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Quest to catch 50 different fish species in Wisconsin

11/18/16 @ 5:41 PM
User since 10/25/16

I'm turning 40 tomorrow.  I figure, I'm not going to get better at anything athletically, but I still want to have some goals in life.  I like fishing, but I don't get out there as much as I'd like.  To motivate myself and to keep it interesting, I decided to set a goal of catching 50 different species of fish here in my home state of Wisconsin.  And to add to the difficulty, I have to catch each as I'm filming it.  I'm going to post each video to this thread, and I'm also going to need help as I go.  Any tips on how to catch different species of fish would be greatly appreciated.  Here's the first fish I caught on video, the Bigmouth Buffalo by the Hustisford Dam.

6/4/20 @ 10:49 PM
User since 4/2/02

Thanks  ifish ! 

6/4/20 @ 9:15 PM
MEMBER since 6/15/01

Thanks ifishwi... nice article 

6/4/20 @ 8:10 PM
User since 1/12/05

n.pike, yes you need the subscription to read JS online but I have that and paper copy. I'll bring you the paper copy next trip, maybe next week.

here is copy/paste of article including pics:

edit: Article is by Paul A. Smith

SAUK CITY - The Wisconsin River valley southwest of Sauk City is a place of riches.

Many of them are readily evident, such as the rounded, green bluffs, sandy stretches of shore and bald eagles soaring overhead.

Others are more obscure, concealed in the rolling, dark waters.

It's these less obvious natural gems – and one in particular – that have drawn Dave Tiefenthaler of Hartford to the river on a mid-May day.

"I'm so psyched," said Tiefenthaler, 43. "But I've failed spectacularly at this before. So..."

Tiefenthaler turned his head left and right as he talked, checking the status of fishing rods he had placed in rod holders stuffed in the sandy shore.

Each outfit had a nightcrawler attached to a baited hook at the end of monofilament line, held on the river's bottom by a hefty sinker. 

Moments later one of the graphite poles began throbbing, then formed a permanent arc to the weight of an unseen force.

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Dave Tiefenthaler of Hartford, Wis. prepares to release a shovelnose sturgeon he caught while fishing on the Wisconsin River near Sauk City. The fish represented the 49th Wisconsin fish species he's caught in the last four years; his goal is to catch 50 different species. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)

"I'm on!" Tiefenthaler said as he sprinted to grab the bending rod.

I joined Tiefenthaler for an afternoon of fishing on our state's namesake river. 

It was not just a normal angling outing. It was the latest chapter in Tiefenthaler's quest to catch 50 Wisconsin fish species.

And to add spice to the challenge, he's making a video of each experience and sharing it with his followers – and the world, for that matter – on

The motivations for fishing, and the benefits derived from it, are many and varied.

For Tiefenthaler, the idea to try for 50 species crystallized as he was about to turn 40 years old. 

A talented athlete who ran track and cross country at UW-Oshkosh as he was earning an education degree, by 2016 his body was showing some wear and tear.

"I was training for a half-marathon, and my knees were saying 'this isn't fun anymore,' " said Tiefenthaler, who works as a middle school teacher. 

So he thought about a different and less physically taxing way to channel his energy: fishing.

Tiefenthaler fished as a youth as he grew up in Milwaukee, mostly at park ponds and lagoons, as well as on summer trips to visit relatives in upstate New York.

But he stopped angling during college, and didn't do it very much after marriage to his wife, Lisa, and as they had children (sons Nick and Joey and daughter Lily).

Tiefenthaler said one of the things that triggered his quest was seeing a poster of 183 Wisconsin fish species. The magnificent work features the paintings of scientific illustrator Kandis Elliot; it was produced by the University of Wisconsin. 

A poster of 183 Wisconsin fish species was produced by the University of Wisconsin. It features the art work of scientific illustrator Kandis Elliot. (Photo: University of Wisconsin)

"I was in awe," Tiefenthaler said of the 13-foot-wide color display. "If I could catch a fraction, I thought I'd be thrilled."

So Tiefenthaler, who admits to being "antsy" and not one to sit idle, late in 2016 decided he'd try for 50 species in his home state and make videos of his attempts, successful and not.

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Dave Tiefenthaler of Hartford, Wis. reels in a fish on the Wisconsin River near Sauk City. Tiefenthaler has a goal of catching 50 Wisconsin fish species; he caught his 49th, the shovelnose sturgeon, on this May 17 outing. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)

His experiences have an "everyman's" quality about them.

He didn't have a ton of fishing gear, so he borrowed most of it from his brother. He also has done the vast majority of his fishing from shore. It's simple and largely unaided by electronics.

He shares the how, where and when freely on each video. And he's asked for help along the way.

Tiefenthaler's personality – quirky, fun, unpretentious – makes it easy to root for him.

A May 10 comment on from a contributor named "n.pike" put it this way. "What makes these videos so fun is that (Tiefenthaler) is just a normal guy like most of us. Maybe not an expert at fishing...but smart enough to know what he's doing and humble enough to admit when it's not working or he needs help. Plus, all of us have some sort of exploration hunger in us, and videos like this help us live that out a bit. Plus, love the humor and the descriptions etc..."

