All of my creeks I have ever caught a tiger on have been in Crawford County. Every tiger I have seen caught have come from Crawford County.
If you are not up on what a tiger trout is I will elaborate. A tiger trout is a cross between a male brook trout and a female brown. The cross cannot go the other way due to the female brookie eggs are too small. Tigers are sterile hybrids. Many states out west stock tigers in Reservoirs and Wisconsin had a short time in the 70s where they stocked tigers in Lake Michigan. The stocking program was deemed a failure and stopped.
I caught my first tiger trout in 1997. I did not know what it was. I took a photo and later identified what it was through the internet. I have never caught another tiger in that stream since. I read up on tigers naturally reproducing in stream and the percentages for this happening were quite small. The keys to tiger trout were to have overlapping ranges of browns and brook trout.
Five years went by and I had not heard of tigers being caught in the area. I had given up on trying for them. I typically don’t fish brookie streams because they are aggressive and easy to catch and lack the feeling of accomplishment that a big brown gives me. I was driving back from a morning outing and saw a really nice 90 degree corner bend. I went right up to the farm and asked permission and got it. I saved the permission for an outing with my friend Kevin Searock.
Kevin is a fly angler and maybe one of the best I had ever fished with. I wanted him to fish this gem of a stretch with me. We started way down stream at the next bridge and fished up to my car. The lower part of the fish was absolutely worthless. Neither of us caught fish and we noticed the bottom was terribly silty and thought this was poor conditions for trout. We were half way to my vehicle so we continued to fish.
Kevin started picking up a few small brook trout. I talked a nicely colored brown out from under some tree roots. This stream was tiny. We could easily step over it in most areas. Near the top it widened out some. The fishing got better really fast. Kevin cast 8 times in this shallow flat and caught 8 trout. One of them was this beautiful neon colored brook trout. It was Kevin’s first tiger ever. We fished up to the vehicle and we both ended with a dozen trout each.
I returned 2 weeks later to the same stretch with my friend John Armstrong and John got his first tiger ever. John and really had fun on the water. Both of us landed 30 trout each. He told me to keep this stream under my hat. I failed to heed his advice.
I showed that stream to a local guide. He swore to me he would never take any clients there. Two days later I was going to fish it and there were four vehicles parked there. The lead guy was the guide I had showed the stream to. I was really pissed and rolled down the window to ask what was up to. Bob explained to me that the other 5 anglers and he were guides and he had not broken his promise.
The stream was a tiny fragile one and after being betrayed by Bob it had paths beaten down on the sides. This stream was destroyed by one of the most long standing guides in the area.
The guide also took clients on to water I had taken him on early that week. I introduced him to the landowner and the owner said to ask each time before fishing. Bob failed to get permission and was escorted off the property by the Sheriff’s Department.
Weeks later when I went back to fish the landowner was not going to let me on because of Bob. I explained to him I had nothing to do with it. I fish that stretch to this day.
I even had some guy contact me once and told me he had a handicapped son and wanted to know a couple places he could take him. The guy ended up being a new guide in the area and just wanted a couple good places without putting in the mileage searching.
I quit guiding 2 years later. I never felt comfortable with guiding. Watching people fish is like going to a gold mine without a shovel. I made many friends while guiding and still fish with many of them to this day.
Guiding can be a cutthroat business and if you make the rest of the guides look inept by putting clients on 2 and 3 times the numbers of trout as the other guides you are going to hear about it. I hated guiding.
One of my better known guide clients was Green Bay Packer retired “Bob Skoronski” from the Ice Bowl/Super Bowl I and II. Bob and his sons were worm trout anglers and caught many trout while out with me. Bob had a three tiger morning once in an 80 yard stretch and his son Ron got a tiger also.
Later that year I took Midwest Outdoors Television on that stretch and shot an episode and Larry Ladowski , the commentator for Midwest Outdoors scored his only tiger trout of his life. This tiger caught on film. To my knowledge this was the first and only tiger caught on air.
I wrote a story about tigers for Field and Stream. I called the article “Lions and Tigers and Bears.” The editor changed the title to “Look at these beautiful bastards.” I was a little disappointed but they had editorial rights to rename my story.
I have personally caught 18 tiger through the years. I have seen another 13 caught by folks with me. I quit guiding 10 years ago and have never looked back. The last tiger I saw caught was by my daughter Anna and that was five years ago. I have not heard of another tiger being caught in Crawford County since then.
About 14 years ago I noticed a parasite on the gills of brook trout on my streams. I brought it to the attention of the WDNR and it was ignored for 4 years. Last year the WDNR decided it was a significant threat to the brook trout population.
About 50 years ago the brook trout population was made nearly extinct by something or someone. The threat was identified as the overzealous anglers back then. I clearly know now that it was gill lice and the same thing will happen again. Cherish your brook trout you catch and if you by chance catch a tiger trout feel very fortunate.