Anglers head out for opener
Inland fishing season starts May 7
By Greg Seubert
Shawano Lake and the Wolf River come to mind as two of Shawano County’s popular fishing destinations.
Gunnar Kvistad had something else in mind, however.
The 12-year-old Marion Elementary School sixth-grader got up early May 7 for the first day of Wisconsin’s inland fishing season, grabbed his fishing rod and a handful of minnows that he had caught in a creek near his home and headed to the boat landing at the Pella Pond.
The pond is a 49-acre lake created by a dam on the Embarrass River in the Shawano County community of Pella, halfway between Marion and Shawano.
While boat landings at Shawano Lake were filled with vehicles, boats and trailers, Kvistad had a section of the pond in Old Mill Park all to himself.
“It’s quiet and I can just relax,” he said. “I was here at 6:30.”
He returned to the boat landing after fishing after school the previous day.
“Yesterday, I caught a northern on a minnow,” he said. “I was here just by myself, but sometimes, I come out on our boat with my dad and my mom. We catch bass, sunfish.”
Mark Schraufnagel, a DNR conservation warden based in Shawano, showed up at the landing to see how Kvistad was doing.
“I’m checking sturgeon sites, I’m checking trout spots,” he said. “There’s a lot going on. There’s going to be a lot of people out today because we finally got some good weather.”
Activity near the dam began to pick up at about 8 a.m. as several people stopped along the road to see spawning lake sturgeon in the river below the dam.
Small town ponds
Shawano County is home to a number of small-town ponds on the Embarrass River and its branches, including ponds in Caroline, Leopolis and Tilleda.
“These are actually pretty productive fisheries and these little millponds mean a lot to these local communities,” Schraufnagel said. “There’s a little bit of everything. You have your panfish, you have your gamefish, a nice variety.
“Pella did a nice job with this,” he said. “They have a pier here you can fish off of and they have a fishing platform over there. (The Embarrass) isn’t listed as trout water below the dam, but there are trout in there that people will catch. Right now, it’s kind of neat because you can see the sturgeon. Suckers will be moving in and there will be a lot of guys fishing for them as well.”
The pond’s water level was recently dropped for dam repairs, according to Schraufnagel.
“They did drop the water here, so we’ll see how this goes,” he said. “They try to do that slowly so the fish can sense that and go upstream.”
Kvistad headed home at 10 a.m. without any fish to show for his effort, but said he’d be back later.
About 20 miles northwest of Pella, Luke Schmidt of Kaukauna and his friends fished for trout on Homme Pond, an impoundment of the Middle Branch of the Embarrass just north of Wittenberg.
“A bunch of friends and I get together every opening day for the last five years or so,” he said. “We’ve always called it Trout Club. We’ll fish a bunch of local streams and grill out later in the day.”
The group had several rainbow trout and one brook trout on ice before noon.
“It’s been pretty good,” Schmidt said. “You keep moving and work your way around. We’ve been on a number of streams this morning.”
The inland fishing opener isn’t as big as opening weekend of the state’s nine-day gun deer season, but Schmidt said the first Saturday in May is still a big deal.
“We look forward to it for sure,” he said. “Winter gets long.”
“Opening weekend has that tradition for a lot of families, whether it be trout fishing, walleye fishing or whatever,” Schraufnagel said. “It’s not quite the same as the nine-day, but it’s up there.”