Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back into the Trout dark-ages in Wisconsin?

So much has been written about this recently that I do not wish to re-invent the wheel here.
I shall simply summarize.

Here are links to active threads and posts on the subject:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be petitioned by public advocacy during the Conservation Congress, to remove the system of special regulations on our trout streams in favor of a single five fish per day limit, effectively throwing back the clock to the dark-ages.

This proposal makes no sense on the surface, so I drilled down into it a bit.

Here is the real beef in a nutshell, once one sweeps aside spurious arguments and obfuscation.

The effort is led by several very disgruntled individuals, spearheaded by the supposed expertise of a certain rogue former DNR employee, and championed among others, by a certain former guide who has the rather dubious distinction of being banned from many internet forums due to constant inflammatory posting. The essence of what they stand for is the ability to harvest fish, especially by locals, who are represented as no longer able to fish due to restrictive catch and keep regs. Their youth and elderly can or will no longer fish argument is a mask. There are plenty of area and river sections where selective harvest is allowed, and stream access in Wisconsin is better than most any other state.

Fly-fishers have been vilified by this group as well as Trout Unlimited. Habitat improvement has been dismissed.

Effectively, this whole thing boils down to “In da good ole days we used to go down to the creek and drop a worm and catch our fill in an hour.”

The regulations which this group wishes to overturn were solidified after a drought in then late 1980s. They have allowed blue-ribbon fishing to emerge and stay. Changing the entire state to a single five fish limit effectively throws us back into the era before advanced management. The ‘good ole days’ when people could catch a bunch of brood-stock lunkers dumped in their back yard by the stocking truck, and the streams were clogged with silt, and too warm in the summers to hold trout.

Fly-anglers have pegged as elitist snobs by these guys, but it is these same ‘elitist snobs’ who every weekend, are on the streams, installing in-stream habitat improvements, bank stabilization, lunker structures, etc.

The whole bait and hardware vs. fly polarization that this group has ignited and fueled does us more harm than good. We are all stewards of the environment.


  1. the former DNR employee is relentless and I do worry that at some point he will manage to get the votes he needs to make something terribly regressive happen.

  2. I have to admit that the rhetoric in support of this idea is fascinating. Sorta like watching FOX news...
    Granted, I've never fished in Wisconsin, but it only takes the barest amount of research to show what a really bad idea this proposal is. I guess it shouldn't surprise me though. Here in the northwest all one has to do is listen at the debate over the future of the N Umpqua winter steelhead, or the lower Snake River dams, just to pick two examples not at random.
    You ever see that old musical "Paint Your Wagon" with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood? There is a great line from Lee Marvin towards the beginning: "All I know is, you look around at the human race and you gotta wonder what the hell God was thinkin' about."

  3. TC,
    Yea, I like that line too!
    This WI thing is the personal agenda of one man, and the anger he has stirred up against TU, the DNR, government, 'elitist' fly-fishers, the trilateral commission, black helecopters... etc. The sad thing is it is getting some support from people that actually believe that the DNR 'ruined' trout fishing in WI. I have spoken to people like this from time to time, and the jist of it is all about easy harvest of trout. Fly-fishermen just play with their food, and T.U. controls the DNR. A lot of 'us' and 'them' kind of rhetoric.

    On the other hand, some anglers do come off as catch and release 'nazis'. A kid that legally kills a 14" brown, and brings it home proudly to his mom to cook up for dinner should not be vilified. That gives fuel to the pro-harvest side.


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