I checked the Mequon-Thiensville Fishway Camera website this morning and got a big surprise. A picture of a native Coaster Brook Trout swimming upstream in the Milwaukee River.
This would not be so shocking to find in a tributary of Lake Superior, but I never imagined a Brook Trout would be swimming up the Milwaukee River. It goes to show that tearing down dams really does allow a river to support more wildlife.
If Grafton and West Bend would tear down their decrepit dams these Coasters would have a true shot at making their way up to Brook Trout spawning habitat in the Northern Kettle Moraine headwaters. Can you imagine the Milwaukee River being home to the only native anadromous salmonid? How cool would that be? Could West Bend become the Coaster Capital of the Midwest?
A Coaster Brook Trout swimming past the fishway camera in the Milwaukee River in Thiensville, WI
I’ve been reading the newsletters of the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club over the past few weeks and have learned a lot about their work to improve the Brule River fishery. One of the most incredible projects is the “Gravel Drops” they collaborated with the National Guard on years ago. The photos are really intriguing. Gravel, of course, is an important substrate for trout and salmon spawning and it allows the eggs a safe place to lie during maturation. Check out the pictures on their website. I think you’ll enjoy them.
I have also gleaned from the Club’s newsletters that they’re struggling a bit financially. This is a real shame, because their work has helped make the Brule a healthy fishery, giving all who fish it better opportunities to experience the tug of a wild Lake Superior Steelhead.
I am planning to send in my membership form with $20, and I’m also going to add a bit extra to help with the Habitat Fund. I’ll purchase a map and a cap as well and I encourage you to do the same, whether you’re an angler who loves the Brule, or just someone who loves the idea of the Brule.
National Guard and Brule River Sportsmen’s Club members spread gravel at Mott’s Ravine Bend in the Brule River in 1995. Click the photo to see the gallery.
I’m going to LA next week for work. The guys in our office in Hollywood joked that I should fish the LA River. Big carp and catfish dwell there in Los Angeles, where “A Sewer Runs Through It”.
The wrecking ball has started swinging in the Menomonee River in Milwaukee this week, removing a 1,100 foot concrete channel that prevented fish from passing upstream. This work follows in the footsteps of major dam removal projects up and down the Milwaukee River that have allowed for fish and wildlife habitat restoration.
There are salmon and steelhead runs in the Menomonee River, but they’re stopped short upon reaching the concrete channel because the currents are too swift for them to swim through successfully. Restoration of the channel back to a more natural state will allow fish to explore 17 miles of water upstream, all the way up to another man made barrier, the Lepper Dam, in Menomonee Falls.
The flow of water has been redirected and is being pumped around it. The Wisconsin Ave. bridge is in the background. The pipes carrying the water around this section are at right and left. – Image credit: Michael Sears
The next step is for communities like Menomonee Falls and Grafton to recognize that removing obsolete dams and restoring natural rapids and falls can enhance their communities in many ways, including tourism dollars from fisherman chasing migrating fish.
Erik Helm, the Fishing Manager at Orvis in Glendale, Wisconsin has eloquently written about what could happen in either of these towns if only their residents would look back to what existed before the mill ponds.
Imagine a place like West Bend becoming a spawning habitat for steelhead. Imagine the reinvigorated riverway, no longer smelly and stale but clear-running and full of wild things. East and West, communities are working to tear down old dams, restoring beautiful, historic rivers for the enjoyment of all. Milwaukee is doing it, and yeah, Grafton and Menomonee Falls can do it too.
I found this at moldychum.com. I like the message that animals do some extreme stuff, and salmon are exemplary in their extreme-ness.
Can you imagine emulating their life cycle?
Get born, survive in a stream for a while, swim to the ocean, be a predator and get fat, then somehow figure your way back to the very spot you were born without the help of a map or the benefit of nourishment during your journey, all the while fighting and competing with your brothers and sisters for mates, spill your spawn until you’re exhausted, only to die in the process?
Salmon are, indeed, incredible.
Shred Till Death, Salmon. from Will Lyons on Vimeo.