The Baldwin DNR area fisheries crew completed a watershed survey of the Plum Creek watershed in 2023. Watershed surveys are basically a comprehensive look at the fishery within the entire watershed and valuable information can be gained from these types of surveys including interactions between the mainstem of Plum Creek and its tributaries, areas of importance for natural reproduction, trout species composition throughout the watershed and size structure and densities of trout and non-game species.

For those that aren’t familiar, Plum Creek is in the northern Driftless Area in southeastern Pierce County. Plum Creek in Pierce County is a Class I stream that transitions to a Class II stream in Pepin County where it enters the Chippewa River. The watershed contains excellent cold-water resources due to high connectivity of spring and groundwater sources. To date, the WDNR has completed 11,500 feet of trout habitat improvement work on Plum Creek in Pierce County. 

During the watershed survey, we found that the fishery upstream of the Nugget Lake impoundment features a cool water to warm water fish community and no trout were detected. However, downstream of Nugget Lake to the Pierce and Pepin County line, trout were detected at all stations. Brown trout were the dominant trout species throughout most of the mainstem of Plum Creek and were found in moderate to high densities. The highest densities of adult brown trout were found in and around the town of Plum City as well as within the 2020 trout habitat improvement project downstream of CTH U. The best fishing for larger brown trout is around the town of Plum City and downstream along CTH U. Many streambank easements that provide angler access are located downstream of town; watch for signs posted at bridge crossings or check out the new version of the TROUT tool on the WDNR’s website to locate these easements. 

Most of the tributaries did not contain any brown trout and these streams were dominated by brook trout. Brook trout were present in all stations on the mainstem of Plum Creek except for 1 station and they were found in low to moderate densities throughout the remainder of stations. The highest densities of adult brook trout were found upstream of Plum City as well as within the small tributaries. Natural reproduction of trout was also documented at all stations surveyed. Brown trout up to 21.5 inches and brook trout up to 12.3 inches were found within Plum Creek. 

Overall, the Plum Creek watershed contains a robust, mixed trout fishery. Much has changed, however, within the watershed in the past several decades. In what once was a brood trout dominated fishery, brown trout have increased in densities and are now the dominant trout species throughout much of the mainstem of Plum Creek. Brook trout densities declined in all stations surveyed when compared to previous surveys in 2013 and 1999. This has become a common theme in trout streams throughout the Driftless Area. On another note, some interesting fish species that were captured during the 2023 watershed survey include burbot (which we do capture every year in Plum Creek within our trend sites), walleye (near Plum City) and yellow perch. We also captured 4 tiger trout throughout the stations. A report is available for this survey in addition to Isabelle Creek and Pine Creek watershed surveys that were also completed in 2023. Contact me for copies of that report. The trout habitat crew will also be completing a trout habitat improvement project this summer which is located upstream of CTH U downstream of Plum City. See you on the stream!

Share This