Where shall we go this summer?
Been awhile since a fish boil in Door County. Love to return to the Smoky Mountains down south. That week in Bisbee AZ was great! Sleeper train car to Washington D.C. is the way to go. Hungry for good eating in New Orleans but we hear the weather is iffy. Mackinaw Island? The Apostles? While we debate, we’ve been touring a most lovely part of the world: southern Wisconsin in our own back yard.
Sunday 08-29-21 the Lovely Lisa and her irascible spouse went for sweet corn to the Stoneman farm on Syene Road in the rural, southern half of the city of Fitchburg. Atop a hill at the end of a lovely lane past oak tree studded pasture, Mrs. Stoneman told me her family dates back one hundred years on this farm. But wouldn’t tell me the delicious variety of corn they grow. Trade secret. They pick it young, the way corn on the cob should be. We’ve taken to steaming it with husks on, like they do at the Sun Prairie sweet corn festival, just past.
Don’t miss eastern Dane County
From there we drove County Hwy B east through the environmentally conscious Town of Dunn past many lovely horse farms. Crossed U.S. Hwy 51 into County Hwy AB which skirts the west shore of Lake Kegonsa, the southernmost of the four lakes connected by the Yahara River. The homes on the lake hug a steep slope down from the road; many are mini-mansions built in recent years, cheek by jowl but cozy.
On the north end of the lake we turned right (that’s east) to discover Fish Camp county park. What a treasure! And we had it to ourselves! (No camping.) Its 16 acres scribe the east shores of the Yahara River (as it comes downstream from Mud and Waubesa Lakes) and Lake Kegonsa.
Commercial carp fishing
Aside from the picnic tables, separate canoe and boat launches, Fish Camp offers natural beauty and some curious history. In the 1880s, Wisconsin stocked Dane County’s chain of lakes with carp imported from Germany. (Smoked carp IS good eating.) By the turn of the last century it became obvious that the bottom-feeders were ruining the lakes for the native trout, walleye, and other desirable fish. In 1934, the state began seining the river and lake with large nets to capture the carp. The catch was sold live or canned for a variety of uses, including gefilte fish, pet food, and fertilizer. Some of the carp was actually fattened up with field corn before being sold.
Two buildings built for the enterprise by the Works Progress Administration in 1937 still stand. The eight to ten fishermen employed were “a gnarly” bunch, a sign panel informs visitors. “Hands weathered and calloused, with less than a full deck.” Carp seining continued until 1969.
A brochure available at the park says the Friends of Lake Kegonsa Society (FOLKS) pay a bonus to commercial fishermen to remove carp even to this day. Did not know commercial fishing continues! In 2019, they took 162,135 pounds of carp, thereby diverting 3,000 pounds of polluting phosphorous. FOLKS is also planting native plants along the shoreline, which is said to reduce storm runoff.
Blaska’s Bottom-feeding Line: In addition to Fish Camp, the two southern-most of Dane County’s chain of lakes support Lake Farm, Goodland, Babcock and La Follette county parks and Lake Kegonsa state park.