Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Manly Men and Fertile Women

A signpost on the road to Mason City Iowa.  I'm guessing when young people from these two communities go out on dates there's a bit of fun to be had.

And when you get there, could you resist posing with the sign?  I could not.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Strange Fish Challenge - Retrospective

The world of fisherfolk generally is an insular place.  People in it are solitary or intent on fishing in little family groups.  Within this world individuals looking to catch multiple species, or focusing on Weird Bottom Feeders are a tiny and bizarre sub-cult.  So I have few illusions that a "how to guide" on this will be of much interest.  Of course the same could be said of some of my other obsessions.  But for what it's worth, here you go.

1. Timing is (almost) everything.  Fish generally are more active in the Spring than other times of year.  They also have varying appetites based on weather, and in the case of river fishing water levels are very important.  You won't keep bait in place during floods.

2. As the old song says "Many Fish Bites if ya Got Good Bait"*.  Nightcrawlers are the universal bait.  Big ol' crawlers on the bottom for big ol' fish.  Teeny bits for teeny fish.  I did catch a few game fish with lures early on.

3. Multiply your odds.  In Wisconsin it is legal to fish three lines at once.  Using slightly different rigs and in different depths/current flows is useful.

4. Location, location, location...  No matter how good you are at fishing your "home lake" the number of species in it will be finite.  Some lakes have a near infinite number of tiny bluegill.  You will wear out your arm catching and releasing them and never catch anything else.  Another lake a few miles away will have the same scenario but with Green Sunfish.  Mix it up a bit and enjoy the diversity.  In general the further south you go the more types of fish you'll encounter.  Rivers have more diversity than lakes.  Bodies of water that connect to major waterways, especially big rivers, have more theoretical species.  

5. For river fishing, pack lots of tackle.  Especially when fishing a new site you don't know where all the snags and logs are.  You find out quickly.  I tend to use this type of sinker for bottom fishing. 

Hook one end to 20 pound test line and the other to either a hook/leader or if you want to keep the bait off the bottom a few inches a Lindy Rig.  

6. Microfishing is disappointing.  There are so many little minnows out there.  They are all hard to catch.  The tackle involved is small and hard to rig up.  The critters involved are smarter than prestige species such as trout.  To really make an effort on these would require a lot of wading up and down ins steams, ditches and swamps.  That's a level up, or perhaps down, on the Insanity Scale. 

7. Five of my seven days were entirely bank fishing.  I think a person could hit multi species more efficiently by putting a boat onto some bodies of water.  On the other hand the ability to switch spots easily is nice.  And given the places you end up fishing you'd likely ding the motor prop pretty often.

8. Bottom fishing is an art.  My trout fishing pals are a bit snobbish with regards to the artful presentation of just the right fly to just the right place.  But factoring in all the variables of three lines at once, and keeping an eye on them for subtle bites, it is quite engaging.  But I will admit that there is a downside.  The main targets of bottom fishing are pretty tolerant of being hooked.  Bullheads, Redhorse, etc come up with the hook stuck on their tough mouths.  When you are surprised by a gamefish that takes a bottom hook they usually are hooked pretty deep and this is not  good for the fish.  So I think bottom fishing should be limited to certain settings.  It can actually be a bit too efficient.


The line is from a song called Fishin' Blues that dates back to 1911.  It's been recorded many times since.  Being in theory about catching Catfish is should be a sort of Bottom Fisherman's National Anthem.  But much of the wording seems freighted with double entendre.  It sure talks a lot about fishing poles.  Here's the best known version courtesy of Taj Mahal.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Minor League Baseball 2021 - Cedar Rapids brings the A Game

After our visit to the Twins Triple A club in St. Paul it was time for a drive down to Cedar Rapids Iowa to take in a game at the lower "A" level of ball.  This has become our favorite destination on these road trips.  

