Trout Stream Reflections
This is the beginning of a series of articles on the trout streams of the central region of Wisconsin, with descriptions of their awesomeness, details of their importance to local communities and how citizens collaborate in conservation efforts to protect them for future generations. The streams are mainly in these seven counties, Marathon, Shawano, Portage, Waupaca, Adams, Waushara and Marquette.
Certainly the streams are well known to trout fishers; however, interest in these streams and the adjacent lands goes beyond fishing, since many streams flow through public land that is accessible for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird watching, hunting, photographing, mushroom hunting and so many more outdoor actives.
At times though, we forget about our streams or we have not had the chance to know them. We drive on bridges crossing streams as we go about our daily lives, we see them flowing through our towns and because they have always been here, after a while we do not even notice them. It is the hope that this series of articles will increase awareness of trout streams and the fact that streams flowing through our landscape specifically enhances our lives and brings significant economic, recreational and wellbeing benefits to all of us.
There are more than 200 trout streams throughout these counties, in a region the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) describes as the Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape. Some of the natural features of this ecological landscape are directly accountable for the presence of this wonderful concentration of trout streams. Annual rain and snow fall (average 33 and 44 inches, respectively) abundantly re-charges groundwater sources which maintain regional stream flows.
The headwaters of coldwater streams originate in glacial moraines fed by calcium rich groundwater that increases the productivity of biological life supporting trout populations. Water quality in these streams is enhanced by many wetlands and springs along the water ways. Many agriculture methods and municipalities minimize impacts on stream quality through use of best practices and absence of point source pollution discharges has also helped maintain the quality of our water.
Interested citizens, organ-izations, and county and state agencies have a long history of understanding the value of these coldwater streams and the landscapes through which they flow. Citizens, organizations and agencies have successfully worked for more 80 years preserving these environments. As you would expect, it is the conservation organizations working with the County Land and Water Conservation Agencies and various WDNR departments that have had the most influence, because these agencies are held accountable to the public for such actions. Citizens have leveraged their interests by forming conservation organizations to partner with county and state agencies.
The most effective conservation organization focused on protection of trout and our trout streams in central Wisconsin is Trout Unlimited (TU). The effectiveness of TU is centered in a close working relationship with WDNR’s Trout Stream Habitat Management Team, Fisheries Managers and Water Quality and Environmental Analysis personnel.
Trout Unlimited is a national organization with the mission to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. TU has 21 chapters across Wisconsin of which four are active within the central region. These TU chapters, Central Wisconsin, Fox Valley, Frank Hornberg and Shaw-paca have planned, funded and implemented conservation projects in partnership with state and counties agencies for more than 50 years. Within this time period, many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised and invested in streams and their surrounding habitats.
For example, in the last five years these TU chapters raised more than $100,000 for partial funding of WDNR Wild Rose Trout Stream Habitat Management Team and specific habitat projects. Recently the four TU chapters joined forces to form Trout Unlimited Central Area Restoration Effort for Sustainability (TU CARES) in a collaborative effort to share resources to take on large conservation projects that exceed the capabilities of a TU chapter acting individually. TU CARES has initiated conservation projects with WDNR on the West Branch of the White River, located west of Wautoma over the last several years.
TU CARES is a great example of individuals from central Wisconsin working within a conservation organization that preserves and enhances the trout fishing culture, outdoor recreation and the economic value for communities and business in our backyard. Future articles in this series will describe the awesomeness of our streams and provide tips on how to fully enjoy our streams, as well as providing the details of conservation projects designed to protect streams and to introduce the individuals involved in habitat improvement.