Higher trout numbers and bigger fish noted in summer surveys
MADISON — Cooler and wetter summer conditions, and trout streams that held up well under flooding in western Wisconsin, add up to even better fishing opportunities this fall for trout anglers who will enjoy a longer harvest season and good opportunities for trophy-sized trout, state fisheries officials say.
“This is the second year we’ve had this extended harvest season so anglers now have opportunities to fish through October 15 on inland waters,” says Joanna Griffin, trout team coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. “We hope people take advantage of it.”
Despite extremely wet conditions this summer, trout fishing in La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Crawford counties has been good,” says Kirk Olson, fisheries biologist in La Crosse.
While a historic flood in late July changed many area streams, filling in favorite fishing holes and creating new ones, “even with these changes, fishing has been very good when water levels and clarity permit,” Olson says. Initial fisheries surveys this summer indicate that the flooding did not have a severe impact on trout populations. so anglers will find plenty of fish for fall action.
Northeastern Wisconsin fisheries biologists noted higher numbers of trout during sampling by the Shawano Crew this summer. In northern Wisconsin, cooler and wetter conditions kept fish dispersed among headwater creeks and large river conditions, giving anglers good access to fish and some very nice brook trout throughout the summer, says Zach Lawson, a fisheries biologist based in Mercer. This fall, look for those larger brook trout in the smaller tributaries of large rivers.
In west central Wisconsin, Fisheries Supervisor Heath Benike notes that natural reproduction has been strong the past three years with ample fish in the 8- to 12-inch range on most streams.
“And larger-sized trout have also been showing up in good numbers this summer, likely from slightly reduced densities from poorer year classes in 2013 and 2014,” Benike says. “This fall should be a good time to go looking for a trophy-sized trout.”
Season regulations and tools to find a trout water
The general open season for inland streams, connected springs and spring ponds runs through 11:59 p.m. Oct. 15 except as noted in the Specific Waters by County section of the Guide to Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations, 2017-2018. Note that the open season closes Sept. 30 for streams flowing into Lake Superior from their mouths to the first impassable permanent barrier, unless noted in the Specific Waters section.
Anglers can use a new DNR mobile website tool to find places to fish. TROUT, short for Trout Regulations and Opportunities User Tool, includes trout fishing regulation, classified trout water, public land and DNR fishing easements.
Anglers wanting a printed map can use the tool to find the water they want and then print off a copy, or anglers can also print off county maps showing Wisconsin’s classified trout streams. These PDFs will not have regulations public lands and fishing easements noted on them.
Fisheries forecasts for selected waters
Find below recent short summaries from fisheries biologists for some trout waters in their areas. Other forecasts and survey results are found in the trout section of the 2017 Wisconsin Fishing Report, starting bottom of page 15 [PDF].
Adams and Portage counties
After recent 2017 trout survey work, trout populations are healthy in Adams and Portage counties. Streams surveyed included Big Roche a Cri Creek (Adams), Fordham Creek (Adams), Neenah Creek (Adams), Campbell Creek (Adams), Tomorrow River (Portage), Emmons Creek (Portage), Flume Creek (Portage). – Jennifer Bergman, fisheries biologist, Wisconsin Rapids
Crawford, La Crosse, Monroe and Vernon counties
Fishing has been excellent in the Driftless lately as streams have finally come down and cleared. Preliminary results from our electrofishing indicate that the late July flooding didn’t have a substantial impact on trout abundances in most locations. I expect that fishing will pick up as water temperatures cool and trout become more active prior to spawning.- Kirk Olson, fisheries biologist, La Crosse
Baldwin/Eau Claire Area
Fishing opportunities in the Baldwin/Eau Claire Area are very strong. Several good years of natural reproduction have occurred recently and fish densities are once again approaching all-time highs. Angler effort and interest is strong especially near streams close to the Twin Cities Metro Area. The Kinni, Rush and, Trimbelle rivers receive a bulk of the angling interest. Habitat crews completed another project on the Trimbelle River downstream of HWY 10 near the mouth of Spring Creek and will complete a 2,000-foot project on Fall Creek near Durand by the end of the field season. No major complaints have been received in regards to fishing regulations and for the most part anglers appear happy.
Stream restoration crews have busy and have recently completed trout habitat restoration projects on the Trimbelle River in Pierce County, Swinns Valley Creek in Buffalo County, Beaver Creek in Trempealeau County, Tainter Creek in Vernon County, Fall Creek in Pepin County, Tarr Creek in Monroe County and removed a dam on Silver Creek near Fort McCoy. – Heath Benike, fisheries supervisor, Eau Claire
Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties: Bluff Creek upstream of County Highway P in Walworth County now has more fishable stream miles than any time since 1940, thanks to a large-scale stream re-meander project the last two winters. This project has redirected stream flow into the original channel, bypassing hundreds of feet of warm, shallow ditch channel which was unsuitable for trout and fishing. Trout Unlimited, UW-Whitewater Ecology Club and other stakeholders have assisted with installation of woody structure and other habitat features. Local trout anglers visiting Bluff will find trout and other coldwater species already inhabiting the remeandered reaches, providing a brand new and highly accessible trout fishing opportunity in Southeastern Wisconsin. – Luke S. Roffler, senior fisheries biologist, Kansasville
Iron and Ashland counties
Cooler and wetter conditions this summer kept the trout streams of Iron and Ashland Counties flowing at consistent levels and ample temperatures throughout the season, thus fish were dispersed among headwater creeks and larger river systems. Anglers enjoyed good access to very nice brook trout throughout the summer. DNR trout stream surveys documented good brook trout natural reproduction falling on the heels of an immense flooding event in summer of 2016, suggesting that quality angling opportunities experienced today should be carried into future seasons. With summer now giving way to fall, anglers can expect fishing to heat up in the smaller tributaries of larger rivers (i.e. the Potato River, Tyler Forks, and the Bad River) as brook trout set up in pre-spawn areas. The remainder of inland trout season is a great time to locate concentrations of larger brook trout in these areas, with many fish exhibiting especially vibrant coloration. – Zach Lawson, fisheries biologist, Mercer
Oconto and Langlade counties
Large brown trout and brook trout are on the move within the South Branch Oconto River as we head into fall. Popular fishing access areas are along the South Branch Oconto Fishery Area, as well as upstream at County Highway W, County Highway T, Old Grave Road, and Sauls Spring Road. There are reports of 20+ inch brown trout caught recently. – Tammie Paoli, fisheries biologist, Peshtigo
DNR trout surveys this summer show more big brook trout (12-plus-inches) than usual. We’ve even seen some up around 15 inches in a few spots. So anglers will have good opportunities to catch some nice fish. Some new spots to try: We did restoration work on 1,700 feet of trout streams in the Exeland area this summer. The spots were previously dammed by beaver and were wide and mucky. We used some brush bundling to narrow and deepen the channel for trout. The work was done with the help of the Wild Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Lac Court Reporter Oreilles Youth Conservation Corps. Typically, downstream of such projects, the new habitat projects deliver more fish very quickly. – Max Wolter, fisheries biologist, Hayward