Jay Ford Thurston

Jay Ford Thurston

Usually I fish from 20 to 30 trout streams a year. And, that is a lot more than most anglers fish. Sure I will fish some streams three for four times each year. But each time I fish the stream it is in a different place. You see I keep a record of each fish I catch in the stream – thus I can’t fish the same place in the stream and catch and release the same trout. That doesn’t work if you keep records like I do.

Every year I see a big trout of over 20 inches that didn’t hit my lure. Also, I meet a lot of anglers at Farmers Market, in Viroqua, and often one of them will tell me about a big trout he caught and released that was over 20 inches long.

Last year I knew of two big trout that were caught and released in Reads Creek. I fished for one of them and I saw him come for my lure but he didn’t hit. The next week I was back fishing the same big hole and I saw the track of an angler who has recently been there. And I think he caught the 23-inch brown trout. I made a careful approach, on a cloudy day, and only caught a 12 inch trout where the big trout had been. I knew the 23 inch trout was gone or he would have scared the 12 incher away from his place in the pool.

Seven years ago, after we had a flash flood, I went to Reads Creek and I saw a cottonwood tree that was lying across a pool – a good place for a large trout. I made a cast and my lure fell next to the log. I had a hit and set the hook and then the battle was on. He came back toward me and then went for the undercut on the west bank. I stopped him short of the bank and he came back to try and get under the log. It was a battle back and forth until he tired out. He measured 21 inches on my pole. But I didn’t have a camera along to take a picture. So I put him down in the water and watched him go back toward the big log.

Why is Reads Creek a good place to catch big trout? Reads Creek does not have growth food, like crayfish and chubs, that will allow fish to grow to 20 inches. So how did they get there? Reads Creek flows into the Kickapoo River and there is a lot of growth food in the Kickapoo River where big trout swim. And when the Kickapoo River warms up in the summer time the big trout will go up a small clear stream like Reads Creek. And, that is typical of a lot of streams in this region.

What other trout streams are there, that flow into the Kickapoo River, and run with cold water during the summer months. I recently caught a 20-inch trout in Plum Creek. And lost a trout over 20 inches in Pine Creek. They are both in Crawford County.

In our region we have another trout stream that has growth food. It is Pine River in Richland County. It also is difficult to fish since it usually runs with a lot of turbidity and it’s hard for the trout to see your lure. The best time to fish the Kickapoo River and Pine River is probably in April. Then, if we don’t have a lot of rain, it is usually clear. I caught two trout over 20 inches, in the Pine River, on the same day in April.

The brown trout that I have on my wall, came from Milancthon Creek, which flows into the Pine River. And, I have known of a lot of large trout that were caught in Milantchon Creek. So in August of this year I will fish the cool cliff pools in Milancthon Creek for a big trout.

An ice fisherman recently told me about seeing two big brown trout, which were over 20 inches, caught in the Mississippi River through the ice, near where the Bad Axe River flows into the Mississippi. So trout do go to a bigger stream in the late fall to spent the winter.

When I told this to John “Duke” Walker he told me of a small stream in west central Wisconsin where the trout went to the Mississippi River to spend the winter. And, in the spring, they returned to the stream and were frequently caught by knowledgeable trout anglers. So pay attention the small streams that flow into the Mississippi.

With more rainfall we have had recently our trout stream are getting bigger. And bigger water will have more food to grow larger trout.

Pay attention to level three streams indicated by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The DNR has three levels for trout streams. Level One has a lot of reproduction and seldom needs planting of trout. Level Two has some reproduction so the DNR plants trout on some of those streams. Level Three seldom has reproduction so they are planted by the DNR.

Look for the Level Three streams, on the DNR website, as they run warmer, than most trout streams, and that gives chubs an opportunity to hatch out. Those trout streams have a smorgasbord of food to eat with chubs, crayfish, and suckers.

The Level Three streams don’t have as much spring water flowing into them. So they are a good place to fish in April before the water gets warm. Or, if you are an adventurous one, try getting through the weeds in the upper third of those streams in the summer months.

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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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