Tiefenthaler's first official catch was a bigmouth buffalo on Oct. 23, 2016. Typical to most of his outings, it was caught from shore, on the Rock River in Hustisford.

It was followed a week later by a black bullhead in a neighborhood retention pond in Hartford. 

He caught four more before the year ended, then added 22 in 2017, including many of the state's well-known species such as smallmouth bass (Milwaukee River), yellow perch (Pike Lake in Hartford), bluegill (Bark Lake in Richfield), walleye (Wisconsin River at Wisconsin Dells) and brown trout (Milwaukee harbor of Lake Michigan).

He notched 11 more in 2018, six in 2019 and four so far in 2020.

Tiefenthaler said his three favorites have been lake sturgeon, bowfin (also known as dogfish) and smallmouth bass.

"The sturgeon are so big and powerful," said Tiefenthaler, who caught his fish in the Wisconsin River at Wisconsin Dells. "Bowfin are really cool-looking prehistoric fish. And smallmouth bass smash surface lures in the Milwaukee River. Super fun to fish for."

The most difficult to catch, he said, was the longnose gar. He had to buy a special rope lure with no hooks and then be at the right place at the right time on the Wisconsin River when they were schooling and feeding.

Among the lessons he's learned is the great diversity found in Wisconsin's fish community. And the range of habitats the fish rely on.

"I now know about and have caught species I didn't even know existed a couple years ago," Tiefenthaler said. "It's pretty cool."

When I joined Tiefenthaler on May 17 on the Wisconsin River, he was two shy of his goal. 

He'd caught the 48th, a greater redhorse sucker, May 4 on the Milwaukee River in Grafton. 

His goal this day was shovelnose sturgeon, a species that eluded him seven times previously.

He received a tip that the beach at Bender's Bluffview Canoe Rentals near Ferry Bluff was a good spot to try for shovelnose. He contacted the owners and paid a camping fee to have access to their shore.

We spread out and fished and talked through a warm mid-May afternoon. Turkey vultures circled over the green shoulders of the valley and every so often a large fish breached in the river.

About 2 p.m. I had a tap, tap and set the hook. A freshwater drum, a.k.a. sheepshead, came to shore and was unhooked. 

Then at 2:20 as Tiefenthaler was interviewing me for his video, one of his rods had a hit. He dropped everything and, as described earlier, ran to grab the pole.

After a couple minutes of to-and-fro, a long, sleek form came into view.

"Are you kidding me?" Tiefenthaler said. "Look at that! Paul, we did it!" 

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A shovelnose sturgeon comes ashore during a fishing outing on the Wisconsin River near Sauk City. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)

Tiefenthaler carefully beached the 28-inch-long fish, a coveted and here-to-fore elusive shovelnose sturgeon. 

He left the fish in the water as he organized his video gear, then gave a brief narration before releasing the fish.

A wide grin spread across Tiefenthaler's face as we exchanged an elbow bump.

Next up: the official state fish, the muskellunge.

"I don't know how long it will take, but that's what I'm going after next," Tiefenthaler said. "I figure that's the fish I want to cross the finish line with."

The world, or at least his followers, will be watching.

6/4/20 @ 7:04 PM
User since 4/2/02

Would love to see the article! I am unable to access it though, looks like you need a subscription to the journal.

6/4/20 @ 8:39 AM
User since 6/20/13

Good Luck on your Muskie and reaching your 50 fish goal. Enjoyed the article in the Milw. Journal on Sunday.. I saw that even N.PIKE got his name/quote in the article so LL was well represented..  

6/3/20 @ 2:57 PM
User since 1/12/05

I'm not a big muskie fisherman, but my 2 cents... When you have a follow-up you're already in the right spot. Shallow, deep don't matter if size isn't a factor. Always (always) figure 8 at the end of each cast, and especially when you can see the follow. A big percentage of muskie hookups occur on the figure 8 so keep it down there a bit longer. I use an 8.5' pole for deeper and wider figure 8.

I've heard the muskie will bite more readily when a storm is approaching. Don't stay out too long however. My rain suit works well, but you can't buy a lightning suit. As long as you're fishing known muskie water you'll eventually do well. If you're after a real trophy it'll take a lifetime. Good luck, and love your videos.

ifishwi (Hartford, WI) 

6/3/20 @ 8:17 AM
MEMBER since 7/9/12

You win some and lose some. I think you were on the winning side on that trip. You had a bite and you saw a few. That’s pretty damn good for a 1st trip!! Good luck Brother and I know you’re not too far away. I was just Muskie fishing the past weekend and didn’t see one in a lake that has plenty of them. I learned that you have to retrieve both fast and slow to see what’s working that day. My 2 cents. Lol

6/2/20 @ 8:40 PM
User since 10/25/16

Any tips or places I should visit are greatly appreciated.  

5/31/20 @ 1:54 PM
MEMBER since 11/5/17

TIEf.    You deserve your 15 minutes of fame!   CARPIO 

5/31/20 @ 12:13 PM
User since 10/25/16

We’re in the paper!

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