PRAIRIE DU SAC — There are spurts of great fishing during the humid, hot days of summer, but much of trout, walleye and panfishing is an excuse to relax on a lake, river or stream shore in a lawn chair.
“For me, it’s a way to relax, cast out a line with worms, lay back and wait for fish to bite, maybe even catch a few,” said Ryan Sanchez, a manufacturing engineer from Madison. “Of course catching fish helps make it a great day and it’s nice to catch a big one; that will really make the day. But mostly it’s about relaxing.”
Relaxing doesn’t mean tromping through shoulder-high vegetation in search of trout, or trailering a boat and waiting at a dock for the next available opportunity to get on the water.
Alaskiss Sanchez, 19-year-old son of Ryan, came along too, and for him the trip from Madison to the Prairie du Sac dam was about getting outdoors. It can be a diversion from playing golf or pickup basketball, and maybe mentally working lyrics for this hoping-to-be-a-rapper musician.
Alaskiss is the reason his father had a stringer tied to a shore structure. Bluegills, perch and a few bass swam in the Wisconsin River while threaded on the confinement.
Why here? Why not one of the many Madison lakes or nearby streams, rivers or ponds?
“I usually fish up north,” Ryan Sanchez said. Up north to him is someplace on the Wisconsin River.
“I’m usually up here fishing and this time I was searching on Google Earth and it looked like this part of the river was a bit different than down by the bridge and other places where I usually fish,” he said. “ We haven’t been up by the dam in a long time, so I thought we’d try this for a change.”
A change in scenery in which to relax was the simple plan.
Most of the time Sanchez doesn’t take any fish home, but this time he planned to.
“My son said it was about time I bring some fish home instead of just talking about the fish I caught,” he said. “He said it was time to prove I really catch fish and not just bring fish stories home.”
It was clear heading home with a stringer of fish was not an everyday occurrence. When asked about a tradition or method of preparation, he stumbled a bit and then grabbed onto the idea of a bluegill in a pan; they are panfish, right?
“Maybe fillets, breaded, fried in butter sounds OK,” he said.
All that seemed to fit the plan of relaxing by doing something outdoors. No special bait or lure. Oh, the huge tackle box had hundreds from which to choose, but a glob of earthworms seemed to squelch the seriousness of what fishing can be for many or for someone who takes a tally or fishes with a certain species intent.
“Whatever the river provides is the fish we’ll catch today,” Sanchez said of his relaxing plan. “That’s what I’m fishing for today.”
The Wisconsin River is entirely within Wisconsin, flowing 430 miles south from the main source near the Upper Michigan-Wisconsin border. Near Portage, the river bends west and eventually heads toward Prairie du Chien, where it empties into the Mississippi River, a few miles south of the city.
Most of Sanchez’s fishing is on the lower Wisconsin River, where fish as large as paddlefish and lake sturgeon reside. His fishing is considerably below that of a 170-pound sturgeon or even a 60-pound paddlefish.
There is a limited sturgeon hook and line season on the Wisconsin River, but paddlefish are a threatened species and illegal to take or possess.
At least for this day, Ryan and Alaskiss Sanchez are content to fish with worms a few feet off shore, or from a lawn chair, with a Y-shaped willow stick rod holder.
Jerry Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.