Three hours from the heart of Madison (at approximatly 80 mph) you’ll come to the Lakewood Ranger District of the Nicolet National Forest in Oconto County. Photos and videos are currently in post-production and will start showing up on our blog this evening.
Stephen and I kept all of our fingers and toes despite five inches of unexpected snow, a very nearly stuck 4 wheel-drive vehicle, and flaming boot soles.
We also had the opportunity to talk to a gentleman who lives on the South Branch of the Oconto River and is a former Trout Unlimited chapter president. He reminded us how lucky we are to be residents (or nearly so) of the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, where the trout fishing is “at least as good as anything Out West.”
More on that later. For now, we’re back in civilization, enriched by the amazing sights and sounds of moving water in the middle of winter, our goal of locating a beautiful place to take our kids camping and fishing complete.
Stay tuned for photos, videos, and more stories.
The winter scouting trip that Stephen and I have been discussing is being finalized. Our plan is to find a spot to camp in the vicinity of Western Shawano County on Friday night, then up to the North Branch of the Oconto (or somewhere in the Nicolet Nat’l Forest) Saturday night.
The goal is to scout out some great trout water in Central and Northeast Wisconsin to establish a “Trout Camp” for our families. A place where our sons can enjoy some time each summer in the wild, and where they can continue to return for years to come.
If you’ve got any favorite spots you’d like to share, don’t be bashful!
I had a few moments today and felt like looking at a trout stream. Here’s what I found…
Black Earth Creek, 19 January, 2011
Only 45 days until the early Trout Season Opener in Wisconsin. Where will you fish?
To whet your appetite, below are some photos from a trip Stephen and I took to the mighty Brule River in Douglas County last September.
Brule River Brown Trout, Sept 2010
Tom on the Brule
Stephen on the Brule
Beautiful Fish on the Brule River
Stephen Working a Riffle on The Brule
Take a look at the Brunsweiler River. It is a river in Ashland County near Mellon, WI. A section of it has been designated a Wild River, meaning it can’t be altered or developed.
Brunsweiler River, Ashland County, WI
About 4 miles of the river run through the Chequamegon Nat’l Forest, and this section is a Class II trout stream containing Brook and Brown Trout. In this region, the Brunsweiler River flows north through a series of natural, glacially-created lakes, with high gradients and deeply-cut chasms between the lakes. The erosive power of the river has created numerous streamside cliffs, both open and shaded. Spring Brook is a feeder creek that is a Class I trout stream that contains Brook Trout.
Brunsweiler River at the North Country Trail Bridge
Follow this link to watch a video about its designation as a Wild River.
Looks like a fun playground!
Tom and I have discussed a midwinter outing to the Wisconsin northwoods to scout out some trout. We’d planned our visit for late January. I decided to call upon my families fishing lineage to find out about the possibilities in Minocqua. I contacted Rick Domini, my wife’s uncle. I’m not exactly sure what that makes me? A nephew-in-law?
Rick is a longtime Flambeau Chain muskie fishing guide. All I’ll tell you is that I have seen some pictures that do not require a back story to understand that Rick knows what he’s doing. I’m not sure I would swim anywhere near where Rick Domini is fishing for fear of being eaten by a freshwater monster.
I told Rick about our plan. I believe his second word (via email) was ‘insane’. Oh yeah, his first word was ‘definitely’.
Now Tom had worked the DNR’s Managed Lands website pretty hard looking for a possible trout camp destination and had discovered a stream called the McDonald Creek, just south of Hwy 70 in Oconto County. It’s listed as a Class II trout stream on the DNR’s website.
The idea was to find a nice spot in a state forest to fish and camp and rusticate with the boys. Rick informed me that a long range plan to seek trout in this part of the state is probably a losing proposition. The streams are just not conditioned the way they are in other parts of the state. Brackish, sandy bottomed and featureless, with very few fish. Tom was told much the same thing by a colleague. So much for trout seeking.
Tom and I had planned on doing some ice fishing on our visit so that we might add to our winter larders back home (filling the freezer with some tasty winter fish).
When I mentioned this to Rick he said, “great idea, I just guided last week and we caught 55 northern”. “You did what?”, I said. “Yep, I also caught a 10lb. 31″ walleye, my biggest to date.”
Just what does this information mean? Well, I’m still processing it. Here’s a pic of a pike:
I could live with just one of those. If I caught 55 I’d be concerned that I’d upset the natural order in some way. Like I’d opened up another dimension made entirely of fish flesh. Rick told me that lots of those fish were keepers. Were they fishing a frozen hatchery?
Tom and I will probably reconsider our trip but with fishing like that I think ice fishing has a huge upside. If you like a big sky view you can hardly do better than standing on a frozen lake. It’s beautifully quiet as the snow absorbs all the sound. You can throw a football or cook some franks. I’ve been in ice fishing camps that felt not unlike real communities. People exchanging pleasantries, swapping stories and fishing tips. And the fish are big and taste better than they do all year long!
Who knows, we may go up there anyway. I think we’ll find our trout Valhalla somewhere closer to home. If you’re ever interested in being on a trophy fish you could do a whole lot worse than Rick’s Fishing. Rick isn’t big on maintaining his website. I’m pretty certain he’s already got a client list that is rock solid. But here’s the link anyway:
If anyone has ideas about seeking trout in winter I’d love to hear about it. Thanks.