On the drive down the car thermometer hit 101 degrees.  Frivolous side trips should have been curtailed but were not, so we arrived parched and a bit loopy.  A thunderstorm brushed the edge of town cooling things off a bit and giving the sky a nice color as the sun finally stopped blasting UV for the day.

They must be used to this sort of thing.  Here's something I'd not seen before...a jumbo sunscreen dispenser!

We had not been to a ballgame in several years.  Heck, as the pandemic wanes I can look back and say I have not been anywhere really for 16 months.  So perhaps I was tuned in a bit more to how different it is being out in the world.  More things struck me as unusual.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels play at Veteran's Memorial Stadium.  It is a nice, well kept up stadium.  Parking is free.  And the lot is under the watchful security of a couple of decommissioned tanks.

The National Anthem was played by a high school brass ensemble called Heavy Metal Tubas.  It was appropriate.  Somber, majestic, respectful.  My only minor quibble is that I prefer to sing along and this was a rendition that made you stand a little straighter, think of traditions and just listen.

At the higher level AAA club the fans were into party mode.  That's fine, it has been a long lockdown and minor league ball had just gone from 40% capacity to full.  At Cedar Rapids people were also having a good time but these are serious fans.  When the umpire called a Kernels player out on a dubious 3rd strike there were howls of indignation and boos.  This for the first batter of the first inning!  

Having driven through triple digit heat we arrived plenty thirsty.  This is not what you want as your first view of the concessions....

A number of the food and drink outlets were not open for our Thursday night game.  Regards the latter they seem to have significant extra capacity.  I assume this is because every Friday night game is two for one beer night.  Plenty of options were available at the stands that were open.  I got a large, sprawling barbeque sandwich from a vendor with a pig tattooed on his arm.  And a beer from a wild looking character whose name tag simply had BEER GUY scribbled on in black Sharpie.

It was a good game.  The home team faltered early, steadied themselves and then rallied for 9 unanswered runs late.  

I would not be doing my job as a roving observer of the American scene if I did not check in on an old friend....Mr. Shucks.  Since we first met 8 years ago I assume that the person in the suit has changed.  But were they up to the high standards of Shucks?  Did they fill those gigantic red shoes well?

Yes.  Yes indeed.  The current Shucks was a worthy successor.  He or she was stuck inside a suit with minimal visibility and which must be a portable kiln even on temperate days.  But as ever, Shucks worked the crowd, hugged small children (or kept a distance from the frightened ones), participated with enthusiasm in various small between innings antics, stood atop the dugout to cheer on a Kernels rally....and so forth.

And even posed for fan pics with slightly deranged elderly patrons.

Cedar Rapids was a fun stop.  I suggest you take in a Kernels game if you find yourself within reasonable proximity.  The team is OK,  currently about .500.  But the food and drink are excellent.  And Mr. Shucks remains - unchallenged as I see it - the Best Mascot in Baseball.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Sizzle and Silly at Triple A ball.

My brother and I from time to time take a summer road trip visiting minor league ball parks.  Obviously the pandemic made that impossible last year.  And even in the rapidly improving conditions of 2021 there are challenges.  One of our favorite stops, Clinton Iowa, got booted from the system as the Lords of Baseball decided to reduce the number of lower level ball teams.  This makes no sense whatsoever.

But at least one stop is easier.  The Saint Paul Saints, formerly a scrappy Indie team, are now the official Triple A club of the Minnesota Twins.  Just across the river from the big club and one step away for the players.  Of course steps can be either forward or backward, and in a year when injuries and incompetence have plagued the Twins there is a regular shuttle going back and forth.

Some pictures and thoughts from a perfect Wednesday evening.

The Saints have a new ballpark on the edge of down town.  I got there early to have a look around.

I always plan on dinner at the ball park.  Consulting the older stadium staff I got a recommendation for a stand called Von Hanson's.  Interestingly they don't take cash, just plastic.  But behold, a Superior brat smothered with fried onions and peppers.

The Saints used to be an independent team and always aimed for a bit of fun.  So there are lots of odd things to see.  Here the grounds crew is dragging the infield.  In pink dresses, so literally in drag...

