December 29, 2012

Progress In Changing Of Trout Rules And Regulations

Wisconsin Conservation Congress
Trout Committee

Jordan Weeks WDNR Fish Manager from La Crosse  gave a review of the upcoming report on Trout Fishing Participation Survey. He explained that the survey shows drop in participation is due mostly to busy lives, and other hobbies. Not because of regulations and limits.  A full report is due out very soon.

DNR liaison Jordan Weeks gave a briefing on DNR Trout Committee and the review of the possible trout regulation changes. He also commented on contacts from the public about changes in the regulations. He feels people are bypassing the Conservation Congress and going straight to their legislators. May be due to lack of knowledge of the Congress and its purpose. Also may be due to the time involved in getting changes done due to ACT 21.

Weeks gave a report on the DNR Trout Committee review of the current fishing regulations, and possible changes. Some of the proposed changes being looked at are;

Longer season, earlier start, and later close

Some of regulations changes are in the categories.

Category 1:  no size limit, 5 fish bag limit
Category 2: 8” or 9” size limit, 3 fish bag limit
Category 3 special regulations (catch and release, trophy, ETC,)

Eliminate Category 4: Minimum length limit: Brown and rainbow trout
12"; brook trout 8" Daily bag limit: 3 in total
Eliminate Fly Fishing only regulations, convert to artificial only.

He stressed all of these are only proposals as of now, no changes have been agreed to as of yet.

A proposal was also floated out there to increase the Trout Stamp fee from $10.00 to $15.00

    Fisheries Biologist      (608) 785-9002

December 27, 2012

American Angler Magazine "New" edition

My friend Andy Weaverling has a feature piece in the new American Angler Magazine.

It is called "Close Encounters"

Here is more information on the writer and the article on Andy's Blog.

December 23, 2012

Not A Bird

Just before our big snowfall recently I purchase 2 bird feeders.  The reason was two fold.  I wanted to feed the birds and I wanted to entertain our two cats.  If cats could speak they would be saying:  "Dad that is not a bird!

Putting It In Perspective

Last Spring the phone rang and it was my old friend Jim.  We talked for quite some time.  He shared with me that one of his sons had recently broken up with his wife of ten years and wasn't doing well.  He asked me if I would take Brad fishing and take his mind off his dilemma.  I had fished with Brad  a dozen times in the past and enjoyed his company and thought it would be a good idea to get him out in nature and get his mind off his worries.  I knew the exact place to take him.

We met up on the outskirts of town.  We talked a little and off we went to our destination with two cars. We parked Brad's truck at the upper part of where we were to fish and Brad jumped in with me and we drove down to the lower beginning area.  Brad was really quiet and I did not pry.  I thought if he wanted to talk about it he would.

I had not fished this stretch in early season before.  The stream looked much different than it had in the green of summer.  The bluffs and landscape seemed a little more stark and not so lush and beautiful.  The beginning stretch was embraced by rock bluffs.  I let Brad fish a little ahead of me so he could get the rust off his casting and catch his first fish. It didn't take long and Brad had a beautiful brook trout to hand.  The colors of the trout were neon and seemed out of place with the browns of early spring.  We admired the male brook trout and sent it back to its home.

I then decided to fish alongside Brad so we could talk.  He opened up and told me his wife had left him out of the blue and told him he should take the two boys because she wanted to start a new life.  He was having a hard time with the transition and his five year old and seven year old boys didn't understand the situation at all.  I could see he just wanted to fish and leave his problems behind for the day.  We continued on with our adventure.

Brad really liked the rock bluffs.  He said they made him feel safe and looked after.  The water was crystal clear and the trout were eager.  I watched Brad catch a decent brown and he admired it and set it free.  Brad stayed crouched for a while after the release and I walked up to him.  He wiped tears away and stood up and continued to fish.

The next hole looked perfect.  The weeds that were typically in the hole had died off from the winter cold weather.  We could see activity at the head of the hole.  Brad stood in one place and caught 20 trout.  Each one of his casts seemed easier and more smooth.  The soothing effect of nature and the trout melted away his anguish.

