Habitat Update

Habitat Update: Activities in Fall through Winter 2023- 2024

This past season I posted MailChimp notices for 33 events encouraging individuals to get involved with boots on the ground habitat related projects.  Volunteers participated in 3 seeding/mulching events involving projects on both the Trimbelle River and Parker Creek.  We conducted one tree planting day where volunteers helped plant bare root seedling at both Wilson and Cady Creeks. Volunteers turned out to assist the DNR shocking crew at 3 events in August on the Rush, Kinni, and Willow Rivers. 

There were 4 different opportunities to work directly with school age children, two Greenwood Elementary School service/learning days where 60-80 3rd grade students turned out with their teachers and adult chaperones to help burn cut brush from a site on Quarry Rd on the Kinni and, just this spring there was the chance to turn out and assist while 50 some Ellsworth High School FFA students and their instructor helped burn brush and slash from box elders on a stretch of the Trimbelle just downstream of the GasLite Bar.  One of the FFA students was also a boy scout and he requested that I hold another brush burn for his fellow scouts two weeks later where 5 scouts along with 7 family members and 4 Kiap-TU-Wish volunteers conducted another burn on this same stretch of the Trimbelle.  

I held 26 separate brush/tree cutting work days this past calendar year. A lack of snow cover dictated when, where and how we worked. Brush and trees were cut at the Quarry Road. site in the month of October in preparation for the Greenwood event. Following that, we moved our operations upstream on the Kinni and gained access to the north bank through the Patrick Traynor’s property.  With the lack of snow cover in December and January, being able to park in Patrick’s outlot and hike and haul equipment the short distance down to the Kinni made life much easier.  The lack of snow cover also necessitated the need to bring along a pump to each workday in order to extinguish the fires before leaving. After working at the Traynor location, we moved to the opposite bank gaining access through the handicap fishing pier access. 

Further cutting opportunities this past season were at the Red Cabin site on the Kinni, the Trimbelle location downstream of the GasLite and finally on Steeple Drive on the upper Kinni where we got a head start on work which I hope to resume this coming winter. 

I did post looking for volunteers to assist with opening blue bird nest boxes in the fall and closing them up again this spring and always found volunteers willing to assist. There are currently 283 individuals who receive my Mail Chimp postings seeking volunteers. Out of that number, 72 turned out to help with at least 1 workday event. On the other hand, there are individuals who are disappointed on the rare weekend when I don’t provide a work opportunity over the winter months.  Among those volunteering by name and number of work days were :  Jim Tatzel 22, Dave Gregg 20, Tom Anderson 16, Jeff Dahl 14, John Skelton 13, Scott Wagner 11, Steve Cox 10, Matt Janquart 9, Dave Kozlovsky 9, James Patterson 8, Ted Higman 8,
Loren Haas 8, and Chip Robinson 7.  The highest turnout for any one workday was 16 volunteers.  In the pre-Covid years, attendance at workdays was occasionally as high as 30. 

I hope to see an increase in the volunteer turnout in the coming year. The DNR no longer has money or manpower in their budget to conduct maintenance work on the multitude of easements which exist. Without volunteer input, these stretches of water would soon become overgrown and  a lot harder to access.  There are miles of easement which have not seen any attention for years.  I’m 71 now and would like to at least make a dent in that before finally having to put my chainsaws out to pasture. 

Thank you all for all your hard work this past season.


Additional Benefits of a Trout Habitat Project

Additional Benefits of a Trout Habitat Project

By Nate Anderson WDNR

When most people think of a typical trout habitat project, they think about increasing trout numbers and having an easy place to fish. Another goal of a trout habitat project is to reduce streambank erosion. Historically, agricultural soil erosion from fields led to heavy deposition of fine sediment in streambeds. Excessive bank erosion in wooded and heavily pastured areas continues today. Generally, bank erosion rates are excessive when overhanging vegetation dominates the top of the bank, trees fall into the stream annually, or soil slips and slumps are common. Excessive bank erosion (lateral instability or widening) and downcutting are indicators of unstable streams. Excessive sediment deposition in a stream (formation of central bars or a braided stream) is also an indicator of instability.  

