I remember like it was yesterday.
Two of my grandchildren, Alice and Emma, ages 10 and 7, were visiting us from Georgia and we decided to take them fishing at Hartman Creek State Park. I gathered up the poles and put on some 6-pound test line and No. 10 Aberdeen hooks.
The girls were excited about trying their luck, but I was also aware of some sibling rivalry between them, not noticed in the past. We checked in at the park office and pulled in at Allen Lake, where there is a roomy fishing pier jutting out into the water. The girls ran to the pier and waited for me to bring the poles. I got the nightcrawlers on the hooks and put on the bobbers.
Emma threw the line in first as Alice got ready and soon, Emma started hooking and landing bluegills. Alice just got her line in as Emma got another bluegill. After Emma got her fourth fish, I could see Alice getting edgy: her little sister was getting all the action.
Emma was excited and every major muscle group was pumping in that little girl. Alice became quiet and her smile faded, but the next bite was hers, the biggest bluegill so far. After that, the contest was on.
After about 40 minutes, Emma caught a very respectable largemouth bass and Alice became quiet again. Then the action was over and it was time to move on. A nice hike, a stop by the swings and a picnic near the water capped off our day, with both girls agreeing they had fun. I knew we were off to a great week with our two southern charmers.
Not a fisherman? Even if you are not a fisherman, your kids or grandkids can enjoy fishing at Hartman Creek State Park’s lakes. The park has over two dozen rods and reels ready for fishing that the office lends out at no cost, along with hooks, sinkers and bobbers. Anyone 16 years or older needs a fishing license. Bait will be for sale at the Adventure Outfitters Outpost store located near the park’s swimming beach.
Within the boundaries of the park are Allen, Hartman and Mid lakes. Manomin, Marl, Knight and Pope lakes border the park. Panfish and largemouth bass are found in all the lakes, while some contain walleye and northern, too.
Beyond the park
The entire Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes is located within a few miles of the park and species anglers can expect to find include trout, largemouth bass, musky, northern pike, walleye and panfish. There are boat ramps on Columbia, Dake, Knight, Manomin, Miner and Taylor lakes. Most of the other lakes on the chain have navigable public access for canoes and kayaks. There are also many other lakes which are not part of the chain in Waupaca, Portage and Waushara counties.
Trout fishing in rivers, creeks
We are blessed with many trout rivers and streams within 30 miles of Hartman Creek State Park.
Every trout stream is listed and mapped in the Guide to Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations and you will need that booklet, as different water bodies have different regulations.
For instance, the Waupaca/Tomorrow River system has a section restricted to one brown trout 18 inches or larger or one rainbow trout. This section allows artificial lures only. Other stretches of the river have no lure restrictions.
All trout streams have size limits based on the particular fish population they host. Most public fishing ground access points have placards with this information, but keep your regulation book handy just in case.
Other trout rivers in the area include the Pine, Willow, Little Wolf and Mecan. Creeks with trout include Emmons, Radley, Flume, Peterson, Chaffee and Walla-Walla. Brook trout can be found in many of the upper reaches of these rivers and streams. A Wisconsin Gazetteer, with maps of backroads all over the state, is handy to find road crossings where you can access these trout streams.
Anyone 16 years or older needs a license to fish and an Inland Water Trout Stamp is required for trout fishing. You can fish for panfish all year.
Wisconsin’s inland fishing season opens Saturday, May 2.
Hartman Creek will have free admission, free fishing and free use of trails Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7.
Any fishing enthusiast – novice or experienced – should find plenty to keep busy all season in and around Hartman Creek State Park. Good luck and great fishing.
George Porto is the secretary of the Friends of Hartman Creek State Park.