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Wolf River: White bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, well, you name it, in a flow of wonderful conversation

Fishing got off to a slow start but turned great with multiple species during a day on the Wolf River with Bruce Zolna and guide Bill Stoeger.

Bruce Zolna tosses one of the early white bass into the cooler while guide Bill Stoeger works at the front of the boat on the Wolf River. Credit: Dale Bowman
Bruce Zolna tosses one of the early white bass into the cooler while guide Bill Stoeger works at the front of the boat on the Wolf River.
Dale Bowman

FREMONT, Wis. — Bill Stoeger had good reason to become a guide on the Wolf River in 1995.

“I got tired of listening to people cry into their beer about not catching any fish,” he said as Bruce Zolna and I fished with him.

I met Stoeger when he had Riverside Bar in Fremont, which he owned until 2003. Every few years, I fish with him for white bass, crappie or walleye.

Last Wednesday turned into a multispecies action, out of Red Banks Resort.

We started hunting and pecking -— four white bass at the first stop, a smallmouth bass at the second and blanked at the third.

Guide Bill Stoeger prepares to land the biggest smallmouth bass of the day while fishing white bass with Bruce Zolna and Dale Bowman on the Wolf River. Credit: Dale Bowman
Guide Bill Stoeger prepares to land the biggest smallmouth bass of the day while fishing white bass with Bruce Zolna and Dale Bowman on the Wolf River.
Dale Bowman

At the sixth stop, action turned on at a bend with a deep hole coming up shallow with multiple current seams.

After a slow hour, the white bass started schooling minnows and busting the surface. Stoeger switched to a jig to get higher in the water column and went back-to-back-to-back, so I switched, then Zolna. Action came so fast, I lost count of our fish and doubles. When action slowed after lunch there, we had caught dozens of white bass, two walleye and a freshwater drum.

“The jigs are more fun, but the river rig is very effective,” Stoeger said. “My wife loves to go if it is a jig bite. When there is surface action, they are suspended, and the river rig on the bottom is useless.”

Our early catches were with river rigs: 4-5 feet of line behind the snap with about a 6-inch dropper sinker. With river rigs, the cast is downstream or across current, so that the line stays tight, and you can feel or see the bites.

Stoeger had us using fathead minnows, which are the closest bait sold that look close to the banded darter. White bass attack them in schools. But nearly all the fish we cleaned had perch in their stomachs, not darters.

The water was 63 degrees.

“It should be in the upper 40s or the low 50s,” Stoeger said.

Most action was associated with sandbars.

“I’m guessing a couple of weeks yet,” Stoeger said. “There’s some weather coming in, but days are to be in the 60s.”

The company matched the fishing.

Zolna is a born storyteller or, as a doctor described him in her visit notes, “loquacious.”

The Wolf River was the third leg of the semi-retired lawyer’s Post-COVID Cabin Fever Breakout Tour. He told about putting together a trip for Paul Newman at a charity event in Florida, where Newman caught his first fish, a mahi-mahi.

Between stories and fish, the day went fast.

Back at Red Banks, we cast the wall and boated four good smallmouth. Then Stoeger caught our only northern pike.

It was time . . . to clean white bass and walleye — three one-gallon bags stuffed with fillets.

We totaled around 100 fish and seven species. Most were white bass, but there were also 11 smallmouth bass, four walleye, three rock bass, a crappie, the drum and the pike.

Reach Stoeger at (920) 570-1187.

Fall scene on the Wolf River during white-bass time. Credit: Dale Bowman
Fall scene on the Wolf River during white-bass time.
Dale Bowman

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