Scott Bunde, Shawn Sullivan and Klye Siebers captured and released trout during the TU CARES Stream & Field Day at Bird Creek, Wautoma.

Trout Stream Reflections

A short time ago in September, despite gray foreboding clouds and occasional bouts of wind driven mists, many walked the trails adjacent Bird Creek, which travels along the banks of Wautoma’s in-city trout stream. They were attending the Stream and Field Day, an event created by TU CARES, a multi-chapter Trout Unlimited group dedicated to the preservation of cold-water streams in the Central Sand Hills Ecological Landscape of Wisconsin. The intent of the field day was to publicize the unique features of Bird Creek and the city-park through which it flows, since it is a microcosm of the trout streams that characterize so much of the Central Sand Hills Region.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery during the field day was the abundance of trout in Bird Creek. Scott Bunde, along with Shawn Sullivan and Kyle Siebers (WDNR Fisheries and Trout Stream Habitat Management Team) captured and released an astonishing number of trout.

The numbers of trout and their size range, from the very small to many in the 12 - 15 inch length, clearly demonstrated the rigor of this healthy trout population. The method of capture was surprising to many, since it involved using electrically charged probes to draw trout from their hidden places to be netted and safely placed in a water tank in the small boat pulled behind the netters (see the picture of this activity).

As Scott explained, the strength of the electrical current is carefully controlled for both the safety of the trout and the team capturing trout. Trout were lightly anesthetized with carbon dioxide in the tub of water to further reduce their stress and recover very quickly. These trout await your fishing skills next season!

Nate Ratliff and Bonnie Richards (TU CARES) demonstrated how water quality is measured using equipment for water temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity testing, which are important descriptors of water quality. Additionally, aquatic bugs were collected and identified. The bugs are the important food supply for trout and small fishes that the largest trout need to sustain their thriving population. The kinds of bugs found and the water quality test results showed Bird Creek is a high quality stream.

There were many activities for the whole family conducted in this well organized event led by Laura and John Tucker (TU CARES), including activities for kids (face painting, catching fish for prizes….) and a free lunch for all arranged by Dennis Drazkowski (TU CARES). A plant walk was planned with Jamie Rupple (Note: 10 truck loads of wood chips were laid down on these trails, thanks to WDNR’s Jamie Rupple) and a Master Gardener booth was displayed by Eric Kropp.

During the lunch and learn session, several TU CARES members shared presentations: Mike San Dretto introduced TU CARES and shared the goals of this group of Trout Unlimited chapters working collaboratively with local communities and other conservation organizations and state and county agencies to protect and enhance the cold-water resources of the Central Sand Hills Region.

John Gremmer shared his insightful observations on one of the most unique natural features of the Central Sand Hills Region - The Hexagenia Mayflies. These beautiful and wondrous insects of our cold-water streams grace our June evenings with their presence just as the sun slips below the horizon. As John described, it is then that the night air is filled with tens of thousands of mayflies in a flight of ethereal creatures. While these creatures appear delicate and fragile in flight, it is their energy that returns to the streams and upon which trout thrive.   

Shawn Sullivan shared future enhancements possible for Bird Creek in Bird Creek Park, based on the restorative work the WDNR Trout Stream Habitat Management Team conducts with Trout Unlimited across Central Wisconsin. Potential ideas include: a distinctive bridge(s) design across the stream for easy access and viewing of the stream, continued management to remove invasive plants, improve trout habitat and fishability along the stream.

Bird Creek offers many advantages to Wautoma, not only because of the fishable trout population, but due to its beauty and tranquil nature as it flows, season by season, through Bird Creek Park. Bird Creek is within easy reach of everyone who wishes to be enriched while spending a few moments along its banks.