And a couple of innings Halloween dragon costumes.

Of course I had to have a picture taken with the mascot.  The Saints have a pig mascot.  There is an actual pig named Muddonna.  And also a human mascot.

A fun evening.  The Saints had just gone from 40% capacity games on up to full capacity.  That plus the weather had everyone in a good mood.  I did pay attention to the game.  After all, this is one step away from the Majors, and with the Twins having a horrendous season it would be reasonable to expect some of these players to get a promotion soon.  Pitching in particular has been a problem this season.  I was chatting with one of the ushers asking if any Saints pitchers would might be helping the Big Club soon.   Shaking his head he looked across the aisle at a fellow usher who had his arm in a sling.  "That guy would be an upgrade".


Monday, June 21, 2021

Baseball Fan Post 001

It has been a full generation since I sat down to watch a T-ball game.  If you are not familiar with this entre into the world of baseball it involves 5 year olds with jerseys that hang down to their knees and with the sponsors emblazoned across the shoulders extending down towards the elbows.  The kids hit off a T.  Then they run, or maybe they don't, while the fielders try to figure out what to do with a ball somewhere in their general vicinity.

It's fun, and even after a half century of baseball fandom I still get to see things I've never seen before.  One kid lunged after the ball.  He grabbed it then ran back to where his hat had fallen off, put it back on and then launched a throw somewhere towards first base!

A few pictures taken in early morning sunshine at the dawn of a new era.

Coaches getting their teams warmed up and generally paying attention.  That by the way is the T.  It took quite a pounding by players who swung with more enthusiasm than direction.

Some are watching the action intently.  Others are watching butterflies.

I'm now taking my photos from this side of the chain link fence.  I certainly spent enough time a generation ago on the other side.  Here an enthusiastic coach has his players running the bases after the game and getting high fives at home plate.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Father's Day 2021

When I was in Med School I recall a lecturer discussing genetics.  He mentioned in passing that.."It is a wise man who knows his father."  This was in the context of a discussion on actual versus presumed paternity, and in retrospect was a rather callous thing to say.

But it has a deeper truth to it.  When do we become wise enough to really know our fathers?  Or our children?

Here's my dad and I a couple of years before he passed.  His dementia was getting on a bit but it was not the pure evil that you'd think.  Things that had been eating at him for years were no longer concerns to him.  He thought a lot about his own childhood on the farm and that made him happy.  He got to spend time with his grandchildren and that made him happy as well.

My brother is a rather easy going fellow.  Oddly, when he interacted with our father the discussions were serious ones.  I'm frankly way more intense.  And dad and I had marvelous times in those later years just goofing around.  Here I've got my laptop and am showing him the latest grand kid pix.  Or maybe silly videos.  I imagine my visits made his day.  And maybe my dad also felt better after unburdening himself in discussions with my brother.  I'm sure there is significance in the fact that we both felt more natural interacting with him in the manner least like our own selves.  Each in our own way we got to know him better.  I doubt my dad remembered any of it the next day.

But he's gone now and anyway this is about Father's Day 2021.  

It's becoming an outmoded holiday in some respects.  Outmoded in that having a father around is becoming less common.  The last stats I've seen have about 23% of children living in mom only households.  In some subsections of our population it is much higher.  67% of black children are born into single parent families.  That is a statistic, not a judgement.  But its implications for the Black community and the nation as a whole are profound.  We should not shy away from pondering its causes and effects.

Father's Day is also a silly holiday from the perspective of many dads.  Being Dad is a job where you just do what you have to do and don't make a fuss over it.  

I think an understanding of who your dad is comes slowly.  Or tragically for some who have an absent father, never at all.  You need to live a certain number of years, see a certain amount of the good things in the world and of the bad to put things into perspective.  I think this is why when we become grandfathers we are almost all easy going.  That B on the report card, those muddy footprints on the kitchen floor, and all the other small to medium aggravations of day to day are seen in a different context.  They don't matter much.  "Hey, let's raid the fridge for snacks!"

