The following is a direct copy from our friend and FRV member Todd Berg’s Facebook post yesterday following up on a fishing related adventure/mystery. Enjoy!
Ok. Caveat here, i do not do “brief” very often as anyone who knows me will attest. A story worth recounting can take some time, so this tale is a bit lengthy. (Thus the reason- “among others” lol- that i do not Tweet….) Very fast response by the great folks at the DNR to the mystery splake tag from my earlier post today. As requested, I took the tag to the Woodruff hatchery this morning. Their staff were friendly, accommodating and genuinely interested. (And what an awesome old- world site they have. Hatchery has been in place since 1901. It just screams of history) When I explained why i was there and pulled out the tag from a little pouch, they all said “that’s a transponder!!” in unison. I immediately thought Veronica Berg was in Dutch with the law…I gave her up in a heartbeat… I told them she had 2700 dollars I wanted back too… most of it in singles…j/k. They peppered me with questions and somebody hurried off to get a tag reader. They assured me that while it wasn’t a current PIT tag- it’s still readable with their equipment. See photo below of the transponder versus the PIT tag. One of the staff said this had to be implanted in an adult fish- no way that a fingerling could support a tag that large biologically. They all knew some things about trout programs and tagging practice and this perplexed each of them. A scan 3 times of the transponder produced an accurate number and they recorded it for me and asked that I please let them know what ultimately transpired. I thanked them and assured them I would do that. I called the Bayfield station and reported what I knew and recited the tracking number. They assured me they’d follow it and let me know. An hour ago- we got our answer. The liaison said “it’s a little complicated- and the story goes back to the 1890’s”. (Seriously!). Originally, there were 2 trout species native to northern Wisconsin. They were the lake trout and the brook trout. Brookies were so prevalent that you could go in nearly any tributary around the turn of the 20th century and catch em by the basket full… and people did just that. Simultaneously, logging capabilities and timber requirements in the markets hit full steam and the landscape across the northern great lakes started changing, making streams less habitable to the brook trout. In response, the brookies started migrating… further and further downstream… until they hit the shores of Gitchee and were forced into the big lake. There, they found a veritable bonanza…A smorgasbord so big it put Golden Corral to shame. Food on top of food. They lived… thrived… and grew big (20 pounds). The evolution brought them a new name too. “Coasters” was what they were named. Fishermen tangled with the big aggressive fish regularly. However… there were storm clouds over Superior. Eventually, those Coasters had to return to the same streams they’d been forced out of to spawn. There, they found trouble… even more anglers waiting to pick them off and further denuded streambeds on which to spawn. Eventually after many cycles, the Coasters disappeared for all intent and purpose. Relegated to the memories of the past. In the 1960’s, fisheries biologists, working in concert with state and federal governments and conservation minded anglers, introduced the Splake. A cross between a male brook trout and a female lake trout. Fast growing, hearty, adaptable to Gitchee’s deep cold water and wonderful table fare. The region saw large numbers of splake added to the fishery. Anglers, fish biologists and state agencies all happy. End of story right? Not so much. (Remember- this is a story about two humps from Minocqua who went to catch dinner and ended up here). The biologist called me this afternoon to fill me in on this tale in colorful detail…I loved every minute and hung on every word he uttered. The story is this.. the U.S. FISH and wildlife service (USFWS) maintains a facility at Whittlesy Creek near Ashland Wisconsin. There, they oversee an effort (ongoing and currently at nearly $20,000,000) to “re-introduce the Coaster”. It’s been a years- long attempt, with stream restoration, dam removal, habitat construction and all the public comment, meetings, consensus trappings and effort that go with such a plan. (Remember, there’s a tag/ transponder story in here somewhere! Read on my friends). Seems there’s an element of the effort that views the Splake with disdain. “Competitors!” they cry. “Interlopers”! “Hang em high!” and all that falderall. Some feel that the reintroduction of the Coasters is being hurt by an already established population of the hapless Splake. So…. what we find out, is that indeed, the Wisconsin DNR does not, as previously published, tag the Splake they are stocking. However…. in a scene reminiscent of The Tale of The Pink Panther (what a great movie), the Feds… are in fact capturing some incidental Splake in the streams, and tagging them for reasons they do not divulge….lol. Such was the case with the Splake unlucky enough to hit a golden shiner suspended 30 feet below the ice on a tranquil January 9th on Chequamegon bay in the late morning hours. The transponder revealed (ya thought I’d never get here or you’d have expired by now right?!… go ahead, unfriend me, I get it completely) that the fish was captured in a stream net during its spawning run on October 20th, 2016. It was tagged 11 miles from where V set the fatal hook. (See attached screen shot). At time of netting in 2016 it was 17.1″ long and weighed just over 2 pounds. On its demise on January 9th 2018 it was 20″ long and just shy of 3.5 pounds. The Wisconsin DNR has no information on how many of its/ our Splake are being tagged by the G- men or the nefarious (my word not theirs!) intent behind this back door tagging fiasco! Now you know… The rest of the story! Once again- “We love fishing”. Cool shit eh?! Lolol.