Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Improve the quality of fishing, you improve a lot of things

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:19 PM

E-mail article | Print version

When you improve the quality of fishing, you improve a lot of things, Joe Lepley says.

Lepley, president of the Win-Cres Chapter of Trout Unlimited, has seen that firsthand in his work with the nonprofit, 501c3 organization.

Trout Unlimited works with a variety of people throughout southeastern Minnesota "to conserve, protect and restore the (area's) coldwater fisheries and watersheds, which support them."

They've partnered with high school students to pick up trash in Garvin Brook and pull the invasive garlic mustard. They're working with a Winona State University professor and his students to do a survey that will lead to a habitat plan. They are bringing money from the Legacy amendment to the region through grants from the Lessard-Sams Council and they often work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Their work has been recognized by the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District, which named the group their 2012 Outstanding Conservationist.

"…The Win-Cres Chapter of Trout Unlimited has been instrumental to improving the stream habitat of Big Trout Creek, Pine Creek, Rush Creek, Garvin Brook and Trout Run Creeks," the SWCD wrote in a press release.

Win-Cres TU member Mark Reisetter said they were honored and humbled to receive the award.

"Some of the recent recipients are doing outstanding things on their land … we're honored to join the previous recipients," he said.

Indeed, working with landowners is one of Trout Unlimited's efforts.

Jeff Hastings, is a project manager for Trout Unlimited. As a paid staff person for Trout Unlimited, his job is to coordinate projects in the entire driftless area. He often works with private landowners in places where there is public access to a creek or stream.

Many times, a project is done to improve the condition of the stream. Trees may be removed, fencing installed or seed planted. Landowners may change their grazing pattern to allow the grass to grow taller and remove the cattle more quickly to avoid overgrazing.

Preserving cold water fisheries is about so much more than what happens in the stream, Lepley said. It's about what happens around the stream.

The trout stream is only as good as the watershed is, Hastings said.

Win-Cres, which has about 70 members, shows leadership in protecting watersheds in a variety of ways.

They do educational things for the general public, they're on top of environmental concerns for the county, they do a lot with college and high school students to get them involved.

"They're good members to have in your community," Hastings said. "They're doers."

That's why the Winona SWCD selected them as their honoree this year. In their nomination, Win-Cres is noted for its habitat improvements, cleanup coordination and education.

"They use their work as a chance to showcase the importance of education in the life of a stream through events such as the Veterans Family Picnic and Fly-fishing Extravaganza, high school cleanup days along the stream, kids fishing events at the Whitewater State Park and invasive removal days," the nomination reads.

"It's a good endorsement of all the years that we've been working on helping the DNR restore streams and sorta expand our knowledge of what works and what doesn't and how best to continue to improve the quality of fishing," Lepley said.