I imagine my sons will check in today as is their custom.  The one in the process of moving cross country on a crazy implausible life adventure gets a pass this year.  They are doing well, all of them.  They are quite capable of speaking for themselves so I shan't speak for them.  But I hope they begin to understand.  

Dads are not perfect.  Never have been, never will be.  We do what we have to do.  Sometimes it is a thankless job but in its better moments it is simply a job where the thanks are long delayed.  I expect they are all bright enough to not be misled by the illusion of permanence. I'm getting older as they will themselves in their own turn.  I won't be around forever, that's not how things are nor how they should be.  It's been great raising them, even the difficult moments.  I hope we have no unresolved issues, if there are any I think we have time to set things right just as I did with my own dad.  

Perhaps it is actually the wise man who knows his children.  I claim no great wisdom but I can say that the small to medium aggravations of raising them no longer matter at all. 

"Hey, lets raid the fridge for beers!"

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Strange Fish Challenge - Final Day

After the great success of Day Six of the Strange Fishing Challenge it was time to regroup.  I'd caught 10 different species (albeit some repeats from early days) in my slightly altered Stop Watch day.  As that put me at 19 I could actually just include the sturgeon I'd caught a couple of weeks ago and call it good.  But that would lack a certain...panache.  I want to go out on an over the top note.  Or at least have fun catching that last species.  Several scenarios were under consideration to get me to the magic number.  And if this sounds like a political hack counting Electoral Votes, well the comparison is not unfounded.  You need a couple more EV's to win the Presidency it does not matter if they come from North Dakota or California.  You need one more species to make 20 and a 50 pound sturgeon and a half ounce minnow are both winners.  So...

1. The Sturgeon Scenario.  I could go back to the dam at Menomonie and fish until I get one.  That would be fun, but sturgeon are sneaks and teases.  You see them jumping all over the place but to get one to bite is another matter.  And as spring warms up the water quality of that river drops fast.  So maybe, but only if I go there soon.

2. Yellow River top to bottom.   I've been meaning to get up to a place called Miller Dam near Gilman Wisconsin.  It sounds as if crappies - a common species I need - are often caught there.  I could then fish the Yellow River back home and replace one of my geocaches along the way.  

3. Down to the Mississippi.  With the theory that anything connecting to the Mississippi might have all sorts of weird fish in it, there is some appeal to driving over to Mondovi and fishing the Buffalo River all the way down.  Google Earth shows at least a dozen spots where it or its feeding creeks could be fished.  As with any new territory there would be more tackle lost and it would be another day long expedition.  I can find almost nothing online about fishing this river.  I consider that a plus.

4. Keep it Simple.  If I just catch a minnow off my dock I'm "done and dusted" as my UK friends would say.  Minnows have proven themselves wily and worthy opponents, but I'd have patience and pilsner on my side.

So....which will it be.....?

I couldn't stop wondering what was in the Buffalo River, so off I went.   But first I stopped in Mondovi Wisconsin, where a small creek that feeds into the river had been dammed up to make Mirror Lake.  I'd read that the lake had been drained, dredged and stocked in the past year or so and that raised some interesting possibilities.

In the spillway below the dam I got this guy right away.  It's a sizable Black Bullhead, and is also Species #20. 

  Then I moved up to the fishing pier on the lake.  And check this out:

It's a Rainbow Trout!  It is obviously a stocked fish and I'm not sure how well they'll do long term in this spot long term but this guy was hungry on a Monday Morning.  Number 21.  And for good measure the same site yielded this:

A very pretty Green Sunfish.  Number 22.

And the Buffalo River proper?  Fished a half dozen spots with nary a nibble.  

And that's a wrap.  As it turns out it is possible to catch 20+ species of fish in seven days of effort.  It helps a lot to do your fishing in the spring, and to add a road trip or two.   

