Canoe from New London to Weiland Landing and fish for walleye and white bass along the way. This is a 12 mile journey by car and, I guestimated, 21 miles by river. If we made excellent time with the flow of the river, we would continue on to Freemont.
Walleye had been running the river for a few weeks and their were many male walleye who would be there for another couple of weeks after the females had already returned to their respective lakes of Poygan or Winnebego. The white bass had been just starting to flood the river on their annual migration to spawn and I’d read reports of people bring home 80 to 100 or more white bass a day. There is no limit on this particular extremely prolific fish and it was neat to see entire Hmong families lined up along some of the public access points along the lower Wolf river taking advantage of this annual feast.
My friend Nick and I arrived and put in the river at the boat launch at around 5:30 a.m. We wanted to get in the river before dawn to take advantage of that peak few hours of increased fish activity (especially the walleye who, with their excellent eyesight, excel in this low light situation to feast on minnows). I got our poles baited up and dangling in the water off the sides of the canoe and even before we stepped into the canoe a twelve inch small mouth bass jumped on our line! It had to be 14 inches to be legal so we threw it back but this excited me about the fishing conditions. I would soon be disappointed by the lack of fish from that point on.
As we passed a place where a man was fishing from shore, I snagged his line. As I brought it up I saw the smallest catfish I’d ever seen dangling from the end of his line. “You have a fish!” I told him and asked him kindly to throw my line back in as I held on to a rock at the shoreline. He called back, “Great, a baby catfish. Just what I don’t need.”
We stopped at a few spots along the way that looked promising, but no luck. No matter. We were really enjoying the river and the conversation and eventually caught a few fish. Two walleye, and one white bass.
The highlight of the trip was when I had fish number four on the line. “Grab the net! Grab the net!” I told Nick excitedly. I swung the large white bass up into the boat, apparently a little too close to Nick. He dodged the fish and went straight over the side. The next moment I was upside down under water thinking to myself, “How did this happen?”
We both were laughing so hard as we swam with the canoe to shore. As I stepped on shore I said, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s start a fire!” It had been sprinkling off and on for some of the day already but now it started to rain more consistently and the temperatures were plummeting from 60’s down to 50’s.
We quickly gathered dry grass for tinder and kindling but our lighters were damp and would not light. So I grabbed my flint and steel and sent showers of 1500 degree sparks into the “dry” grass. Nick said, “I’ve got an idea”, and came back with bug spray. “This is flammable” he said and started to spray down the tinder.
The next shower of sparks lit the whole thing ablaze and soon we had a fire and were drying our clothes and warming ourselves. What an epic Bear Grylls moment. It was awesome!
(By the way, it isn’t a good idea to set a lighter next to a fire to dry out.)
It seemed that everyone else had given up on the river due to the weather. We didn’t see another boat the entire time we were there. I was determined to press on to our goal, but Nick was in shorts and T-shirt and wet and wisely chose to call it quits at the next boat landing at Guths landing next to Pigeon Crop Lake. (Guths is pronounced like and probably often mistaken for “Goose”. I was corrected a few times by the locals.)
Even though I lost my pole, my filet knife, and broke another pole, we had a great time and made some great memories.