Win-Cres Chapter History
The Win-Cres Chapter of Trout Unlimited began its mission to protect and conserve the Southeast Minnesota trout steams in June of 1977. Dedicated trout fishermen from La Cresent and Winona joined together with the goal of preserving our great resource for future generations. Folks like the Mahlke brothers, Otto Haake and Virgil Laak began to meet at Lake Park Lodge in Winona and plan improvement projects for area streams. The chapter targeted Little Pickwick Creek and spent over 13 years making improvements to the small stream. Since that time, the list of stream improvement projects has grown to include nine streams. Rush Creek has received the most amount of Chapter effort after Little Pickwick. The Whitewater Region, Pine Creek, Garvin Brook, Torkelson Creek, Daley Creek and Weisel Creek are just a few places Win-Cres projects can be found. The Win-Cres chapter has worked in conjunction with the MN DNR and other area organizations, including the Hiawatha and Twin Cities chapters of TU, to preserve and protect our regions cold water resources. Thank you to the dedicated stewards of our resource: Tom Church, Chuck Sheperd, Jack Ambuhl, Ken Seebold, Ken Patzner, Mike Jeresek, Stan Spooner, Otto Haake, Virgil Laak, Mark Reisetter, Jim Clark, Rich Enochs, and the Mahlke brothers along with many others for their willingness to help preserve a treasure for the future.
Summer 2022 Chapter Update
There has been a flurry of activity this spring. Highlights include:
A morning with the Goodhue Fishing Club. This vibrant club is composed of over 70 middle and high school students from the Goodhue public schools, nearly half of them female. Win-Cres members taught casting (both spinning and fly), fly tying, and a new topic, reading the water. Our goal was to set the students up for success on our next outing.
A morning of guided fishing in the Rushford area. Despite a rain-shortened outing, 36 students caught 72 trout. A group of girls asked their driver to stop on the way home so they could fish another stream. We are grateful to members of Hiawatha for helping as guides.
A Saturday outing with the Scouts. Although they retain their official name of Boy Scouts of America, the organization has changed with the times. There were many female scouts and adult leaders. Win-Cres was approached about teaching fly fishing to 46 scouts camped out at Forestville State Park, possibly leading to a Fly Fishing Merit Badge for some. We gave an overview of fly fishing and offered casting instruction and fly tying. After lunch, there were two demonstrations of stream fishing and reading the water. We plan to offer a hands-on opportunity to fly fish for sunfish in later May. One of our board members is working toward certification as a counselor for the Fly Fishing Merit Badge. I am grateful to several people from outside the chapter who helped: Vaughn Snook, Lanesboro Fisheries and a certified fly casting instructor, Carl Berberich from Hiawatha who helped with casting, Rev. John Carrier and Pat Fryer from Winona who helped with fly tying.
A public demonstration of habitat work on Garvin Brook, as part of the regional “We Are Water” initiative going on throughout the state. The event included electrofishing of an improved area. I continue to be surprised when 12 trout come out of a bank with sky hooks. Another surprise was the number of sculpins, a marker for high water quality.
Brushing on Cedar Valley Creek. In March a group of 10 cut down shrubs and small trees in the stream corridor immediately above an area planned for HI work, including taking out a number of the invasive black locust trees.
Brushing on Little Pickwick, helping to clean up storm damage in an area that had major removal of trees and shrubs a year ago.
Going forward, there will be plenty of activity this summer. We are removing old tires from some area streams. Dave Schaffer envisions an expanded mowing program this summer, creating access along several miles of stream. There will be lunker structures to build for projects on West Beaver and Winnebago. We expect to participate in Whitewater State Park’s Fly Fishing Retreat for Military Families in September. We will continue our efforts to suppress Japanese knotweed on Garvin.
Working with local scout leaders, I see many areas of common interest with Trout Unlimited. The Scouts are committed to the healthy development of young people. TU shares that interest, but with a special emphasis on building connections with the outdoors and coldwater fisheries. The Fly Fishing Merit Badge is one place where our interests intersect. Anyone considering becoming a counselor should look at the Boy Scouts of America website. The organization is also committed to protecting their young people from predators. Before doing anything else, volunteers must watch a 72 minute program on youth protection. A background check is part of the process, along with stating your qualifications.