I probably caught a few more than 22.  Some of the small minnow like critters are very hard to sort out.  And of course if you unfairly add the ones that I got within inches of the shore I'd guess I was close to 25.  But no picture means no ID and no count.

I might venture out a few more times in the week ahead.  I have some night crawlers left after all...

Perhaps a retrospective of the Seven Day Strange Fish Challenge will be forthcoming.  I certainly learned a lot in the process.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Vindolanda - Things I missed digging up.

I was supposed to be excavating at Vindolanda last month.  Here's some of the things that saw the light of day in my absence.  Not news of course to my archaeology pals.

Tiles and bricks with animal footprints are always fun.  These were made on site and if you close your eyes and use your  imagination a bit you can still hear the sound of the wandering mutt getting yelled at for strolling across the drying area.

Some things were not made on site but were modified there.  A nice pottery shard from Gaul...with scratched on graffitti.  "Nobilis" wanted to make sure nobody else used his pot for, er, whatever this was actually used for.

Some technologies don't change much.  Pretty beads have been in use for longer than history has been recorded.  And are the same today.

Another design that really can't be improved upon.  A 3rd century AD pickaxe.  They really should have posed a modern one next to it.

Here's the little metal bit that is at the bottom of a sword scabbard.  The leather of course is long gone.

Two views of a metal artifact found last week.  Before and after preliminary cleaning.

Because of course the awesome power of Imperial Rome brings to mind a decorative brooch shaped like a chicken.  (Note that metal objects shown have first been revealed by the Vindolanda Trust....I follow the rules even from afar).

All manner of ancient things turn up on site.  With of course, variable levels of preservation.  A photo taken after preliminary cleaning would be a bit more appealing.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Over the Top in Eagle Wisconsin

A charming side benefit to road trips for other purposes - strange fishing, brewery caves, etc - is that you can take a route, planned or unplanned, through various small communities on the off chance that their cemeteries will have interesting Tree Shaped Tombstones.  In the tiny hamlet of Eagle Wisconsin I found an odd pairing.

It's pretty common to have two cemeteries across the road from each other.  One is generally Catholic the other either Protestant or non denominational.  When these were laid out in the mid 19th century the whole business with Luther and the Reformation was centuries in the past but there was enough residual animus that nobody wanted to take the chance of ending up in the wrong place.  And as a result, The Wrong Place.

In Eagle the Oak Ridge cemetery had a single Tree, but what an ornate one!

Really just an astonishing degree of intricate carving.  Impressive but a bit fussy for my tastes.

I figured this was a one off, something custom ordered for somebody who really liked busy floral designs.  But across the road staring down this upstart burial place the Catholic cemetery had its own similar example.  Alas, the lighting was not quite as good.

Not as many flowers this time but all manner of gnarled, twisted, storm broken branches.  And oak leaves and acorns.

So why did the families Voght and Marcely decide to each get such elaborate tombstones, facing each other across Highway 67 and the Catholic-Protestant divide?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tree Shaped Tombstones - How'd I Miss That?

On a recent road trip I found myself in Lowell Wisconsin. Of course I swung through the little cemetery.  Some of the monuments looked familiar, and when I checked it turns out I'd posted a few Tree Shaped Tombstones from this location years ago.  I have no recollection of why I was there previously.  But as it happens I missed one.  Here's a fine example of the "Log Cabin" style.

Hopefully that cracked foundation does not bode ill for its continued survival.  This style of "Tree-related" tombstone is far from common.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Covid -19 Falls Down

Sometimes I encounter things on my morning walk that seem significant.  June 2nd, 2021.  A neglected, mud spattered sign seemingly abandoned on the boulevard.  

Demand for Covid vaccination in Wisconsin is dropping precipitously, and some large scale administration sites have closed for lack of customers.  This is often spun as evidence of the ongoing foolishness of our citizenry, but frankly infection rates are also dropping quickly and death rates even more so.  With several days recently with only 2 or 3 deaths it is reasonable to assume in the near future we will hit zero death days.  What with reporting being spotty on weekends we may well have attained this already.

Of course a big part of this dynamic is that the people who wanted the vaccine have mostly gotten it by now.  And those who have not gotten it will need convincing.  I saw this in action a week earlier.  The local Free Clinic is only a few blocks from the photo above - which btw is the County Courthouse.  The nice folks from the Free Clinic had set up a table outside on a sunny afternoon.  There were signs saying "Free Covid Vaccine.  Walk up".  As I recall there were balloons too.  As I strolled by an elderly woman who looked local to the neighborhood stopped to chat.  She asked if they had the Johnson and Johnson version.  Told no, she said thanks anyway and walked on.


Friday, June 4, 2021

Strange Fish Challenge Day Six - Stop Watch Rules (Part 3/3)

After leaving Mukwonago I meandered generally north and west.  This part of Wisconsin is tougher to fish.  The rivers are slow and muddy, the country is farmland so there can be water quality issues due to runoff of fertilizer and manure.  Still I almost made the magic Number 20 at an impromptu stop on the Crawfish River.  I had a Flathead Catfish that kicked off just before I could get a net on him.  And some small odd fish that would not take quite enough of my light tackle line to get one fully hooked.  Oh, and something huge that took the same light tackle, tossed his head once and broke it.  Skunked.

But I left as I had one more spot to visit as the day was getting late.

I had run across it by accident on a previous trip through the area a month before.  Just a tiny stream leading to a weedy pond which in turn connected to Beaver Dam Lake near the city of the same name.  

When I was there in April I noticed that the creek was packed with hundreds of small fish.  They were swirling around, jumping up in the air etc.  I could see at least two different types, one of which might be a Mad Tom.  These are weird little bull head like critters and I'd like to catch one.  The other looked vaguely like a sunfish but was pale in color.  I figured they were in some kind of mating frenzy.  I dragged a micro hook past them and there was no interest.  Apologizing for disturbing their revels I bid them to carry on and promised I'd be back when they were less distracted.

On my return a month later it was clear that something was very wrong.  There were still some little fish swimming about listlessly but they were blotchy and sick looking.  And there were numerous dead ones floating, both the small panfish like critters and some enormous, stinky dead carp.  The stream and pond were weed choked, stagnant water.  When even carp can't get enough oxygen things are dire.

There was no point in fishing there but I followed the stream to Beaver Dam Lake.  There I found another similar stream with exactly the scenario I'd seen in April.  Hundreds of small fish all trying to swim away from the lake and up into a pipe.  They were jumping all over the place.  Some landed on the ground and stayed there.  Well at this point I had to know.  With some difficulty I finally hooked one of these little guys.

This one puzzled me, but my fish guy says this is a very small Common Carp.  Their mouths are not the same as in the adult version.  Obviously he's in tough shape.  He and his countless siblings were not mating but were all trying desperately to escape from the Apocalypse that is Beaver Dam Lake, a troubled body of water that has had considerable difficulty with low oxygen fish kills.  As I said, when even carp can't survive things are dire.

Well, it's still Number only one fish to go for my seven day, 20 species Challenge.

Beaver Dam Lake has certainly given me a keen appreciation for the much nicer waters we have in the northern half of the state.

Addendum:  You'd think the Common Carp would be an easy catch.  Wrongly would you so think.  Felt to be among the smartest of fresh water fish it is said that any individual carp who bites a hook will never take another one.  But these poor guys never had a chance.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Strange Fish Challenge Day Six - Stopwatch Rules (Part 2/3)

The second pilgrimage stop on the Strange Fish road trip was the Mukwonago River.  Oddly this body of water has more fish species than anything like it in the state.  At least 53.  It is also a nice place to fish, the water quality is good despite the high population density in the Milwaukee exurbs.  I started out in a park on the edge of Mukwonago and tossing a nightcrawler into the turbulence below a small dam I quickly had species 16, the Golden Redhorse.

I unprofitably used a bit of time peering into a retaining pond that was connected to the river.  I could see "things" swirling around in the cruddy looking water.  Large, evil things.  But it was fenced off and the No Trespassing signs appeared sincere.  Alas.  Moving back upstream a bit I tossed a bottom line into a sluggish area and when I reeled it in was surprised to find Number 17, which I believe is a Brown Bullhead.  Bullheads have nasty spines so I gingerly dehooked this guy without removing him from the net.  Don't worry about the blood, bull heads are tough.  This guy swam off unperturbed.

I fished a couple of other places, mostly deep spots down stream of bridges.  Surprisingly I caught a large number of these guys, Rock Bass (18).  

One of the spots I fished was enormous fun, it was hard to keep fish off the lines (you can fish three at a time in Wisconsin but I could only manage one at this place).  Rock Bass, Shiners, Chubs, a Brown Trout, Bluegill, just a little of everything.  It is quite possible that some of the Shiners were new species - some were pretty weird looking - but my photos were not detailed enough to persuade my fish consultant on this point.  I hated to leave the Mukwonago River, it is a lot of fun.  But I had another place to get to, a place with a less happy story.....

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Strange Fish Challenge Day Six - Stopwatch Rules (Part I of 3)

For most of my Strange Fish Challenge I have used a sunup to sunup 24 hour rule to define a day.  I decided to make an exception for Day Six.  I had business in Milwaukee and wanted to fish my way back.  But given the need for me to actually be helpful packing boxes and such,  and the significant drive time from Milwaukee back to Home Base, I decided I'd allow a few hours of fishing in Milwaukee Harbor one day, then a reasonable amount of hours the next day in various sites heading back west.  Hey, I'm a fisherman, stories and contests can have details that vary.  Buckle up, the Strange Fish Roadtrip is about to begin....

I based my route on three Strange Fish Pilgrimage sites.  Two well known, one my own private destination.  First up Milwaukee Harbor.

This is a nice place to fish.  Lake Michigan has a rather Seven Seas feel to it after messing around with little creeks.  There is a long breakwater that goes out and affords many places to fish.  You run into interesting people and all of the idle hours fishermen are happy to talk.  The Dean of this fraternity (well, there was one bored looking wife too) was an old man from Austria.  He had two lines out.  His method of detecting a bite was to have the loose line draped around the neck of a beer bottle.  Fish bites, beer tips.  Both bottles were open and half consumed.  This was 9:30 am.  This was Milwaukee.

The objective here is invasives.  In particular there are Strange Fish that start out in Europe and hitch a ride in the ballast of ships.  Like human immigrants traveling down in steerage only the hardy thrive.  I was hoping for the notorious Tube Nosed Goby, and for a moment I thought I had one.  But this critter, and I caught plenty of them, is a Round Goby.  Also invasive, it comes from the Black and Caspian Seas.  Pesky little guys, they outcompete the complacent native fish and eat their eggs.  The are fun to catch, and decidedly Strange.

I could see other fish gliding around out there but it took me a while to persuade one to bite.  And up comes this pretty little thing...

This is a tiny little Brown Trout.  Actually also an invasive they were imported from Europe in the 19th century and have done very well in the US.  Especially in the Great Lakes where they are thriving and grow to great size.  New state records are set regularly.  Perhaps I'm just trying to assuage a bit of guilt here.  I do try to take good care of the fish I catch and not let photo ops go on too long.  But it was a hot sunny day and the little trout buddy seemed a bit sluggish when I got him back into the lake.  A sea gull noticed this and dove down like a Stuka.  Well, circle of life, gulls gotta eat too.  It is part of why I not only buy a fishing license but always get an additional Trout Stamp even though I never fish specifically for them.

Part way through Day Six:  Running tally species count:  15.  On to the Mukwonago River, home to more fish species than any other body of water in the state!*


*Well, perhaps excepting the Mississippi.  Anything can swim up that.  There have been half way plausible reports of Bull Sharks making it up this far!