Trout anglers remember last summer, when nature threw a wave at them with record high water.
Last summer, trout fishing and catching had just begun to “get good” and then the high waters hit. Many put their fly rod away for for the year.
All Bret Schultz of Black Earth could do was to grin and bear it. It was more than losing six weeks of great autumn fishing on his favorite backyard fishing holes.
“It was my wife who joked about it on our return to six or more feet of water in our basement,” Schultz said. “She remarked ‘You’ve been going to the trout streams all these many years and it looks like the stream finally came to you,’” she told him.
It was several weeks before Schultz was on the water after the flood, something that would almost never happen with the trout angler who tries to fish every day. He looked at Black Earth Creek but rarely fished it the rest of the season.
“BEC didn’t clear up within a couple weeks like many streams a few miles away,” he said. “And while there were waters to fish nearby, some places were hit just as hard as Black Earth Creek. The Coulee Region near Coon Valley and Viola were as bad or worse.”
Early catch-and-release only trout season opened Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 statewide, with the exception of spring ponds and Great Lakes tributaries; artificial bait only, but barbless hooks no longer required. The season runs to midnight May 4.
Schultz said the water in some stretches is still high for this time of the year in Black Earth Creek.
Daniel Oele, Wisconsin Department of Fisheries Biologist in Dane County, is not so much concerned with the fish populations, except for those that may have been low going into the flood.
“While the trout populations don’t generally concern me, Black Earth Creek may be different,” Oele said.
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Studies have shown that within a few days, tagged fish are often back where they were before the high water, according to Oele.
“One thing the high water did do was to expose a lot of spawning substrate, so we expect a good year-class coming up,” Oele said. “Most fish will hunker down and ride it out. They’ve evolved over many generations.”
Fish survey work is planned for area streams between mid-June and mid-August. This work was planned even before the flood.
High water could have caused even more damage had it come in March or April because younger fish would have been present then.
“I’d be shocked if we didn’t lose some fish in BEC, but I believe we’ll find fish for the January opener,” Schultz said. “I plan to go to some of my favorite locations I usually visit during colder weather.”
Depending on the weather, Schultz expects to find some fish and land a couple, but he’s not sure. There are some areas of the stream that were very poor before the high water, however.
Always positive, Schultz looks on the bright side.
“I get to go out,” he said. “That’s a plus. I’m curious about getting into some of the areas since the flooding. It’ll be an interesting winter and spring, that’s for sure.”
He knows BEC was hit hard, as were streams in the Coulee Region.
But he’s hopeful. He doesn’t plan to be sitting in his now-clean basement with a chance to go fishing instead.