Sedimentation of streams results in the loss of deep-water fish habitat and declines in spawning habitat and stream productivity. “Streambank erosion has long been identified as having negative impacts to water quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists excessive sediments as a leading problem in our nation’s rivers and streams. Unnatural quantities of sediment entering streams can degrade aquatic habitat and alter physical and chemical characteristics of the water. Nutrients associated with soil particles enter the stream and become available to aquatic plants and algae, ultimately contributing to eutrophication of local and downstream waters.” (Pierce County Land and Water Management Plan. August 2021). 

Erosion of streambanks is a naturally occurring process for many waterways, but impacts from humans such as removal of vegetation, foot/vehicle traffic, and channel modifications can exacerbate erosion. Conservation practices such as stream bank restoration, rotational grazing, fencing and buffer strips can be taken to reduce active bank erosion and reduce the impact of fine sediment to streams.

In a recent meeting with Pierce County Land and Water, KiapTUwish and WDNR, Rod Webb shared a formula to calculate how much soil loss is happening each year on local sites.

Eroding Bank Length X Eroding Bank Height X Lateral Recession Rate (FT/YR) X Soil Weight(lbs./ft3)/2000 = Estimated Soil Loss Per Year

Let’s use the latest project on the Trimbelle River-Thom easement using the formula. We did 4,000 feet of integrated bank treatment and the average height of the banks were 7 feet. Lateral Recession Rate for this section of stream is in the severe category with a .4 value due to banks that are bare with rills and contain severe vegetative overhang. Many exposed tree roots and some fallen trees and slumps or slips are present as well. The channel cross section becomes U-shaped as opposed to V-shape. Soil Weight has a 95 value with the Silty Clay Loam texture.

4,000 ft X 7 ft X .4 ft/yr X 95 lbs/ft3 / 2000 = 532 tons per year or 24 quad axle dump trucks of soil are lost each year from streambank erosion within the project site alone!!!

Phosphorus is also reduced by .2 pounds per ton of sediment. With this completed project, we are reducing phosphorus by 106 pounds per year just from within the project area.

Once a project is completed, soil erosion is very limited if not eliminated. Rock protects the bank, the grass covering the rock prevents any future erosion and by sloping the banks to a more gradual slope, lessens the pressure on the banks while allowing the stream to reach its floodplain more easily.

“WDNR records show that Pierce County trout streams have improved substantially during the past 40 years due in part to projects like the Thom easement project and the improved farming practices taking place. In 1980, Pierce County had 17 trout streams for a total of 97 miles. By 2002, there were 47 trout streams for a total of 159 miles and Class I trout streams increased from 11 miles to 47.7 miles and Class II streams increased from 55 miles to 108 miles. The most recent information from Wisconsin DNR, shows 109 miles of Class I trout streams and 95 miles of Class II trout streams in the area.” (Pierce County Land and Water Management Plan. August 2021).

The two photos shown below are the same outside streambank, before the project started and a few months after the project was completed. It not only has habitat for trout and easier to fish, but it’s not allowing any fine sediment to reach the stream, now, and into the future.

Restoring Cady Creek’s Brook Trout Population

Restoring Cady Creek’s Brook Trout Population by Managing the Eau Galle River Watershed – PART 2

Kasey Yallaly

Back in 2020, I wrote an article about our brook trout restoration efforts in Cady Creek. If you dig this article up from the archives, you will see that we have come a long way since 2018. To refresh everyone’s memories-the brook trout population in Cady Creek was in extreme decline following the invasion of brown trout in 2006. Brown trout densities continued to increase to the point that they surpassed brook trout densities up until our removal efforts began in 2018. We have documented the exclusion of brook trout by brown trout in several other streams, to the point where brook trout are almost completely gone. In order to prevent this from occurring in Cady Creek, we began with removing brown trout from Cady in 2018 and have continued every fall since then.

I have good news to share if you are a brook trout fan- we have documented a strong positive response of brook trout to our brown trout removal efforts. Brook trout densities and natural reproduction continue to increase. Brown trout have continued to decline, and we removed the fewest brown trout to date in 2023. Brown trout densities have dropped from a high in 2021 of 1,891/mile to 439/mile in 2023 (see graph).

Catch rates of brook and brown trout in Cady Creek at the Station 2 trend site.

