Jay Ford Thurston

Jay Ford Thurston

Practically every time I give a trout talk I mention that I have been keeping a record of every trout that I catch since 1975. On one occasion I was asked why I did that. My answer was, “Don Thurston, a first cousin of mine, told me that he caught 200 trout in 1974. And, since I am five years older that Don, and I was usually first to excel in sports I decided I could catch 201 trout in 1975.’’

That meant I was going to have to fish more times in 1975. So my plan was to fish the streams in Trout Central at least twice a week. To keep track of the trout I had caught I put a 3- by 51inch card in my pocket and a pen. I also put a measurement line on my rod where I could immediately measure each fish. At first my ruler went to twenty inches but when I caught a 21-inch trout I had to increase it to 22 inches. And, by Aug. 10, when I caught a big brown trout of 24 inches I had to increase the measurement to 25 inches.

Soon I discovered that I had to make a three ring binder to record all the trout that I caught in 1975. So each stream I fished I recorded the name of the stream, type of trout caught, trout length, lure used, time of day I caught the fish, and the water temperature of the stream.

As the summer went by I was recording a lot of big trout over 15 inches. The 24-inch brown trout I caught on August 10th, was put on ice and I drove back to La Crosse to have it mounted. It was on my office wall as principal at State Road School in La Crosse. And it is here on my wall in my Viroqua office. I do believe by going after all those trout in 1975 that I it helped me to catch bigger trout.

In the second week of September in 1975, a teacher on the staff, his brother, and I, on a two day weekend caught enough trout, that we could feed the entire staff at State Road School. The teacher had his sixth grade students help us with preparing the meal to feed the staff. And it was a big success. For some of the staff it was their first introduction to eating fresh caught brook or brown trout.

As the summer went along I found that I could catch more trout in Leon Creek, and the Trempealeau River, than anywhere else. So every three weeks I fishing one of those streams and caught my limit of trout. Also, I found that after catching a lot of trout in those streams that their reproduction was ruined. They were not producing many trout for me in the next three years. Thus I proved that one man, by keeping a lot of trout from one or two stream, could ruin a stream reproduction. Then I began releasing all my trout.

It is more difficult to catch a lot of trout during the early season that the regular season and that is due to the colder water in the early season. Trout are the same temperature as the water they are swimming in. The metabolism of the trout is higher in warmer water to digest food. The regular season was open on the first Saturday in May and closed on September 30.

I have concluded my catch rate for the regular season from 2005 to 2015 and here are some of my totals. The closest stream for me to fish is Bishop Branch. I fished it 27 times from 2005 to 2015 and I caught 12 trout of 15 inches or more. However, if you want to catch a lot of trout over 15 inches you should fish Rush Creek. I fished the stream 6 times and caught and released 6 trout and the average size was 14.61 inches. The second stream on my list to fish is Weister Creek. The stream does not provide a lot of fish so it’s a hard stream to fish. However, I fished it seven times and my catch rate was 13.21 inches long. Recently, I took Eric Woods from Kansas, to fly fish Weister Creel. In the first hole he fished he caught an 18-inch brown trout. He was a happy camper.

Plum Creek is in the lower half of Crawford County. I fished it five times and caught three trout over 15 inches long. The last trout I caught there was a brown trout of 20 inches.

If you are concerned about how many trout per hour you can catch fish Elk Creek. I have caught 4.14 trout per hour on Elk Creek. Or you can fish close to Viroqua and catch 3.54 trout per hour on Bishop Branch. Also, you might try the Bad Axe River, South Branch, where I caught 3.09 trout per hour.

So keeping statistics on trout can tell you what stream to fish and what lure to use. So if you want to catch a lot of trout, or catch the biggest trout, then you should use statistics on each stream you fish.

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Jay Ford Thurston is the Broadcaster’s trout fishing columnist. He can be contacted at trout@mwt.net.

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