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"It's been a tough summer to be out trout fishing because the heat and the humidity, but the next few weeks should be fantastic," says Larry Claggett, Department of Natural Resources cold water ecologist.
"Every stream I see is flowing above normal but not flooding, and that creates good habitat, abundant food, and cooler water temperatures, which means the fish are going to be a little more active again."
Claggett says DNR fisheries surveys are showing good trout populations, and fish managers are telling me "the fishing is as good as it's ever been."
Dave Vetrano is one of those fish managers who believes the fishing's never been better. He's been working for 30 years directly on improving fishing in western Wisconsin counties of Crawford, Vernon, Monroe and La Crosse.
"Because of the abundant rainfall we have base flows far higher than what they have ever been. Our streams are in the best shape ever from a fisheries standpoint."
Vetrano says that the high water levels this year, as well as the flooding in 2008 and 2007, have benefitted trout populations and anglers.
"There's a misconception that the water just blows the fish out but in reality they hunker down and as long as they donít get moved by a big log that pushes them out, they try to find the low current areas and they'll be just fine."
The flood waters scour the sediments from the river beds, revealing the cobbled substrate that the trout need to spawn. "We've seen a tremendous increase in recruitment and young of year and increase in the invertebrate populations, so for all intents and purposes, the fishing is the best it's ever been."
Vetrano cautions that anglers will want to watch stream flows carefully, and wait until the water comes back down in a stream and clears up a little. That doesn't take long in western Wisconsin, where the stream flows rise and fall quickly, sometimes within 24 hours.
"The trout are sight feeders. They can't see the lure. The best fishing is just as water starts to get a little dirty or a little clear. In that interim, thatís the time to get out. They go on a major feed. Depending on the rain event, they may have not eaten for two or three days."
Mike Miller, a DNR stream ecologist and avid trout angler, advises fly fishers to try fishing the mouths of tributaries to larger rivers and use a grasshopper, ant or cricket fly pattern. Large brown trout try to avoid bright sunlight so spin fishers fishing near dusk using lures that imitate minnows or crawfish can hook some impressive fish.
"The brown trout and brook trout are fall spawners so they will be thinking of moving upstream so often times you can find some big fish in spots you might not normally find them," Miller says. "The fish should start stacking up close to these smaller tributary streams, smaller streams."
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