What a Wonderful Weekend in Outdoor Wisconsin

by Free Speech on May 14, 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

This past weekend was to say the least, a tale of two very different days in the spring of Wisconsin. Now and throughout the summer, I help and participate in many events that are geared to getting children outside enjoying the outdoors and particularly teaching youngsters the basics of fishing. I’m constantly writing about the importance of getting young children outdoors and not having them spend all their free time on a computer. There is time to be computer savvy and also find time to take part in the wonderful outdoors that we have in Wisconsin.

Two weekends ago, I helped take children out fishing at the Moose Fest in Montello where the local community is trying to raise money for a children’s hospital. This past Saturday, I helped friends Terry Frey, Pete Jopke, and Wally Banfi in the Family Fishing Day at Lake Marion in Mazomanie. Saturday was not the kind of day that one would pick to have an outdoor event with young children. But, you have to pick your days well in advance and you never know what kind of weather a Wisconsin spring will bring. The day started out being below freezing with rain, sleet, and the occasional snow flake.

But, by the time the 9:00 am registration time came around the shelter at Mazomanie’s Lake Marion was buzzing with children and their parents or guardians. The final tally had 120 children of all ages taking part in the day’s activities which included; learning to cast a spinning rod and reel, rigging the hook, sinker, and float on your rod, knot tying, fish cleaning, listening to DNR Warden Nate Kroeplin give a short talk about fishing and answering questions from the children, and of course fishing.

The many children didn’t seem to mind the cold and wind as they and their parents spread out along the shores of the lake and practiced what they had just learned. The surprising thing on a day more like November was that the kids caught some nice fish that cooperated to be released back into the water after a quick photo. Crappies, bluegills, perch, rock bass, and largemouth bass were all caught by the budding anglers. The way that fishing has been this spring with its ups and downs, it was great to see the kids catch fish. The species caught is not important to the children, but catching and having “something” tug on your line is! Don’t make the mistake of taking your children out muskie or walleye fishing where you may not have steady action. What you want is to go to a lake or pond where children are going to catch fish no matter what the size may be. Lake Wingra, Indian Lake, Warner Park, and Lake Marion are all local waters where you can go with your children and have fun catching fish in the outdoor beauty of our state. This is how to get children “hooked” on fishing!

Local anglers and tournament professionals, Terry Frey and Pete Jobke, started and organized the Family Fishing Day with donations from local businesses and volunteers from the Wisconsin River Sportsmen’s Club. The Becker Law Office and other contributing sponsors donated money to purchase from Okuma Fishing (sold at a big discount) the rods and reels that were given to all the children who attended Saturday’s event. There were families from Madison, Sauk City, Black Earth, Mt. Horeb, and Cross Plains at the event. There also was a raffle with donated prizes that went home with most of the children. There were many more contributing sponsors who helped, but there are just too many to mention. I thank all of them who helped and contributed to make this Family Fishing Day such a success and I hope that they know who they are. The lunch of hot dogs and brats was donated and cooked by the many volunteers from the Wisconsin River Sportsmen’s Club and other caring individuals.

After lunch, everyone fished for a few hours after learning some fishing basics and having the many volunteers show them how to cast a spinning rod and reel. The lake’s fish cooperated and the children were able to catch some fish most which were released back into the lake. Teaching catch and release is another tip that children are never too young to learn and gives them a start in learning about conservation.

Saturday turned out to be another successful day introducing and helping teach today’s young about and taking part in outdoor activities that can be life-long hobbies. As people say, a good time was had by all!

My plans for Sunday were to go for a drive toward the Mississippi River and take some photos of the beauty of spring that is exploding every day after some much needed precipitation and warmer weather. Sunday was a complete opposite of Saturday with light winds, a blue sky, and temperatures around 60 degrees. It was a gorgeous day to be in the Wisconsin countryside. My friend, Quilla Pine, and I decided to stay a little closer to home after not getting the “early” start that was planned. After a cup of green tea at Leystra’s in Sauk City, we decided to stay a little closer to home in our travels. We headed up to Devils Lake State Park and drove through the park. I was overjoyed to see so many people out on this Mother’s Day Sunday hiking, birding, fishing, and enjoying the beauty of spring. Sometimes, I’m disappointed when I don’t see people outdoors enjoying the natural beauty of Wisconsin, especially when Wisconsin has so much to offer. This is a wonderful time of the year to be watching the many birds that are returning to the north after migrating south for the winter. The last two weeks there has been a tremendous growth in the fauna and flora with trees budding and flowers popping up from the recent moisture. Spring, to me, is an invigorating time of the year after the cold of a Wisconsin winter. I love to just sit in my backyard on the shore of the Wisconsin River and listen to the many sounds and smells of spring. The Baltimore orioles have returned on time, the ducks and geese are hatching their young, and the sandhill cranes are always making noise from the river or the nearby marshes.

Those of you were out on Sunday know what I’m talking about and you can do and enjoy so much locally without ever driving too far. Most of us are concerned with driving as gas prices approach $3.00 a gallon and more. But, one doesn’t have to drive very far from Madison to enjoy the wonders of spring in the Badger state. Within an hour’s drive or less from Madison, there are many state parks, county parks, and public lands where you can find many birds, flowers, animals, and sights that make the outdoors a beautiful collage of colorful images. Go for a hike, take your camera, and explore the many outdoor sights that are at your finger tips. Wisconsin is a beautiful state that has something in the outdoors for anyone who makes the effort to get outside.

While driving rural Sauk and Dane county, I took many photos mostly of nature and landscapes. While driving near a friend’s farm, I stopped to take a photo. As I got out of my truck, a wild turkey flushed within 10 yards of me and flew down a valley. I saw that there was a “good-looking” elm tree close by that looked like it might have a few morels. Friend, Q. Pine, checked it out and there was a small bonanza of morels under the one elm tree. With permission, we picked over three pounds of morels which to say the least made my day! Pan-fried morels with fresh ground pepper, butter, and a little garlic completed my day and a wonderful weekend in the outdoors of Wisconsin. We have so much to see and explore close to urban areas that don’t entail spending much money and provide a great way to forget your problems and daily stress by taking in nature’s beauty and wonders. Try to take advantage of what we have close to home and at our fingertips! Believe me when I say that a day in the outdoors can make anyone forget their worries at least for that day. www.garyengbergoutdoors.com

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