Jerry Davis: Anglers embrace tradition of fishing opener

May 5, 2019

One of Dave Vetrano’s favorite opening day fishing memories is seeing two anglers sitting streamside with a cloth-covered card table, wine glasses, and real China and silverware. A hot Coleman stove was preparing fresh-caught brown trout.

Vetrano is a retired DNR fish manager, living in the Coulee Region in Southwest Wisconsin. He loves fish and nature.

He registered a large turkey a week ago, so his trout fishing tradition will continue when he and five friends take their spinning rods to Bohemian Valley Creek in La Crosse County this weekend.

“We started seven years ago; many of the guys are worm soakers,” Vetrano said.

“I’m a firm believer in keeping fish for a lot of reasons. People who want to increase their omega-3 diet can do it with artificially-raised salmon from the West Coast or then can go to a local trout stream. Some waters have an overabundance of fish, so why not keep some?”

Taking fish home would actually help some of these streams that have 3,000 fish per mile, he said.

Where does an angler begin to have some of the enjoyment Vetrano has experienced?

Rather than asking a Wisconsin DNR fish manager what’s biting and where during this weekend’s fishing opener, ask what and where they are going to fish.

Bradd Sims, DNR fish manager in Dodgeville, is headed to Yellowstone Lake in Lafayette County to fish channel catfish and largemouth bass. “Channel cats and crappies are the two most abundant fish in the lake right now,” Sims said. “I’ll be taking some home to eat, too.”

But not all anglers are that enthusiastic about Wisconsin’s general hook and line opener or the general inland trout opener, both of which opened Saturday.

Of late, outdoors participation and traditions, including fishing, are waning in some, but not all, fields, lakes, parks and streams. This is true in spite of increasing opportunities, license-less events and fishing gear available for check out at some libraries.

Still, when openers appear, many do grab waders, trailer their boats or find their stream bank bucket seats. Others pull away to call turkeys or gather mushrooms. Successes accomplished in the fields and forests often find that trout fishing and crappie catching embers are still hot.

Mark and Linda Seely, of Ridgeway, are an outdoors team who engage in various hunting and fishing forays in Iowa and Lafayette counties, and beyond. They have been known to put their own passions aside, too, to help elderly folks and novices who need assistance.

Depending on how Mark’s and Linda’s turkey hunting goes (which started Wednesday), they could be fishing by now.

“Otherwise I’ll still be turkey hunting,” Mark said. “And Linda, too.”

Let’s assume there are two birds in the freezer, then what?

“It would be muskie fishing on Twin Valley Lake in Iowa County’s Governor Dodge State Park,” Mark said. “We don’t use our boat anymore, haven’t for five years, because we both have kayaks.

“In the past when I camped at Hollandale, I’d hunt turkeys, then head to Twin Valley Lake, but without a boat. I like fishing the underwater cribs from shore. I could get a nice bunch of crappies to eat,” Linda said.

Fishing for this woman is more complex, and yet quiet simple. It just happens. “If I’m on a small lake in my kayak it’s a spiritual connection with the lake, nature, a sunrise and calm water,” she said. “My music (piano playing and music writing) is on my mind when I fish and I might get an inspiration for a song. It’s not just catching a fish or fishing; it all ties together.”

Fishing was the whole experience to Vetrano, too, even when he worked.

“If I was having a really bad day (his fishing rod was always in the truck), I’d sneak away for an hour and fish Mormon Coulee Creek and come back to work way better,” he said.