Sand Creek Habitat ProjectA Trout Stream Conservation Story. By Dave Carlson Contributing writer
The citizen volunteers’ “cool-off reward” for several sweaty hours of seeding grasses and mulching hundreds of straw bales along both banks of the stream would be wading it with a state fishery crew looking for any and all fish their electroshocking gear could coax from the depths.
Even the most seasoned of the hands involved in stream restorations were impressed by what they found -everything from minnows and freshwater eels to trophy size native brook trout and natural producing brown trout.”That is jaw-dropping,” said Dale Dahlke about a 15-inch brook trout rising to his net, jolted from its lair by a non-lethal dose of electricity. A few steps behind, fish manager Joseph Gerbyshak admired a 23-inch brown trout which missile through the surface into one of the crew’s landing nets.
The volunteers are members of Trout Unlimited’s Clear Waters Chapter in western Wisconsin’s Northern Driftless Area. The stream they have been working on and off the past decades is Sand Creek, 7.5 miles of Class 1 trout water supported entirely by natural reproduction, no stocking.
While the state as a whole shifted to less restrictive more uniform trout fishing regulations this year, about 1.5 miles of Sand Creek’s unheralded fishery is protected by an artificials-only 18-inch minimum size limit for browns, with a limit of one daily.
The trophy section is a winding tunnel of thick vegetation that is tough, even for roll-casters, to take up the pursuit of the big browns. Upstream the size and bag rules for native brook trout are more liberal, with a zero size limit and five daily fish bag.
“Even though (the trophy section work) is 30 years old, it is still functioning like when it was built,” Gerbyshak said.