Easter weekend is a great time to reflect on the blessings in life, a sweet-treat reminder of the power of faith, family and – dare I say it – fishing.
I’ve grown up around the water, and for a few hours every Good Friday, one of my annual traditions is some one-on-one time with the creator of the universe while wading in a woodland tributary. Reflection is a big part of it, for sure, but so is immersing my soul in the sights, sounds and smells of the spring forest while dressed in camo and using polarized glasses to spot rainbow trout finning over a spawning site.
Through the years I’ve caught colorful chromers on everything from skein spawn and nightcrawlers to wax worms, yarn flies, streamers, spinners, single salmon eggs and spoons. Still, my decades-long favorite is the tradition of tying up tiny trout eggs into mesh bags known as spawn sacs.
Tangling with a big, fresh-run steelhead from shore or while wading is one of life’s greatest fishing thrills. You’ll need strong line, a quality reel and a flexible rod that can buffer the sizzling runs these prizes are known for. Fish the larger rivers and creeks, and the battles can go on for many minutes. But in the smaller tributaries, you’d better be quick with the net if you want a shot at supper.
Many fish are broken off in downed trees and brush; that’s part of the challenge. Clearing the stream isn’t the answer, though. That would make things way too easy for the few who don’t like rules and think any fish they spot is fair game. These are magnificent trophies, far too valuable to be taken by illegal snagging or netting.
Wardens patrol popular stretches of creeks and rivers, but they’re also busy watching walleye spawning spots, checking on turkey hunters and doing license, safety and boat-registration checks. If you spot illegal activity and don’t have a local warden’s number in your cell phone, call the state’s tip line, 1.800.TIP.WDNR (800.847.9367).
It’s been 50 years since Senator Gaylord Nelson came up with an idea to raise awareness of conservation and the wise use of our natural resources. In 1969, he proposed a day when citizens across the country would host environmental teach-ins. The national media picked up the story, and Earth Day came to life on April 22, 1970.
Nelson was a state senator from 1948 to 1958, then served four years as governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962. He served three consecutive terms, from 1963 to 1981.
During his 1968 re-election campaign, Vince Lombardi praised Nelson as the “nation’s No. 1 conservationist” at a banquet in Oshkosh. It was widely reported that Nelson’s campaign turned those words into a radio and television campaign commercial, infuriating Lombardi, the Wisconsin Republican Party and Lombardi’s wife, Marie, who was a staunch Republican.
Nelson was the state’s first governor from northern Wisconsin and only the second Democratic governor of the century when elected in 1958. His overhaul of Wisconsin’s natural-resources program earned him a national reputation as the “conservation governor.” See photos and learn much more about Nelson and Earth Day at nelsonearthday.net/nelson.
Meanwhile, April 26 is the 147th anniversary of Arbor Day, a day that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. Learn more at arborday.org.
Some smelt were caught by dipnetters and seiners off piers and creek mouths in the past week, and walleyes and pike are being hooked in Door County bays and harbors.
The 10-day forecast shows a gradual warming trend, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s. If prognosticators are right, April showers will be frequent but not heavy most days.
Woodcock have been peenting; grouse are drumming; and wild turkeys are gobbling, strutting and gathering harems.
Snowy egrets, great blue herons and common loons are among the spring migrants seen this week. Track new arrivals and report your sightings at ebird.org/wi/home.
The DNR was working to validate and compile responses from the April 8 Spring Fish & Wildlife Hearings and Conservation Congress meetings, but as of Tuesday morning still hadn’t posted the results. Once they’re ready, you’ll be able to see individual county totals and the new online input at dnr.wi.gov/about/wcc/springhearing.html.
• The Great Wisconsin Birdathon got underway this week and continues through June 15. Learn how to participate for a day at WIBirdathon.org, or call coordinator Diane Packett at 920.219.2587.
• As of April 12, Lake Michigan was eight inches higher than a year ago, 22 inches above the 100-year average and 52 inches above the all-time low, set in 1964. Water levels were 11 inches below the all-time high, set in 1986.