The brown of early Spring were the dominant colors when we began our adventure.  As we went upstream the color began to change to a little more green.  I explained to Brad that there were lots of springs in the area and that was why the color was changing.  Brad just nodded his head and did not speak.  It was obvious he was still quite injured by his wife.  We slowly fished upstream.  The only words exchanged were when we admired a trout we had caught.

We walked up on to the biggest hole on the stretch.  I told Brad it was his to fish.  I sat down and watched as Brad dissected the hole.  Brad fished the hole for 45 minutes.  He changed flies 10 times and sized down his tippet with no results.  Brad and I talked about the hole and where the trout would be laying.  Brad said he felt defeated by the hole.  I quickly told him that maybe there was only one really big trout in the hole and we had not thrown something it wanted to eat.  I smiled and said maybe next time you will catch the monster that lives there.

Brad wanted to know how I stayed positive throughout my life.  Brad had read many of my stories about my youth.  He wanted to hear how I kept upbeat when my Dad died when I was 10 years old and left my mother and five sisters behind.  I told Brad my mother had always stayed positive.  She had always shared with us stories about other families that were worse off than we were.

Brad was through with the hole so I went to the head of it to take a photo.  I snapped a photo and I saw something in the foreground.  There were a couple structures about 30 yards from the stream.  I had never seen these structures before because I had always fished this area in summer and now the vegetation was down and I could see better.  Brad and I went to investigate.

The first structure was round and at first glance looked like an outhouse.  It was made of blocks and the door opened only partially down.  The roof was made of stones and there was an opening in the middle.  The roof was moss covered.  I kidded Brad that the moss was probably older than he was. We decided it was an old smokehouse.  It seemed way out of place out there in the boonies with no roads and limited access. A smokehouse was a necessity not a luxury back in the day to make it through harsh Wisconsin winters.

We went to the next structure.  It was about 30 yards away and tucked up against the hill.  We both walked up to it and had the same comment.  We both said "WOW!" simultaneously.

There we stood in front of an open hearth and chimney.  There was no house attached to the structure.   The family that had lived there was long gone.  We admired the stone work.   I told Brad I bet that the whole family helped make that hearth and that many meals were shared in the glow the fire created.  We guessed the home to be 80-100 years old.

Where had the family gone?  Did a fire take their home?  Did the influenza epidemic of 1918 destroy their family like it did many families in Wisconsin?  Had the Wisconsin winters been just too harsh for the family to withstand?  It seemed like a perfect homestead site with the stream so close for bathing and food.  This place must have seemed perfect when the home was built up against the hill sheltered by the rock bluffs.

The sun was going down fast and we needed to keep fishing.  Brad seemed like a different man.  He had more energy in his casts and a smile on his face.  The two hours of fishing just flew by.

We were at Brad's truck in what seemed like a blink of an eye.  We stuck our rods in Brad's truck and headed to my truck.  We stood in the waning light of the day and took our waders off and talked.  Brad thanked me for taking him and said it was fate that we stumbled on that old homestead.  His life was easy and the family that had once lived in that old homestead had put his life in perspective.  He drove away with a big smile.

December 19, 2012

Looks Different

This is a nice hole I took a photo of early season 2011.

Last summer when fishing this area I walked up to this hole and encountered something that was hidden in the weeds.  It was a mauled fawn.  It was not eaten.  It looked like a thrill kill.

The next time I walked up to hole in late September I found something else in the tall grass.

I walked up to within 20 yards of a wolf.

December 17, 2012

Dane County Conservation League Presentation

February 26th at 7pm I will be presenting at the Dane County Conservation League.    They meet at the VFW Hall at 133 E. Lakeside St, (corner of John Nolen Dr and E. Lakeside St.).
Dane County Conservation League

I will be doing a power point that will last from 45 to 60 minutes.  It will be called "Trout Don't Live In Ugly Places."

*non-members welcome*

Below is a sample of the power point presentation.

December 16, 2012

A Different Kind Of Supper

The wife has been watching cooking shows again.
Portabella Mushrooms, zucchini  and red pepper grilled with onion and garlic in a virgin olive oil.

December 15, 2012

~Robert Frost

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Henry David Thoreau

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after."

