Urban Fly Fishing
“But you’re such a city boy!” -- The common response when I disclose my standard weekly fishing schedule.
“I’m that, too”- my canned response.
In the Summer of 2010 I was a barista at the Colectivo (formerly Alterra) Lakefront café. If you’ve only been to one Colectivo, this is THE one. If you’ve been, then you would also know what busy Summer days can be like at the Lakefront. Even the slightest break in the clouds would send droves of Milwaukeeans down Lafayette Hill looking to quench that SporTea hankering, take down a Mocha Shake, or catch some rays while binging that Potato Bacon Burrito.
Every day started with a familiar quietness: the sun rising over McKinley Marina, dew covering the yellow, orange, and green patio furniture, the residue of nightly revellers: empty cups and bottles, cigarette butts, forgotten clothing. We grasped at peaceful moments in those years. Within a few hours we would be hip-to-hip, covered in mayonnaise in the sandwich board, strayed with steamed skim milk, shouting, hoarse-voiced over the other 85 people on the floor of the cafe. For the next fourteen hours, we were consumed by pure hysteria.
Some of us learned to love the everyday frenzy; it became a necessary madness some of us needed in our lives.
That same summer I stumbled upon Lakeshore State Park -- the perfect little getaway from the city. While still surrounded by the grandeur of the Hoan Bridge and the Milwaukee skyline, it offered something that was once familiar, but was now buried in the past by cheap beer, fixed gear bikes, and all the distractions of most Milwaukeean 20-somethings: Fishing.
Soon I was biking to work with my rod and reel strapped to my back and a styrofoam bowl of nightcrawlers in the bottom of my backpack. I’d punch out at the Lakefront, grab a 6-pack of High Life, and head to Lakeshore State Park. With a staff of mostly born and bred Wisconsinites, it’s no wonder I found a few partners to pick up their gear from their parents garages and join me.
We all found a balance to our hectic and somewhat nomadic lives out there on that island. We were catching Perch, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and palm-sized bluegills- all in the same evening. More days than not, passersby would stop to ask “You gonna eat that?”
I’m coming up on my 10th anniversary at Colectivo. It’s possible, like the majority of my coworkers over the years, that without Lakeshore State Park I may not have made it this far. I found a place that lead me back to a pastime that allowed me to leave my stresses on the mainland and practice peace of mind.
To me, fishing is no longer a past-time. It’s just as much about looking forward- to future generations of Milwaukeeans enjoying our resources to their fullest extent. We get used to driving over the North Avenue dam, driving over the Hoan Bridge, or cruising down Lincoln Memorial Drive- and we often forget we surrounded by one of the world’s greatest resource.“The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction.”- Theodore Roosevelt
Did you know the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has an Urban and Community Fishing Program?
Aside from the Lake Michigan shoreline and the banks of the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic River opportunities, the DNR stocks rainbow trout in many local urban ponds. These ponds are open to fishing year-round, there are no length limits, and there is a special season for youth 15 and younger and certain disabled anglers.Want to fish, but don’t have the gear? You’re in luck!
Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center and Koscuiszko Community Center both offer loaner rods and reels.Have a kayak, canoe, or pair of waders?
The Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers have dozens of miles of accessible water for targeting Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Walleye.Milwaukee River…Salmon?
Yes. That’s right. Lake Michigan is home to numerous anadromous fish that move into our rivers to spawn. Chinook and Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout (also referred to as Steelhead) between 20-30 inches are common during late Fall and Early Spring runs.Looking for more information on local regulations? Check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource’s Guide to Hook and Line Fishing Regulations and be sure to check out the latest DNR Wisconsin Fishing Report.