Each fall, we use electrofishing gear to remove brown trout in about 4.5 miles of Cady Creek. This year, we removed a total of 1,582 brown trout with 66% of those fish being young-of-year brown trout or trout that hatched this past spring. From this data, we know that adult brown trout from the Eau Galle River are utilizing Cady Creek as a spawning and nursery stream. Unfortunately, there is no barrier that prevents brown trout from moving into Cady Creek in the fall to spawn and it would be impossible to create a permanent barrier because of the relatively low gradient of lower Cady Creek, meaning that a barrier would cause water to back up for a long length of stream which would severely degrade habitat and water quality. Therefore, to create a temporary barrier, we were able to acquire part of a weir from another fisheries team in Peshtigo, that will help us create a temporary barrier.

Weir installed in lower Cady Creek in 2022

This type of weir is designed to allow water to pass through while directing trout that are moving upstream into a trap. Any fish caught in the trap can then be moved upstream or downstream or removed. We placed the weir in lower Cady in early fall of 2022. No fish were trapped but the weir did act as a barrier to upstream passage. Leaf debris was an issue, which meant that the weir needed to be cleaned twice a day.

In order to narrow down an appropriate timeframe to operate the weir, we needed to know more about seasonal trout movement. Therefore, we teamed up with Matt Mitro’s (DNR Research Scientist) research crew to devise a trout movement project. Matt is also interested in brook and brown trout passage through beaver dams and with several new beaver dams popping up on Cady Creek, a project fell into place that could help to answer both of our questions. We installed 2 PIT tag arrays in Cady Creek upstream and downstream of a beaver dam. PIT tag arrays are basically a series of wires that are installed within the stream that will detect fish that are tagged with PIT tags. These are passive arrays, meaning that no active tracking of fish is needed. Each time a fish that is tagged passes through the array, the array detects that specific tag number and records that information along with the date and time that the fish passed by. We PIT tagged a total of 862 brown and brook trout within the Eau Galle and Cady Creek to track seasonal movements of fish and gain additional data on growth rates. PIT tags are the same thing that dogs and cats are “microchipped” with, and each animal’s tag is a unique number.

The data collected from this project will help inform us as to when the weir should be installed within Cady Creek to prevent brown trout moving upstream into Cady from the Eau Galle River to spawn. This will reduce the amount of effort needed to remove brown trout each year and will reduce the number of brown trout removed overall. Brown trout removals will also continue each fall. Trout fishing regulations were also recently changed and a new regulation for Cady and Pine Creeks will go into effect on fishing opener of 2024. The new regulation is a daily bag limit of 5 fish with no length limit for brown trout and all brook trout shall be immediately released. Anglers are highly encouraged to harvest brown trout in these streams! PIT tags were inserted into the body cavities of the trout, so no need to worry about crunching into a PIT tag when you eat a filet!

Maintenance Committee Meetings

Maintenance Committee Meeting with WDNR 11/27/23

Kasey Yallaly, Nate Anderson, Tom Schnadt, Randy Arnold, Missie Hanson, Scott Wagner

The committee reports that the four-year Maintenance Plan on prior habitat projects are mostly up-to-date with the following exceptions:

  1. A small section on lower Pine Creek has box elders that need to be brushed and cut.
  2. The Red Cabin site needs about a day of buckthorn removal and spraying.
  3. A Pine Creek fishing path is being mowed each year, but really needs to be burned to knock the Reed Canary grass back.
  4. The South Fork of Kinni fishing path was receiving some care from Pheasants Forever Organization, but they have discontinued maintaining the path. Reed Canary grass and willows continue to be a big problem on this site.
  5. The Potton easement on Kinnickinnic and Parker Creek needs brushing.
  6. The Pearson easement on Parker Creek needs brushing.
  7. Gutting easement on Trimbelle will need mowing or brushing if the current new owner doesn’t get livestock to graze it. The new owner might not have a clear understanding of how the DNR easement on his land works. Kasey Yallaly (WDNR) will try to clarify easement rules with the new landowner (Harris).

Summary of other actions

The Prairie Enthusiasts Organization will be contacted to determine if they have any interest in burning projects on Pine Creek and South Fork of Kinni.

Mowing in 2023 was done by Extreme Excavating and they did a great job. The cost of the mowing was $16,800 and it was paid for by a combination of Trout Stamp and Parks Maintenance dollars, and a Gift Fund, which Kiap-TU-Wish has contributed to.

Sites mowed this year were: Cady Creek, Pine Creek and Trimbelle Hwy W walking paths, Gilbert-Throud’s easement, Gilbert Triangle, Trimbelle-Holst, and Kinni-Red Cabin sites.