December 12, 2012


Two months can be a long time.

December 07, 2012

Is it March yet?

Caption optional

Deep Contemplation

 Should I fish here or just stand here and admire nature's fine work of art?

Opening Morning.

 There is something special about the early season.  The feeling of being the first angler to set foot on the stream is magical.

The Morning's Light

Stinging nettles and wild parsnip are everywhere you look.  Can it get any better?

December 05, 2012

This Is An Early Season Hole

Many holes fish differently from spring to summer.

This is one of those holes.

By the end of May this hole is clogged with weeds and

nearly unfishable.

I have caught sweet fish in here in the early season and

been skunked in June and September here.

Mark a hole like this in your fishing log as a

"Seasonal Hole"

December 04, 2012

I Took My Own Advice

 I went scouting yesterday for an hour and a half.

The warm weather and overcast was more than I could stand.

The 30 inch female from 2 seasons ago still haunted me.

I did some thinking about that big of a trout.

She would need the deepest hole in the area to winter in.

Only one came to mind.

I went out to the hole and sat down.

25 minutes of sitting and nothing.

I contemplated walking upstream.

Just before I was going to stand up I saw movement at the top
of the run.

Then there was a giant wake and I saw a flash of brown spots.

Those spots were the same from 2011 last day of season.

I have found her again.

December 03, 2012

Tis The Season To Go Scouting

September 30th every year small stream trout season closes. It does not open again until the first Saturday in March. Those 5 months of closed season seem endless for the diehard trout anglers. I have found a way to ease your pain.
  Right after Wisconsin's deer season I start scouting and asking permission for the 2013 trout season. The weeds are down and it makes it much easier to walk. The trout have not been pestered for at least 2 months and are less shy. The bottom vegetation has also died off and you can see some hidden lays. Scouting on overcast days are better than sunny days due to the sun making trout weary and feeling exposed.
 This is also a good time to ask farmers permission to fish in the Spring. Showing up on a door step in full waders can put a land owner out. Showing up in December with your young daughter or son to ask permission is less in your face and your permission receiving will sky rocket. If you don't have a young child to take with you borrow one from a friend. Land owners are much less likely to say "NO" when you have a young kid standing beside you when you ask. Remember to be courteous if you are told "NO" because that landowner will remember you when you ask the next year.

Get off the couch and go scout. Make sure you take your camera along and a neighbor kid if you have none of your own when asking for new permission.

November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks...

The wonderful place that is Wisconsin.

November 18, 2012

Sauger Hunting

 I took this photo as we left the lake.  There was one boat left on it.  The serenity of the day was deafening. 

Most people think of deer hunting in the middle to late November, but not my family.  I was one of those deer hunters until I got married.  I hunted a couple more years.  My wife refused to eat venison no matter how I fixed it.  I tried to hide it under vegetables and sauce with no luck.  I quit hunting entirely when my daughter Anna was born.  Shortly thereafter I got rid of all my guns. 

There was a serious void with no deer hunting.  Through the years I have been looking for a replacement for deer hunting.  A couple years ago I took up Big Lakes fishing again.  This year I was invited to fish for sauger.  My friend Joel Ballweg told me he would supply all the rods and reels and bait.  All I had to do was show up in Sauk Prairie and he would take me fishing.  For this, I agreed to take him and his wife trout fishing in 2013.

  It was seriously foggy.  As I drove there I saw scads of cars and trucks parked and blaze orange was the color of the day.  The old tug for deer hunting hit me.  Old memories came back.  I still love deer hunting but to shoot a deer for the sport is just not my bag.  I donated my deer to the food pantry for a couple years but it just wasn't the same. We met up at 9AM in Sauk Prairie.

We were on the water on Lake Wisconsin 10 minutes later.  The fog was terrible and we motored out really slowly to the first area.  Joel has all his favorite areas mapped out on his finder.  It wasn't long and Joel had a keeper in the boat.

We used plastics exclusively the entire day.  I was amazed at the variety of plastics styles and colors.  There was this kind of tail and that.  There were subtle differences in the bodies.  Some had pepper in them and others had some seriously odd names.  I had no idea that fishing for sauger was that technical.

