Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kinnickinnic River video June 2007

This video is of the Kinnickinnic, accessed in River Falls at Glen Park. Walk down the trail at the tennis courts. This stretch of the Kinni is referenced on page 169 of Humphrey & Shogren's Trout Streams of Wisconsin and Minnesota, 2001 (second edition), Backcountry Guides.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Top 8 Western Wisconsin Trout Streams

According to the DeLorme Map people, the top trout streams in Western Wisconsin*, in no particular order:

  • Black Earth Creek, Dane County
  • Kinnickinnic River, Pierce County
  • Mill Creek, Monroe County
  • Mount Vernon Creek, Dane County
  • Rowan Creek, Columbia County
  • Rullands Coulee Creek, Monroe County
  • Soper Creek, Monroe County
  • Trout Creek, Iowa County
It is puzzling that DeLorme does not list the Rush River, Namekagon, or West Fork of the Kickapoo in their master list of Wisconsin trout streams.

* This blog defines Western Wisconsin as the area west of Interstate 90 and south of interstate 94.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why no Illinois trout streams?

This question has wracked the brains of dedicated trout anglers as they delightfully fish the streams of the Driftless Area in the other three states touched by the glacial anomaly. Anglers ask, "since Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota's Driftless Area has fine trout streams, why not Illinois?

Ask the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and they will say, "we don't know what you're talking about. Look at the Apple River. There are planted rainbows there right now." The Illinois DNR will also point out all of the trout ponds throughout the Land of Lincoln stocked with rainbows.

Well, yes, that is true. But there is more to trout fishing than suspending corn or salmon eggs under a bobber for "put and take" dumb hatchery trout. Tell the DNR that and they'll tell you "if you want to fish for wild trout in Illinois, go fish Lake Michigan. End of story."

But is it the end of the story? Is that the best that Illinois can do?

Is there a possibility of creating (or even discovering) a gem of an Illinois trout stream that accommodates naturally-reproducing brook, brown or rainbow trout? That's what we're talking about, really, when we mention a blue-ribbon trout stream, isn't it?

If you look at some of the commercially-available maps of trout streams in extreme southern Wisconsin, you will find a couple that bleed into Illinois, most notably Raccoon Creek in the Rockford area. This creek contains stocked Brown trout. However, one could make the argument that Raccoon Creek is really the same kind of thing as the Apple River in northwest Illinois--a put and take trout stream with no hope of ever sustaining a population of naturally-reproducing trout.

Delving deeper into the issue, the Achilles heel for an Illinois trout stream in the Driftless Area that would feature a naturally-reproducing trout population is the state's southernmost position in the four-state area. Most creeks just don't stay cool enough to foster a successful reproduction program. Still, it's very possible that in extreme northwest Illinois, that there are a few choice spring creeks that maintain the right temperature throughout the year.

Another strike against an Illinois blue-ribbon trout stream is the fact that there's no Trout Unlimited chapter in Northwest Illinois. There is a Chicagoland chapter and a Champaign chapter, but each of those is more than 100 miles from the Driftless Area. And while the Lee Wulff Chapter in Chicagoland does a fine job rehabbing Elk Creek in SW Wisconsin, I'd love to see them try to establish some brook trout water in Illinois.

Compounding the problem is that the Illinois DNR is perpetually underfunded and its priorities mainly follow saving what it has and not branching out into new projects.

Additionally, the other three states in the Driftless Area have worked with landowners to help them become stakeholders in perpetuating excellent trout waters. Agricultural runoff is limited. Buffer zones are planted and maintained. For Illinois to have a blue-ribbon trout stream, it would need to do the same.

An Illinois blue-ribbon trout stream could create a tremendous tourism boon to northwest Illinois. One reason that Wisconsin is a leader in out-of-state fishing licenses sold is because of its marvelous reputation for trout waters. These Northwest Illinois towns are picturesque, but devoid of much industry these days. They could use some tourism dollars. Look how Galena has been able to parlay its bucolic setting into a multi-million dollar annual visitors revenue stream. A beautiful little town like Mount Carroll could really take off by helping it to propagate some of its spring creeks with brookies.

