A carp catching endeavor on the elusive estuary

GREEN LAKER reporter Ariana Hones didn’t do much to help the carp problem on her estuary adventure, but enjoyed being in the elements with her little brother. Inset, the sole common carp swims lonely in the live well. Marcel Hones photos

by Ariana Hones

My brother Marcel practically dragged me out of bed.

It was 7:30 a.m and time to go to the estuary.

Throughout my past six weeks in Wisconsin, people constantly have dropped the word “estuary” like I should be familiar with it.

“What is an estuary?” I would silently ask myself.

Embarrassed that somehow in the four years I had been away at college that I missed out on some clearly important local slang.

So I set out to uncover the local significance of this mysterious term.

My investigative tactics quickly led me to my younger brother Marcel Hones. He is working for the Green Lake Association this summer.

Luckily for the sake of my search, I realized that he goes out on the elusive “estuary” almost daily. For what?

All summer long Marcel has been coming home with stories on the pounds and pounds of carp he has netted, so I wanted to see the carp-catching show for myself.

We arrived at the Highway K Estuary and met up with Green Lake Sanitary District Plant Operator Dallas Lewallen, who would be taking us out to check the nets for carp and other critters.

Although the day was rather dreary with clouded skies threatening rain, the water felt tepid and welcoming as our boat skimmed its surface.

At our first net stop, Marcel unloaded crappies, bluegill and a catfish.

I watched with uneasy eyes as I silently encouraged the fish to not flop towards me.

What can I say? Four years in St. Paul, Minn., made me more of a city slicker.

After mending a few holes in the net, we were off to the next stop.

Unfortunately for us, but lucky for the fish, a muskrat had chewed a hole into the net, so we went away empty handed.

We were about 30 minutes into our exploration, it definitely was going to rain soon and we were still carp-less.

“I thought carp were suppose to be an invasive species,” I muttered to myself. “Where are they?”

And just as that question entered into my mind, I saw them.

Dallas had guided the boat over to the carp gate, which remains constantly locked to contain the carp already in the estuary and prevent new ones from entering.

They were everywhere.

Jumping, flopping, gasping for freedom.

A carp party on the gates of Green Lake.

Marcel grabbed his net and hurdled it into the water hoping to nab some of these foes.

But they are tricky fish. Good at evading the estuary restoration authorities.

We left the gate, again empty handed.

When we ended our escapade after an hour on the water, we had a lone common carp in the holding tank as our day’s spoils.

He was going to meet his fate in “the pit of death” as Marcel so lovely called it, but is in fact a sanitary district pit for disposal of Green Lake carp.

I said my goodbye to the carp as he was touted away and then quickly ducked inside my car.

The rain had finally come and it was not letting up.

Although I had entered into this early morning expecting to personally net hundreds of carp and declare myself Carp Queen of Green Lake, I left the estuary not with a royal title, but something still to be proud of.

I left drenched in rain, but also with the realization that this is a community that cares about its water quality and where multiple organizations from non-profit and public sectors can become unlikely partners in collaborative restoration efforts.

The cattails in the estuary are increasingly receding and native flora and fauna are not thriving due to invasive species such as carp.

Truth be told, the carp party was an incredible sight.

People should travel to the estuary and the gate and see it for themselves.

This gate and the gangs of carp around it speak to an important step that the community has taken to protecting a beloved lake.

It also speaks to the beloved people, both those that are working daily on the water and in town to care for Green Lake as well as those that live in the community who will continue to benefit from this act of service.

Estuaries are zones of transition.

Water on the move.

A morning with Marcel and Dallas, some bluegill and a lone carp showed me Green Lake will move forward as long as we keep giving it care.