Joel used his trolling motor and he motored over a numerous humps or points as he called them.  The depth was usually 18-24 feet deep.  I kept my plastic about 5 inches off the bottom and gave it an occasional lift and controlled drop.  The drop offs seemed to hold the most fish.  Every rig we threw out was tipped with a fat head minnow.  We fished with 6'6" St. Croix rods with shimano reels.  The lines varied.  Most were super line with mono leaders for the last 16 inches.

As the day progressed Joel kept changing colors.  He looked in his log book to see what was good to use for this time of year and temperature and light conditions. The jig heads were H2O jig heads. Using plastics is an art form and not guess work.  Each sauger we caught, he wrote down all the data in his log.  The tails had weird names like paddle tail and moxi.  The jargon was totally different than my trout speak.  Joel has been at the sauger/walleye hunting for 40 years and he even guides on Lake Wisconsin these days for multiple species.

Sauger are in the same family as walleye.  Sauger are typically smaller than walleye.  You can tell the difference from a walleye from a sauger from the rows of dots on a sauger's dorsal spines.  Walleye have no rows of spots. Both are excellent table fare.
Joel is the master of Lake Wisconsin and his knowledge of plastics and sauger is second to none.

We fished the majority of the day and landed 15 total sauger.  Of the 15 sauger boated 9 were keepers.  Lake Wisconsin is a big lake and you will not feel crowded.  The scenery is amazing.  We saw loons and sea gulls and only a few other boats.  It was 52 degrees by midday and there was a light wind.  We heard shots in the distance.  The tug of deer hunting was lessened by the feel of sauger hitting my plastic.
This decent sauger was fooled by a Green Core Pulse R Paddle Tail on a Green Tiger Jig Head tipped with a minnow.

Joel uses strictly B N Fishing Plastics and jig heads.  You can buy them at online If you are looking for an alternative to deer hunting in November you should consider Sauger Hunting with Joel Ballweg Joel guides Lake Wisconsin and he can be contacted at

November 14, 2012

Smile For The Camera!

Dorsal region of head and back brown to gray; sides paler, ventral region of head and belly white. Sides and back variously speckled with dusky spots; 4 dark saddles across back, some of which expand horizontally on sides. Eyes silvery in life; a well-developed reflecting layer (tapetum lucidum) causes glowing in dark. Membranes on the spiny dorsal fin with definite horizontal rows of spots, and last few membranes not solid black; second dorsal and caudal fins with dark spots in regular rows; ventral lobe of caudal fin sometimes white edged. Pectoral fins lightly speckled, and with a strong, black blotch at base; pelvic and anal fins clear to lightly speckled. 
 Wisconsin State Record:
5 lbs 13 ounces caught on Lake Wisconsin In Columbia County on November 8, 1988. 
This one was caught today at the dam in Gays Mills on a very large jointed rapala.

November 12, 2012

Andy Weaverling In January American Angler Magazine

Andy is an excellent photographer and writer and even a better "Trout Hunter."

Andy has a featured article in January 2013 American Angler Magazine.

Below is his blog so you can do a little recon before his article comes out.

November 10, 2012

Log Jam Tactics

My friend Matt Pederson loves log jams.
 He calls it Mining. He does it 10-15 minutes under each jam.

Big heavy bunny leeches downstream.

He loses lots of flies but he says it goes with the territory.

He bounces the big bunnies right at the edge of the log jams to get the big dogs to come out.

He uses a stout rod....he doesn't like going way under them because they get tangled easily.

You need some strong fluorocarbon and you need to get their heads up quickly.

This black bunny leech has dumbbell eyes and is a great mining fly

There are other flies that will work well with this technique.

The coneheaded Turkey Leech works outstanding for this. 
If you are in a pinch you could use a Hornberg.  This would require a split shot at the fly or a split shot about 12 inch above the fly.  The 12 inches above works even better because the fly flutters in front of the log jam and teases the big dogs and they come out to play.
Clousers would work also.

I met Mike eons ago at the Spring Creek Festival that Nohr Chapter use to put on.

We were talking about log jams and I suggested to him to use the down stream mining tactic.

