Anglers looking for diverse fishing experiences would do well to consider the Black River and its tributaries. The Black River watershed has a wide variety of fish species to entice fishermen and women of any age.
“The Black River corridor in Komensky and Adams (towns) have some of the highest biological diversity in the region,” said Pete Segerson, former fisheries technician and fisheries operations supervisor with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “There are more than 70 species of fish in the Black. The Black River drainage also has many tributaries that are high quality brook trout streams.”
Segerson presented a program about the fish and fisheries found in the Black River and its watershed at the Friends of the Black River’s June 14 meeting.
The Black River is one of the state’s waterways that connect areas of the state formerly covered by glaciers in prehistoric times with the Driftless Region. The waterway serves as a corridor for the spread of a variety of fish species.
“Walleye are the most sought after game fish on the river,” said Segerson. “A 10-15-year-old walleye can reach six or seven pounds or even larger when full of eggs.”
The DNR has tagged Black River walleye and found they can travel as far away as the St. Croix River. That walleye would have navigated several lock and dam structures on the Mississippi River. Among the fish reported were a 15-year-old, 48-inch muskellunge. Muskellunge are native to the Black River and there are also fall fingerling musky stocked in the Black River to enhance fishing for Wisconsin’s state fish.
In addition to walleye and musky, other game fish found in the Black and its streams include small-mouth bass, crappies, flathead catfish, northern pike, lake sturgeon, channel catfish and sauger. Segerson said the sauger have been known to cross with walleye to produce a hybrid known as the saugeye.
The common carp, an introduced species, is also found in the Black River.
Some lesser known fish species found in the water shed are the hognose sucker, river redhorse, blue sucker, Iowa and banded darters and about a dozen minnow species.
“The banded darter is one of the creatures worth hanging on to,” said Segerson. “The stretch of the river from Hatfield to Black River Falls is some of the best habitat. Rocks, riffles, rapids, deep pools and some high quality tributaries including Morrison and Halls creeks provide a variety of high quality fish habitat.”
In his presentation, Segerson discussed the importance of taking care of the watershed and some of the challenges encountered in managing fisheries in a flash-flood prone river.
“It seems like 100-year floods are now happening a couple times a summer,” said Segerson. “The Black gets its color from tannic acid from the plants and manganese and iron. Runoff from farm fields causes the chocolate milk appearance to the water and limits light penetration.”
Segerson worked in the DNR fisheries program for more than 35 years. Before retiring in 2014, he worked with trout habitat, river and lake sport fisheries as well as wetland restoration and conservation.
In his presentation, Segerson showed examples of fish habitat created by fallen trees and woody debris jams. He recommended that stream clearing efforts include leaving part of the fallen trees and debris jams in the waterways.
He also urged getting the younger generation interested in nature through fishing.
“One of the big problems is nature deficit,” said Segerson. “We need to take kids into the outdoors. We need to ensure there’s no child left inside.”
Segerson’s presentation was part of FBR’s ongoing mission to bring educational programs about the Black River, its watershed and environmental and conservation issues to the community.