 Habitat Projects completed in 2023 were:

  1. Trimbelle-Thom easement: 3,500 feet, 30 boulder clusters, 2 ERO’s, 2 islands, 4 spawning riffles, 28 root wads and 3 rock V-weirs.
  2. Parker Creek: started a major project that will be completed in 2024. Everything is prepped and ready for rock hauling this winter. So far, 1,720 feet, 2 spawning riffles, 22 root wads, 4 boulder clusters, 1 rock V-weirs, 2 islands and 1 current deflector have been installed.

Habitat Projects scheduled for 2024 are:

  1. Parker Creek: remaining 3,500 feet of project west of Pleasant Ave bridge.
  2. Plum Creek-Martin easement: 3,600 feet on both banks, upstream from Von Holtum easement.
  3. Kinni-Moody easement: 2,700 feet on one bank.

 ERO Structures on South Fork of Kinni:

  1. Loren Haas submitted a report that additional ERO structures are needed to continue flushing sand that has been clogging the South Fork of Kinni. There isn’t any cost-effective way to prevent the sand from entering the South Fork that comes from two large degraded ravines on the SE side of the South Fork headwaters. Loren is proposing 18 additional ERO Structures. Nate Anderson (WDNR) has reviewed Loren’s report and has walked the South Fork project site with Loren. Cost for rock would be approximately $15,000. The Kiap-TU-Wish board will be asked to consider using funds dedicated to the project to purchase rock this winter, so that project can move forward in late 2024 or early 2025.

Kasey Yallay and Nate Anderson noted that the State of Wisconsin is instituting 7% across the board budget cuts and that the DNR’s budget is going to get hit hard. This will make funding difficult for new habitat projects and maintaining existing habitat projects for the next couple of years. The State Council of TU will be contacted to make sure Trout Stamp funds will be used appropriately.

Maintenance Committee Meeting with Pierce County Soil Conservation 12/07/23

Rod Webb, Rhetta Isakson (both from Pierce County), Kasey Yallaly, Nate Anderson, Randy Arnold, Missie Hanson, Tom Schnadt, Scott Wagner

Rod mentioned what a great job Jeff Jackson, DNR CAFO representative for the area, has been doing educating farmers about what they can do to improve their water quality and in gaining their cooperation in implementing additional conservation practices to their operations. Tom suggested inviting Jeff Jackson to speak about his work with farmers at an upcoming Kiap-Tu-Wish meeting.  Missie Hansen will bring this suggestion to the board. Note: Jeff Jackson has been a frequent volunteer with Kiap-TU-Wish volunteer workdays and Rush River clean up days.

Rod and Rhetta went over WAV data sampling of phosphate levels from many different locations in Pierce County. WAV workers and volunteers are also collecting temperature data on the streams they are monitoring. Rod is very interested in the data that Kiap-TU-Wish volunteers under Kent Johnson’s direction have been collecting over the years. Tom Schnadt asked if this data had been moved to a public server, yet, and if so, if Kiap-TU-Wish partners had been notified of its location. Tom asked that this be given a high priority if it hasn’t happened yet. This will bring this to the attention of the Kiap-TU-Wish Board and Communications Committee.

Rod went over a number of erosion mitigation projects that his office worked on during 2023. Besides projects that his office continues to work on in the uplands above the South Fork of the Kinni, Rod mentioned that there isn’t funding for the huge projects that would be needed to trap sand below the two eroded ravines on SE side of South Fork headwaters.

Rod also talked about 4 counties (St. Croix, Pierce, Dunn and one other county) getting together to apply for federal dollars to fund some large streambank stabilization projects administered through the NRCS in the future.

Tom suggested bringing the St. Croix County Soil and Water Conservation office into this meeting and collaborator discussion group. Scott will contact Tim Schreiber from St. Croix County to invite him into this discussion group.

Auction Items Needed

Calling all Kiap-TU-Wish Members!  We need Silent Auction items for our chapter’s Annual Online Fundraiser, which will be ending February 18th.  This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and raises over half of the funds needed for our chapter’s Trout-in-the-Classroom, Stream Monitoring and Habitat Restoration Projects.