I even told him exactly were to go. Mike is from Iowa but the next season he was on the Pine River using my Mining suggestion. He fished exactly where I told him to.

The log jam directly behind him is where he caught this football.
Mike sent me this photo the next day.  He thanked me profusely.  It is his biggest brown ever.

This technique can also be done with a fly rod with a night crawler.

November 08, 2012

Schweinebraten Just Placed In Oven

 4 -6 lbs pork shoulder or 4 -6 lbs pork butt
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground pepper
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup water or 1/2 cup stock or 1/2 cup white wine or 1/2 cup beer
A recipe with beer in it is right up my alley!!!

Rematch With Big Pike!!!

Put on a Little Cleo earlier today and had my way with this pike.
She is already filleted and in my freezer.

The Gill Lice Epidemic Expands

In reviewing my log book, I have determined that for the past three years the brook trout population in my fishing area went down.

I fish the southwestern corner of Wisconsin. The counties I frequent are Vernon, Crawford, Richland and Grant counties.
The most significant numbers change I discovered was in Crawford County. It had a 65 percent decline in brook trout numbers in the past three years.

I contacted the Department of Natural Resources and asked if they had seen a similar decline. Officials there acknowledged there has been a decline, attributing it to the recent drought and to a parasite called gill lice.

DNR officials also said some brook trout streams may have been taken over by brown trout, with which they compete for the same waterways.

Matthew Mitro, a coldwater fisheries research scientist for the DNR, said the fall shocking crews are out and about and will report on any declines in populations -- and also the water levels -- they might find.

I found it odd, however, that my log books indicated a significant increase in brown trout populations over the past three years.

Gill lice (a parasitic copepod called Salmincola edwarsii) can cause significant physical trauma to the gill filaments, causing deformities which affect respiration and the efficient uptake of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide, ammonia and other metabolites. Fish that are heavily infected cannot obtain sufficient oxygen when they are exercised, such as when they are caught by angling.

Gill lice have a direct life cycle- when the egg sacs release nauplii, they immediately molt and become the first copepodid (larval) stage and they have about 24 hours in which to find a new host and anchor onto the gills and continue their development. After several molts, the copepods reach maturity and remain permanently anchored in the gill tissue. This is a significant stress especially when more than one parasite is attached to a gill arch.

In streams with dense brook trout populations, the success rate for the larvae to attach to gills increases due to the greater chance of contacting a fish within the 24 hour “post hatch” period. Streams with faster water flow (velocity) can make it harder for the larvae to successfully attach. So fish density and water velocity are two factors that affect the prevalence and intensity of infection by Salmincola edwardsii in a stream. A third factor that may play a greater role in the future is temperature trends. Gill lice are invertebrates and therefore their development is proportional to the water temperature of the stream. If water temperatures increase, the parasites will develop to maturity faster and will then be able to reproduce one or more extra “generations” each year. Because the copepods remain on the fish, the affect of more generations of parasites is cumulative and we may see far higher numbers of gill lice on individual fish in the future.
So rather than not fish the streams where gill lice are present, I would encourage people to fish and take fish home (reduce the density of the fish) as long as the fishing regulations allow this. Anything that can be done to keep water moving (faster velocity) may also help reduce the probability of larvae to successfully attach to fish.
Always carry clean tap water, a bleach solution and a scrub brush with you when you go fishing. Disinfect your gear away from the water before moving between waterways to ensure that you do not spread Gill Lice.

Just yesterday I was in contact with Matt Mitro again and he informed me that Gill Lice had been found in the vast majority of the adult brook trout in Ash Creek.  This stream is in Richland County but the significance is this stream has many of the eggs extracted from wild strain brook trout in Ash Creek and taken to the hatchery and raised.  The Gill lice have effected the adult brook trout in Ash Creek.  The adults are loaded with gill lice and breeding is less effective. The  0-1 year class of brook trout are down significantly. The Ash Creek strain brook trout are used throughout the state for stocking of wild strain brook trout.  The finding of Gill Lice in Ash Creek is very significant.

The only way to rid the brook trout of gill lice is to individually dunk each trout in a solution.  The trout is let back go and can be re-infected if it runs in to infected fish. You can not scrape off gill lice because they are attached to the gills and it will kill the trout.

