“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near McFarland in Dane County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Working at Fish Camp

Working at Fish Camp Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, October 16, 2011
1. Working at Fish Camp Marker
Inscription. A job at Fish Camp in McFarland was not for the lazy or faint of heart. A former crewmember summed up life at Fish Camp as "8-10 gnarly guys with chest waders, suitable clothing, tough skin, hands weathered by days of being wet, cold, and stressed in leaky gloves, fingers thickened and callused from working in the cold, and with less than a full deck--otherwise why would they even think of this as a winter profession?"

Hard Work Rewarded
Working 5½ days a week no matter the weather, Fish Camp crewmembers made a decent wage. Many fish camp workers around the state later became fisheries employees for the Conservation Department and its successor, the Department of Natural Resources.

Goofing Around
A favorite recreation was the card game euchre. "Riding the keg" was far more dangerous and daring. During winter seining, workers cut ice blocks to reach open water. A truck pulled out the blocks, sometimes with a rider aboard--when the camp foreman wasn't looking, of course.

Know More about the Corn House

The Corn House, like the Net House, was built in 1937 by the WPA (Works Progress Administration, a depression-era federal work program). The Corn House earned its name because milk cans of kernel corn were stored here. The corn fed carp in the holding pond
Working at Fish Camp Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, October 16, 2011
2. Working at Fish Camp Marker
The marker is on the Corn House, next to The Story of Fish Camp Marker and the Shoot the running board marker.
until the fish were sold.

Often a netman--staying in camp to repair seine nets--fed the carp. He also had to make sure they had enough oxygen, a common problem on hot summer days or when the water was still.

Fish Camp's third main building, a metal building containing a garage, office and small bunkroom, stood near the parking lot entrance. It was taken down when Fish Camp closed.

Fish Camp Jobs and What They Did

camp supervisor { personnel administration pay
foreman { in charge of fishing operations
conservation aide { work seines
seasonal worker { work seines

catch fish year-round
travel to other lakes and rivers to harvest fish
sort and return sport fish to lake
feed corn to carp in holding pen
load fish into trucks
transport carp to railroads in Madison, Janesville
maintain seine nets
repair equipment and vehicles
patch waders, other personal gear
play card games in spare time

IN THEIR WORDS carp scales, tar and netmen

"[The experience] was great. I was a little embarrassed, though, because I was dating at the time--my future wife. I'd go over to their house after loading fish on Saturday and I'd be full of carp scales. I had to clean up first. But I could never get rid of the tar in my fingernails. [Nets were tarred to last longer.]"

"When you became
The Story of Fish Camp Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, October 16, 2011
3. The Story of Fish Camp Marker
The subcaption reads "fighting Wisconsin's first invasive fish." The timeline under the marker reads as follows:

Germany and begins raising them.

Nine Springs (now Nevin) Fish Hatchery in Madison receives 75 carp from the U.S. Fisheries Commission.

Carp raised at Madison's fish hatchery are stocked in Wisconsin waters, most in Madison's chain of lakes.

Carp introduction is halted when it becomes clear the fish are harming the state's sport fishery.

The Wisconsin Fisheries Commission issues permits to harvest common carp.

The Wisconsin Fisheries Commission contracts with commercial fishers to remove carp.

Wisconsin Conservation Department funds removal of carp and other rough fish by establishing fish camps.

The Corn House and Net House are built to support a fish camp several miles up the Yahara River.

Fish Camp becomes a full-scale operation when the nearby Yahara River camp relocates here.

Fish Camp closes because the carp market is no longer economical.

Fish Camp County Park opens to the public for lake recreation.
a netman, your salary, of course, came up, it was very rate dependent. Because when you'd pull seines in the lake you'd run across obstructions and sometimes tear huge holes half the size of this room. This had to be repaired."

[Caption for photos:] Above: Pulling in the lead line on Lake Kegonsa, November 1934. Above right, top to bottom: Moving carp from holding pen to fish box. Barge pulling in seine on Lake Waubesa, motor-driven winch in middle of boat. Removing carp by seine net from holding pen for shipment, Lake Kegonsa. All photos courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Erected by Dane County Parks.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects marker series.
Location. 42° 58.968′ N, 89° 15.913′ W. Marker is near McFarland, Wisconsin, in Dane County. Marker can be reached from Fish Camp Road 0.3 miles from County Highway AB, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. The marker is in Fish Camp Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3383 Fish Camp Road, Mc Farland WI 53558, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. How to catch 30,000 carp (a few steps from this marker); All about nets
Shoot the running board Marker image. Click for full size.
By William J. Toman, October 16, 2011
4. Shoot the running board Marker
How do you catch a school of carp in the middle of winter? Using a running board was a simple and brilliant way to stretch a seine net in a large circle under lake ice. First, the crew cut a large landing hole in the ice. Next, they chopped small holes 75-100 feet apart around the perimeter of the carp school, as best they could judge. Then the crew aimed the running board (connected by rope to the seine net) toward the first hole. After hooking the board and securing the seine net, they shot the board to the second hole, third hole, and so on back to the landing hole. The carp were now surrounded by the seine net. When the seine closed around them, a pulling engine at the landing hole winched a netful of carp from the water. A hinged running board was easier to carry.
(within shouting distance of this marker); Too many carp (within shouting distance of this marker); Fish Camp Launch (within shouting distance of this marker); Carp for sale (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Seasons of Fish Camp (about 400 feet away); Village of McFarland (approx. 2.4 miles away); Robert Marion La Follette, Sr. (approx. 2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in McFarland.
Categories. EnvironmentIndustry & Commerce
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 16, 2011, by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 368 times since then and 14 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on October 16, 2011, by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin.
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