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12-28-03 - Paradise Springs looked like a wasteland as I walked up.
Those familiar would know there should be a large fallen tree here in the water...which held many large browns.
Water surface was scummy, covered in Oak Leaves and Pine Needles. Look at the bottom...all leaves, no more vegetation.
Fish cribs are now clearly visible all around the pond...they were always there before, but had a healthy growth of vegetation which concealed them.
All of the brush to the left of the angling platform has been removed...it's now just open grass?!
Things that SHOULD have gotten attention, like the old metal retention walls on the far shore, are still in disrepair.
The spillway is still non-functional; water levels are a couple inches below this vital component of the pond.
Just another shot of the Paradise Spring Creek above County N. There is no way in my mind that any of the pond fish made it THROUGH the dam and into this creek (and survived).

12-28-03 - Paradise Lost

Waters Fished: Paradise Springs
Fish Caught: Closed Season Scouting
Outing Date: 12-28-03
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temp: 40's, sporadic breezes
Water Temp: N/A
Water Level: Low
Water Color: Clear
Fish Species: Brown Trout
Pattern Fished: N/A
Pattern Color: N/A
Fishing Quality: It would have totally SUCKED!

Alright, I'm posting this as a heads up for the group of guys who are planning on heading to Psprings on Jan 1 '04. I was thinking of doing the same thing (great minds...). Anyway, I did some preseason scouting around sunset this Sunday, and then checked in with my buddy up in Mukwanago. Here's the scoop on how quickly a small fishery can get screwed up:

So, I spent probably 45 minutes walking the spring pond and the rest of the creek above N. 3 small browns in the springhouse, 1 (ca. 5") in the creek. I saw ONE "RISE" in the pond although I watched for a long time...that rise might as well have been a pine needle falling into the water. In other words, there are virtually NO FISH in the pond. Those stunning wild Brookies appear to be completely wiped out. It does not appear that a sufficient number of the wild fish remain to repopulate the pond with a viable gene pool.

Now, you may recall earlier posts about how the dam was leaking, and then broke, and so the DNR was going to fix the dam/dyke and restock. So basically sometime after the end of the season they let the pond drain completely for an unspecified amount of time. Who knows where all the wild browns and brookies went, but for some reason I doubt they ended up in the 2 foot X 6 inch creek. I suspect a Heron Feast.

At some point between Sept. and Dec. they "fixed" the dam and the pond started to refill. But apparently sometime last week the dam broke again, and according to my local contact, they can't get the part needed to fix the dam in time for the season opener. So the pond drained again...and they are back in the process of temporary fixes which has brought the water level back up but not to where it needs to be.

All that good vegetation which supported the scuds and madtoms and such is gone, replaced by a carpet of decidous leaves. Furthermore, for reasons unknown to me several shoreline bushes were removed (these provided some good shady structure along the shore which often held fish). Additionally, although artificial fish cribs remain in the otherwise featureless pond, the large fallen tree (again, great structure for the trout) was pulled out?!

As it stands currently the spillway is not functioning so the surface of the pond is basically leaves, pinecones and pine needles. There definitely won't be any restocking anytime soon 'cause they're gonna have to drain the pond AGAIN to fix it whenever they "get the part" (where you get a "part" for a 100 year old dam is beyond me!). My local friend suggested that maybe by March things will be back to normal...maybe.

But "normal" simply means the spillway might be skimming off the surface muck, and there might be "fish" stocked back in the pond. While this may once again be a "trout fishery" it's not going to be the fishery it was for many, many years, if ever. Somehow I don't think they'll be restocking the madtom population, which I'm sure played some role. Don't know if/when the turtles & muskrat will return. Not sure how long it will take for the vegetation to recover. And to top it off some great structure which made angling more challenging is gone...along with all the wild PhD trout including the 30" brown that was seldom (if ever) caught. It will be at least a few years before the chance of catching the odd tiger trout returns (supposedly one had been caught there, and well, it's sure a possibility, but without naturally reproducing browns and brook trout there won't be any chance of tigers).

All in all, a case of Paradise Lost. While I can't place blame on any specific individual or department or organization, and perhaps it's a sign of tight budgets and higher priorities, all the same it seems that something more *could* have been done in a more timely manner. I don't have the entire story, and definitely much of this information is secondhand. So I do encourage the DNR and other management bodies responsible for this resource to respond.

All the same I'm not sure what any of us could have really done to change this...it's not like we're all good at underwater repairs on dams and could have volunteered to fix it. Perhaps the people responsible for the maintenance of the spring pond within the State Forest are looking over the long term, and maybe in 10 or 20 years it will be fully restored, the trout will be renaturalized and reeducated. But the flipside is that Paradise might never have been lost to begin with.

So guys, FWIW, I'll be fishing the Root New Year's Day.

For more discussions & insight, I encourage you to check out the thread I posted at Wisconsin Fly Fishing. I also encourage you to check out all my other, better outtings in 2003 on Paradise Springs...perhaps with public pressure and good management we can have this GEM back in a year or two?

  MP 

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