The WDNR and Trout Unlimited are asking for citizen help with reporting of gill lice.
Here is a link to help out:

more information on Gill Lice

Gill lice Salmincola spp. are a parasitic copepod that only infect Salvelinus species such as brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis, which is the only salmonid native to Wisconsin streams. The gill lice life cycle begins when egg sacs release nauplii, which immediately molt into the larval first copepodid stage during which they have about 24 hours to find a host. The larval copepods anchor onto the gills of their host and continue development. After several molts, the copepods attain maturity and remain permanently attached to a gill arch.

Gill lice can cause significant physical trauma to the gill filaments, causing deformities that may affect respiration and efficient uptake of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide, ammonia, and other metabolites. Heavily infected brook trout cannot obtain sufficient oxygen when they are exercised, such as when caught by angling. Respiration may be particularly difficult for infected fish during times of high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen levels. High rates of infection may slow the physiological processes of growth and sexual maturation, which in turn may negatively affect brook trout population growth rates. Gill lice are a parasite specific to brook trout and are not known to infect brown trout.

All information on this article was gleaned from correspondence with  Susan V. Marcquenski
Fish Health Specialist for the WDNR and Matt Mitro Coldwater Fisheries Research Scientist for the WDNR.
Red writing above is direct quote from Susan Marcquenski.

Here is the stocking data:

November 07, 2012

Gill Lice In Ash Creek

Trapper passed on to me a conversation he had with Matt Mitro the Trout Scientist from the WDNR.

A large majority of Ash Creek brookies are infected with gill lice.

This "was" where many of the wild strain brookies have come from in the past.

Going Through Withdrawls

October 30, 2012

The Perfect Small Stream Trout Rig

 This rig is tried and true and has caught 100s of big browns in Wisconsin's Driftless area.

 I am a big trout junkie and I should make that clear right away before I go any further.  I would trade in 20 trout that measure fourteen inches for one brown trout that is 20 inches or longer.  Then there are brook trout.  A gigantic brook trout is 14 inches in these parts.  They fall in to the trade category for a 20 inch brown.  Yes, brook trout are beautiful and are the native species for Wisconsin but they are dumber than a box of rocks.  They sometimes will bite again right after you release them.  The challenge is zilch for catching brook trout.

 Now that I have cleared that up we can get on to the meat of this story; the rod and reel that will handle the kinds of trout that I like catching.  They are the hook jawed monsters that make your drags scream and will snap off an under-gunned angler.  They are the trout that will make adult men talk to themselves and whimper after they have lost them.  Use the proper tool for the job!

With a soft rod and stretchy mono there is zero chance to get a good hook set on an "Iron" jawed monster like this.

The "little is better" anglers please quit reading now because this article  doesn't apply to them.  I like actually touching the trout I hook.  None of this long distance release nonsense for me.  Trout are very good eating and old adage that big trout taste bad is an "Urban Myth."

The rod needs to have some back bone. Rods that are wimpy and too short are to be ruled out immediately.   That rod needs to be stout enough to extract that wily monster out from under a log jam. A big old monster brown has a jaw that is seriously tough and a noodle-like rod can "not" get the hook to penetrate that jaw and get a secure hook up.  Trout build up lactic acid during prolonged battles and die after release.  A perfect trout rod is a medium action spinning rod about 6'6" to 7 foot long.  My preferred rod is a Fenwick.

Now comes the reel.  There are many good spinning reels on the market.  Get one with a good drag system.  It should hold about 100 yards of good stout line.  Shimano, Abu Garcia and Pflueger reels are my reels of choice. This rig is tried and true and has caught 100s of big browns in Wisconsin's Driftless areae 8 pound Power Pro line with a size 9 Panther Martin.  I started fishing with mono-filament line.  It stretches too much.  It makes for poor hook sets.  Power pro has no stretch and is way more sensitive.  You can actually feel your spinner blade stop momentarily with power pro.  Mono has a tendency to mar easily when there is a spinner bait flop over and because of that many lures are deposited on the cast with mono.  Get out on the water and give my suggestions a whirl.