MADISON - With the air getting cooler and the leaves revealing their brilliant colors, Wisconsin's waters are preparing for their own show - the trout and salmon spawning runs.
"October is a great time for fishing and for 'fish watching' in the rivers as jumping salmon put on quite a show," says Matt Coffaro, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist. "In the Milwaukee area, the Chinook are already starting to stage around the harbors and river mouths in anticipation of their spawning runs which should peak in early October."
Throughout Wisconsin, there's fish watching to be had as trout and salmon begin their yearly ritual of returning to spawn in the fall.
Some of the best viewing is at the DNR's three egg collection facilities where visitors a chance to see some big "king" (chinook) and coho salmon, and egg taking up-close.
Every year, for example, as many as 6,000 chinook and 2,000 coho pass through the weir (dam) at the Root River Steelhead facility in Racine.
"From now until early November, we'll have the weir fired up. It's a show watching fish swim up the ladder and into the facility," says John Komassa, facility supervisor. "You also can see DNR crews weighing, measuring and spawning the fish."
Fish watching at the C.D "Buzz" Besadny Fish Facility in Kewaunee will kick into high gear the last week of September and continue through the entire month of October, unless rains trigger earlier runs, according to Mike Baumgartner, the facility's supervisor.
"People can get eye to eye with chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead and brown trout through our viewing window as the fish navigate through a bypass channel and up the fish ladder," says Baumgartner. "They can also watch staff processing fish here on select days during the run."
In addition, Besadny will be hosting its seventh annual open house on Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Educational tours, fly tying and casting demos, fish printing, horse and wagon rides, good food, and the salmon spawning show that DNR staff puts on makes for a fun-filled fall day.
In Sturgeon Bay, the Strawberry Creek Spawning Facility will also offer up the chance to view chinook within the next few weeks. The fish are staging in the channel and spawning is expected to begin the first week of October. Call ahead for specific days and times.
Though not as well known, Lake Superior can put on a small-scale show of its own.
"We have a much larger run of coho in our tributaries than Chinook," says Mike Seider, Bayfield fisheries biologist, "In late September and October, Big Rock near Washburn is a really neat spot to watch coho running up from the rapids."
More information on the fish spawning facilities, including locations and contact numbers, is available on the DNR Web site. Call ahead for current fish-watching conditions.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mike Baumgartner, Besadny Facility (920) 388-1025; Scott Hansen, Strawberry Creek Facility (920) 746-2864; John Komassa, Root River Facility (262) 594-6218; Mike Seider, Lake Superior (715) 779-4035; Matt Coffaro, Milwaukee 414-263-8614