Labor Day Weekend Brings People to the Outdoors

by Free Speech on September 10, 2010

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

River Currents
by Gary Engberg
©2010 Gary Engberg Outdoors

Scenes like this will soon be common in Southern Wisconsin as fall approaches quickly

Scenes like this will soon be common in Southern Wisconsin as fall approaches quickly

This summer has not been one of the greatest for those who like to spend their outdoor time canoeing, kayaking, tubing, or fishing on the Lower Wisconsin River. This has been a summer of above normal and warm temperatures and high water. This area is many inches above normal in the summer’s rainfall and the large amount of precipitation has allowed the Wisconsin River to stay high most of July and August.

While the high water conditions may be fine for mosquitoes and navigating larger boats on the river without worrying about losing a lower emit to a rock or “deadhead, ” it is not conducive to people wanting to spend a leisurely afternoon paddling a canoe or kayak down river to Arena or Spring Green. The worst part of the high water is that the water has been so high that there haven’t been any sandbars to camp and spend the night on. In a normal year, the Wisconsin River is not very busy during the week. But, come a nice weekend with the sun shining and the river’s water at it’s normal flow the river is full of families, friends, fishermen, and outdoors people enjoying a beautiful and scenic river a half an hour from Madison, less than 2 hours from Milwaukee, and less than 3 hours from Chicago.

The normal flow of the current on the Wisconsin River, at the last dam on the river at Prairie du Sac, is a little less than 4,000 cubic feet per second. If the river’s flow is greater than 10,000 c.f.s. then there are few if any sandbars to camp on because they are covered with water. The river’s water high has constantly been over 10,000 cubic feet per second all summer and at times the flow has been as high as 25,000 cubic feet per second. When the water flows like that the only things that are comfortable on the river are the ducks, geese, and fish!

But, things have changed this past week with the Wisconsin River coming down to a nice summer level allowing people to come out this past weekend to the Lower Wisconsin River and spend a beautiful weekend on the water enjoying some of the best scenery in the state this time of year. Sunday morning and afternoon as I wrote this story, I often glanced up and saw the large number of “outdoor” people who had come to Sauk City and the Wisconsin River to float, tube, fish, and paddle down the river. It seemed as if today had more people on the water than both the months of July and August combined. Those who choose to camp out on Saturday night must have had a chilly evening with temperatures down to the mid to upper 40’s. But, the temperature rebounded on Sunday to the mid 70’s and the canoe and kayak rentals were bustling! It’s impossible to make up the summer rentals that have been lost forever, but maybe next summer will be one with lower water levels, fewer mosquitoes, and just a little less rain. People seemed to be having fun today almost like they were letting off “pent-up emotion” from not being able to use the river much this summer.

The Labor Day weekend is the end of the season for some of the canoe liveries. A few will stay open through the end of September and possibly on a weekend or two in October if the weather is nice. To me, the next two months of September and October are the best months of the year for enjoying the fishing, hunting, canoeing, scenery, and migrating birds and waterfowl. Late November or early December is generally the time of year that the bald eagles arrive for the winter. The leaves have yet to begin turning in the surrounding Blackhawk Ridge Bluffs or the Baraboo Buffs to the north. The coming cool nights will begin the change to fall colors which can be awesome especially in areas that contain a mixture of aspen, poplars, and maples. This is a great time of the year to canoe or kayak the Wisconsin River because you’ll have the river to yourself especially if you can get away or a day or two and camp for a night. The quiet, peace, and solitude are awesome especially when you realize that you are less than 30 miles from the hustle and bustle of the State’s capital, Madison.

Deer will soon lose their velvet and start rubbing and scraping small trees. The bow deer season opens September 18th.

Deer will soon lose their velvet and start rubbing and scraping small trees. The bow deer season opens September 18th.

The hook and line sturgeon fishing season opened this past Saturday, September 4. I spent a few hours fishing downriver from the town of Sauk City and the Prairie Dam. I had a few takes that I thought were sturgeon, but they turned out to be flathead catfish over 20 pounds. I plan to sturgeon fish closer to the dam where these huge prehistoric fish have deep water with plenty of oxygen and food. There were a few groups of sturgeon anglers from Milwaukee and Chicago that I talked to but none of them had caught a legal (60 inches) sturgeon. If you plan to fish for sturgeon remember that there now is a $20.00 fee for a tag for residents and $50.00 for non-residents. I heard a few complaints from non-residents, but most enjoyed coming to the area and taking part in the fishing. The VFW campground had groups of anglers fishing all day and night and staying at the campgrounds for a reasonable price of $15.00 per night. The sturgeon season lasts through the end of the month.

This past week, I’ve heard a number of shots early in the morning down river from hunters taking advantage of the early September goose season. The Canadian geese have been growing in numbers in recent years and many stay the entire winter, if the Wisconsin River is open, despite the snow and cold temperatures. Geese are not dumb birds and if they are shot at regularly they’ll move to new locations and areas with food and water. As soon as the corn harvest begins, hunters will be able to pattern and scout for geese much better as they feed in open agricultural feeds in the surrounding counties.

There also are a decent number of mourning doves in the area with some on public hunting grounds. Doves, like geese, are also a game bird that will spend the winter in Wisconsin. Some doves migrate south and many doves pass through the area on their migration routes. There are an estimated 50 million doves in the U.S. and the number taken by hunters does not affect their numbers with many more taken by disease, weather, and predators. Doves reproduce readily with most laying more than one clutch a summer. Again, do some scouting looking for old dead elms and other trees that they roost in, where they are feeding, and where they water. But, wear good camo clothing and conceal yourself along a grain or corn field’ fence line or tree-row and watch the doves come and go while trying to pattern their movements. Make sure to have plenty of shotgun shells and a suggest using 7 ½ or 8 shot for these hard to hit birds. The bag limit is liberal at 15 birds, but I don’t know many hunters in Wisconsin that have ever shot that many in a day.

Soon the fall turkey and deer bow season opens and this week the bear season opens in northern Wisconsin. This is a great time to enjoy the outdoors in Wisconsin whether you like to fish, hunt, photograph wildlife, canoe, kayak, hike, camp, or just relax in beautiful surroundings with a wonderful mixture of fauna and flora.

Be sure to always check www.garyengbergoutdoors.com for the latest in outdoor happenings and activities.

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