Saturday, August 20, 2011

Late Summer Wolf River Smallies

By Duane Fronek

I’ve been fishing the Wolf River the last couple weeks. And the Smallmouth Bass action has been hot. The Wolf is historically known as trout water, the upper part at least north of the Menominee Reservation. Brown trout is the main target. But for me I’ve switched gears and got into hunting down big smallmouth bass on the Wolf. By big I mean 16-18 inches maybe 20”, they’re in there because I’ve caught them up to 18”, not overly that big compared to other areas of the state or even compared to the Largemouth. But these smallies or Bronzebacks as some call them put up one heck of a fight in the strong current of the Wolf, they make big Largemouth look like powder puffs when it comes to the battle. The smallmouth could probably whip their weight in wildcats, seriously they are a fighter but majorly overlooked on the Wolf.
A good example of a deep eddy around a boulder
My partner Volker landing a nice 16 incher

  I’ve been fishing the Wolf since the late 80’s mostly for Brown trout. But after hooking into a few big smallies they slowly got my attention. I know the Wolf pretty well from all the years of fishing it. And found the big smallies hang in the deeper eddys and holes. Fishing these spots you need to take caution on the Wolf. The current is strong and the deeper you wade the more chance of getting dumped and going for a swim.

  So what gear do you need for this type of fishing? Well first off, you can don chest waders and I do at times. But for me I throw on a pair of shorts and rubber boots. You’re gonna get wet fishing these guys so I look at it like go comfortably, chest waders are hot and when you fill them, it’s a pain. So I go light. I strap on a back pack for my tackle which is minimal, a bottle of mountain dew or 2, my camera, and my surgical looking forceps for removing hooks. My camera is in a Ziploc bag as well as my cell phone, never know when you may need to call for help.

  For a rod, use what you want in the med. to ultra light using atleast 6#-8# test line. My buddy is using that red Cajun line in #4 test and hasn’t broke off yet, tough stuff. My favorite line is Royal Bonyl but it’s not made anymore, at least I can’t find it. So I use Trilene Max, and it has been performing fine, I was using Berkley Iron Silk, but can’t seem to find that either anymore, at least it’s not carried around here anyway.

  For lures I’ve been using spinners in the size 2 range or topwaters in the 1/8 oz range. The Rapala Skitter pop is doing a dandy job smacking the bass as is a shallow running rapala. The spinners were doing fine early on but the topwater lures have been explosive, getting hits that send your lure 2 feet or so, or the explosive smash of a big smallie or sometimes the subtle suck it under. Either way it’s been fun. Fishing deep rapids with large eddy’s or stretches of deep water with weed growth along the edges seems to be the ticket, these spots provide a good food source with crayfish thick and abundant in the slow weedy stretches and in the eddy’s they prey on other fish like chubs or even trout. I caught a 17” that had a small brown trout in its belly. I usually catch and release but will keep a few for the frying pan, they are good to eat with a tighter grain meat than the largemouth, and ones feeding heavy on crayfish have a taste of crab which I like. A local lake I fish the smallmouth taste like snow crab to me, their also bigger in that lake, but the action and fight on the river is more exciting and challenging, fighting around logs rocks is tough on your line and you just never know when you’ll here that dreadful snap of your line being shredded in an instant.
 A nice stringer full
 Deeper slow water
20" from an area lake
 Sometimes the action is so fierce you get 2 on one lure,lol.

 You need to take caution wading in the Wolf, the rocks, boulders, trees submerged under the surface are a challenging but treacherous obstacles to be aware of. Many times I’ve taken a header into the strong current of the Wolf, and she is not forgiving. When this happens always get yourself positioned facing and your head upstream while trying to get up it’ll protect your head from smashing a rock and you can actually swim it out if you face upstream. I’ve recently twice now this past week took swims, once losing my small tackle box and once yesterday smashing my knee into a boulder. So pay extra attention to where you’re walking, and if you’re going to fish till dark carry a waterproof flashlight to shine the bottom as you walk, walking blind in the river is dangerous stuff.
Some areas along the Wolf are walkable from shore where you can take your son or daughter. As you can see in the background how rough the Wolf can be.

  A bonus to fishing towards evening is the chance at catching a nice snapping turtle, their good to eat and not hard to catch. When you see one swimming, just grab it by the tail and hoist it up, but keep it at arm’s length to keep from getting bit. I’ve caught 3 so far with shells measuring at 15”, that’s a good size turtle. I usually carry a plastic burlap bag in my backpack for these guys. Just put them in the sack and tie it shut with a piece of rope and drag it along on my way back to my truck, then kill it at home, then clean it. I guess I’ll have to write up on how to kill and clean a turtle. Their excellent table fare.

  Well any way I hope you enjoyed the pics and vids, and give the Smallmouth a shot if your ever on the Wolf you won’t be disappointed.     


  1. That looks like an awesome smallie river, Duane! Smallmouths are my favorite game fish. I've fished rivers and streams for years and made a couple of trips to Canada just for smallies. I don't keep 'em, but I love to fight with 'em!

    That's a nice 20 you got from the lake. Pretty good size turtle there, too! Thanks for the videos - enjoyed them!

  2. Thanks heyBJK . It is, I'm going back out there in a little bit.Its an awesome river to fish and it's only 2 miles away,practically in my back yard.Just simple fun fishing.

  3. You might have a surprise visitor for some of those wild bronze backs!!! Wow what a cool place to fish!

    Tight Lines!

  4. Anytime. It's a blast and a workout.And beautiful scenery.