A LOOK BACK AT FISHING THE RHINELANDER AREA
Rhinelander was first settled by lumbering interests. In 1858 a rough trail was brushed out to allow lumberjacks and equipment to get near the huge stands of white pint trees on the shores of the Wisconsin River. Early history books chronicling the early days of Rhinelander feature names such as Brown, Lynch, Helms, Curran and Shepard.
During the year of 1882 a rough mud and timber dam was constructed on the Wisconsin River just a football field length north of the present dam. This rough dam was constructed to form a holding pond for the lumber being floated down the River. The pond was called Boom Lake. By 1892 there were eight sawmills along the shores of Boom Lake.
The loggers who were working along the shores of Boom Lake talked about the huge fish (muskies) that would swim along the log booms. More than a few of these huge muskies were dispatched with a pike pole.
By the early 1900’s farsighted businessmen could see the end of the logging era was near. In 1903 the decision was made to enter the paper making business. The present dam across the Wisconsin River was built in 1903 for the purpose of generating power for the new paper mill.
Just east of Rhinelander another rough dam was erected on the North Pelican River for logging purposes. This dam formed the five-lake Moens Lake Chain. These early rough dams would be blasted out periodically to permit logs to float downstream and then the dams were rebuilt.
With all the logging camps in the Rhinelander area being vacated in the early 1900’s there were many places for visiting anglers to stay. They arrived by trains, which formerly carried logs, and were taken the logging camps by horse pulled wagons. The fishing for muskies, northerns, bass and walleyes was described as outstanding.
Lakes such as Boom, Thompson, Crescent, the Moens Chain and Ema were recognized as outstanding fishing destinations for those who could secure access. The Hodag Sports Club was formed in the early 1900’s and their goal was to secure access sites to the many area lakes. Early workers for this club were men by the names of Ed Young, Art Barlow, Bob Bastian, Herb Schauder and many others to numerous to mention.
Near the middle of the Century Leo’s Sport Shop, located in downtown Rhinelander, ran a weekly and annual fishing contest. There was an icebox with a glass top on the sidewalk in front of the store, which displayed trophy catches throughout the fishing season. This icebox was a major tourist attraction, which was also regularly visited by most area anglers.
Many of the logging camps near Rhinelander were converted to fishing resorts catering to visiting anglers. To this day several of the long-time resorts in the area are these converted logging camps.
To the present day the Rhinelander area is recognized as a great fishing destination. Fishing for walleyes, muskies, northerns, bass and panfish continues to be excellent. Annually, trophy muskies are caught from the waters of Boom Lake and the Wisconsin River as well as Lake Thompson and the Moens Chain.
Some feel that the Rhinelander area is an excellent, un-pressured fishing destination since many anglers drive past on their way to more publicized areas. It is still possible to escape the heavy fishing pressure on some of the highly publicized lakes and fish the Rhinelander Area lakes at a slower pace.
Oneida County, Wisconsin has in excess of 1100 lakes, second in number only to Vilas County. With over 1100 lakes the major decision to be made when fishing the Rhinelander Area is what lake should we concentrate on today. The lakes vary from numerous crystal clear lakes to those with tea colored water.
The three flowages, The Rainbow Flowage, The Willow Flowage and The Rhinelander Flowage provide many acres of fishing water with the potential of producing both numbers of fish as well as trophies. An angler can spend an entire fishing season fishing the waters in the Rhinelander Area and still have plenty of new water to explore.