Think about it.

Top 8 Trout Streams in WI

Dan Small of shares his top 8, in no particular order...

  • Bois Brule River
  • Namekagon River
  • Wolf River
  • Pike River
  • Rush River
  • Kinnickinnic River
  • West Fork of the Kickapoo River
  • Tomorrow River
Of Dan's top 8, the ones in red are in our Western Wisconsin cohort. My beloved Kinni made the list, as it should.

Flooding of Fall 2007 aftereffects

The biggest trout fishing news in Western Wisconsin this fall has been the significant flooding that the southwestern and southcentral portion of the state received.

According to Dan Small of and, the floodings resulted in a couple of catastrophic manure spills:
  • In Richland County, manure made its way into Smith Hollow Creek and Willow Creek.
  • In Lafayette County, Otter Creek received a manure spill.
As for the effects, we'll know more in the Spring.

A quick and dramatic flood sometimes can be beneficial to a trout stream, however. In such cases, floods often remove longstanding log jams and beaver dams that slow the water and contribute to higher, trout-averse temperatures.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Driftless Area

If you're going to fish Western Wisconsin, you'll undoubtedly spend some time in the rolling hills of SW Wisconsin, also known as the Driftless Area. About the best explanation I've ever encountered of what this actually means was penned by Jeff Erickson in "Minnesota's South Branch of the Root River," Fly Fisherman, December 2006 issue, beginning on page 44.

Erickson writes:

"Unlike much of the Midwest...the Driftless Region was missed during the last period of glaciation in North America, 12,000 years ago. The area was deprived of glacially-deposited drift (hence the term "driftless), but its sedimentary bedrock was deeply dissected by streams carrying enormous volumes of runoff from retreating glaciers along its perimeter.

The calcium and carbonate-rich limestone that stimulates...high aquatic productivity acts as an enormous sponge, absorbing moisture and then releasing it in steady, trout friendly increments. Innumerable springs percolating through the limestone moderate stream temperatures and PH levels, producing excellent conditions for aquatic insects and the trout that hunt them. The glacial runoff left relatively steep stream gradients, crating numerous riffles and short rapids that supercharge the water with dissolved oxygen. As a result of these natural factors (the Driftless Area) offers suberb wild trout habitat."

For more information on fishing Wisconsin's Driftless Area, check out the excellent fly shop, The Driftless Angler and its website, or stop by at 106 S. Main Street Viroqua, Wisconsin 54665 :: (608) 637-8779

Top 5 Trout Streams in WI

According to writer Brenda Bredahl of TravelWisconsin.Com, the top five trout streams in Wisconsin are:

1. KinnicKinnic
2. Namekagon
3. Kickapoo West Fork
4. Pike River
5. Black Earth Creek

Numbers one, three, and five are in our Western Wisconsin cohort and I look forward to testing Ms. Bredahl's recommendations. Will report when I do.

Just curious, if the question were posed to you, what would be your top 5?

Here's the link, if you want to read for yourself...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Elk Creek, Vernon County

Page 33 on your Delorme Map.

Our friends at the Lee Wulff Chapter of Trout Unlimited have done some amazing things on Elk Creek in Vernon County--and they're not done. They have some ambitious goals, including...

  • Improve 1.2 miles of trout stream in 2007
  • Reduce sedimentation by stabilizing stream banks
  • Improve spawning habitat by exposing gravel substrate
  • Install habitat favorable to brown trout (i.e., undercut banks, lunker structures) on 2,750 feet of Elk Creek
  • Create habitat favorable to brook trout (i.e., vortex weirs, deep pools, grassy banks) on 3,670 feet of Tenny Spring Creek, a tributary of Elk Creek
  • Install a one-way fish barrier to prevent further migration of brown trout into Tenny Spring Creek brook trout waters
  • Project Costs

    Total cost to complete the Elk Creek Project is estimated to be $171,000. This includes labor, equipment rental, rock, seed, mulch, and lumber and materials for building instream trout habitat lunker structures.

    The above portion is quoted verbatim from their site:

    I can't wait to get up there and try my hand at their handiwork. When I do I'll post pix of what they've done.