*** No Books or Bulky Items. Please!  ***  (they are hard to ship)

Ideas of items that are easier to ship would be:

  • Tickets to Sporting or Cultural Events (Yes, some trout fishers are interested in cultural events.)
  • Vacation Stays
  • Gift Cards (Think of the possibilities!)
  • Smaller items, like jewelry, craft items, maps to secret fishing spots …
  • Lightly used fly rods, reels and other fishing gear.
  • Guided trips and experiences (Fishing, Hunting, Mushrooming or other Foraging) …
  • Dinner parties, Panfishing on a Pontoon for a family, Sunset boat rides for a couple, Be creative …
  • Fly casting lessons, Drawing lessons, Painting lessons …
  • Or any other kind of lesson or experience that you think other members would enjoy.

For experiences, stays, or lessons, contact Greg Olson (driftless23@gmail.com or 612-300-8970).

***  Drop off donated Silent Auction items at Mend Provisions Fly Shop, Lund’s Fly Shop, or at a chapter meeting preferably by January, 2024!  If dropping off at Mend or Lund’s, please include a name and contact info – we want to thank you!***

Call or email Greg with any questions.

Thanks so much!!!!!

ERO Report 2023

An assessment of Elevated Riparian Optimization (ERO) structures on the South Fork of the Kinni, Hay Creek, and Cady Creek,  5-years post installation 

By Loren Haas

Hungry water is copious amounts of water not heavily laden with silt which provides extra energy and carrying capacity for sand and silt. Typically occurring in the spring, frozen soil helps minimize runoff erosion. Heavy snow accumulation and a late thaw made for one of the best spring scouring events in recent years. 

Flooding on the South Fork of the Kinni this spring has flushed out the sand below each of the EROs. Last year’s partial deposition is gone and the deep holes are looking much deeper and longer than ever. All of the EROs except one produced fish. One ERO that has a flat rock wedged in between the anchor rocks provides narrowing high velocity and redirected water and has accidentally produced my favorite spot on the creek to catch fish. 

Additionally, 3 more lunker structures have been partially exposed for the first time in many years. One is below an ERO, the others are upstream of the other 9 EROs. I expect this condition to be temporary as summer rains bring more sediment from upstream and rebury them. We will see. Pocket water sixteen inches deep or more has reappeared upstream of the EROs. It is still impossible to cast due to all the willows, but If you were to drop a fly into the pockets there are fish holding in the deeper areas.

There are large sections of prairie that are apparently free of any willows! Some areas contain willows on one side of the creek while the other sections are totally infested with willows. Unfortunately, the areas closest to the creek still have a major willow problem. 

Hay creek has 4 of the 5 Eros still producing deep enough water to hold trout. Only the #1 structure closest to the bridge is deep enough to hold nice sized fish. Two of the previous deep corners that held fish have filled in with sand and are devoid of fish. Pocket water does exist between the EROs but it lacks adequate depth or cover and seems to lack fish. Perhaps additional efforts such as adding a rocky substrate and additional structures could lead to more bank stabilization and subsequent undercuts that may attract trout. 

Cady creek, what a gem. While some areas still remain dominated by sand, many areas have flushed clean and provide pocket water up to 45 inches deep. From the snowmobile bridge upstream, the #1 ERO is still plagued by rock washed into the downstream side of the ERO. It won’t provide deep water until the rock is removed. We did remove the rock upstream last fall which allowed scouring to occur and the ERO went from 85% full to 50% full under normal water levels. With that said, there is deep water and trout in the bend due to natural snags and rock causing the water to rise over and cut deep water below the snags. The #2 ERO provided stable 4 feet deep water 55 feet downstream. That number has increased by 5 to 10 feet, but this might be temporary. The #3 ERO deep hole is HUGE! Over my waders and maybe over my head with an additional 10 feet of length of 3-foot-deep water added. In a previous report I stated, this is the strongest and best ERO ever built, but wow I was shocked. Too many spooked trout to count. 

I visited Halverson horse ranch to check on the scouring. It’s amazing and far better than after it was just finished. Enough said.

From my perspective the ERO’s constructed over the last 5 years have done a good job of creating deep runs.  These deep runs provide habitat and cover for mature fish and are an important component of a healthy fishery.

ERO Structures Number and Location:

Hay Creek, 5

Plum Creek, 2, uninspected this year

South Fork Kinni, 9  

Cady Creek, 3

Trimbelle Halverson easement, 2, uninspected this year

Trimbelle Thom easement, 1 or maybe 2, uninspected this year

Gilbert Creek in Dunn County, 10 or more and still being built

Loren Notes that the construction of ERO structures by the Wisconsin DNR is a “very good sign of things to come.”

Loren Haas 

May 8, 2023