 500 feet of dwellings.

In between chatting about his moose hunt in Saskatchewan, he dug into memories and said, “Red is the trigger color. I remember years ago when everybody kept some red yarn in their tackle boxes and they would tie it on their hook or whatever.’’

Stoeger thinks with the temperatures and water levels that there will be a couple weeks of white bass fishing. On Tuesday, water was again cooling and around 63. When the water drops some, Stoeger expects the river bite to improve.

“I think this will be another record spawn for the walleye,” he said. “Usually we get our best [walleye] fishing when we get a good drop, typically in mid-June. This year it might be a little late.”

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Cooler of white bass from the Wolf River in late May.
Dale Bowman

At our last stop, downstream of Partridge, we finally found a few bigger females staging. But, at 1:15 p.m., I called it. We had 53 in the box in four hours.

It was time.

After cleaning fish, we dug into Build-A-Burgers at Red Banks Resort and more talk about my favorite river system for fishing. Then it was back to interstates and home.

For Riverside Fishing Guide Service, call 920-570-1187. For Red Banks, call 920-446-2933.

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A day later, what some of the white bass from the Wolf River became: A fine evening meal.
Dale Bowman

SPRINGFIELD: SB1966, which mandated fingerprinting for a FOID card and upped the cost to $20, passed the House 62-52 last Wednesday, but the Senate did not pass it. Expect something similar to be revived at some point.

WILD THINGS: Male and female endangered piping plovers established a nest Tuesday in a very public area at Montrose Beach. Potentially, that sets up a classic confrontation/interaction between human activities and wildlife.

STRAY CAST: The difference between fishing and baseball is that almost anyone, literally, can catch a 6 1/2-pound smallmouth bass while almost no one, literally, can hit Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito.