Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
The alarm clock (yes it was still an actual clock back then!) started blaring at 4 AM signaling the day of fishing was about to begin. The truck temperature showed 17 degrees but it felt colder than that while my dad and I waited an eternity for the truck heaters to thaw the windshield. Two hours and a gas station stop later we were at the stream in the pre dawn light rigging rods inside the truck, savoring the last ounce of warmth. There were already two cars parked near us so we quickly tied on our double egg pattern rigs and started off downstream to the pool we knew held fish all winter. It didn't take long before my strike indicator bobbed ever so slightly and after a sharp hook set the fight was on! A few minutes later we both sat there admiring a 32 inch colored-up male steelhead in the net. Nearby was a fellow fisherman who said since I was a kid that was probably a "citation" fish and I could get a certificate from the state if I pursued it. That was the furthest thing from my mind though, as we snapped a few pictures and got back to casting, somehow forgetting how cold it was.
Behind the scenes of memories like that are a devoted group of individuals working for the Great Lake Coalition to ensure the protection and preservation of the waterways in the Rust Belt. From fighting in Washington D.C. to standing knee deep in muck, these guys and gals are repairing decades of damage and improving the ecosystem for anglers across the region!
A recent work of theirs that hits close to home was completed a few years ago in Erie, Pennsylvania. Some backstory on things to make their efforts a little more clear: Steelhead are basically a rainbow trout on steroids and in our case they live in Lake Erie for 2-4 years before entering the rivers and streams that dump into the lake. Since they are a migratory fish (not unlike salmon) they have an instinctual desire to "run" upstream as far as they can. One stream in PA, Fourmile Creek, was experiencing problems because of a waterfall that was created thanks to excessive water runoff.
Pretty as this little waterfall is, it was stopping the migration of steelhead a quarter mile from the lake. Steelhead will travel dozens of miles up streams (hundreds, even, on the West coast!) to spawn so this was a significant barrier that was seriously hindering the fish. The PA Fish and Boat Commission, thanks in part to the Great Lakes Coalition, was able to gain necessary funding to create fish ladders on either side of the waterfall that would allow the fish to continue their upstream migration!
The work of this organization has led to stream bank stabilization in Minnesota, the removal of dams in Ohio, and the building of fish ladders on streams in Pennsylvania. Millions of dollars have been raised for programs across the Great Lakes over the last decade. Their efforts haven't been focused on just angling opportunities, however. Thanks to the Great Lakes Coalition, pollution in and around these once industrial powerhouse cities is now dropping significantly. With a recently approved budget of $300 million, it'll be exciting to see what projects this group works on next!
Check them out here!