Elegy for Opening Day

by Council Chair Scott Allen


That first weekend of May of that first year of college should have been two days of study for my final exams. How often we find ourselves at a crossroad where the chosen path harbors a destination entirely at odds with the journey; food, romance and retail bling do that to us from time to time.


I should have been poring over books and reciting from memory tree names like Tsuga canadensis and Robinia pseudoacacia, but the shadow of the tradition of opening day more than eclipsed my mind and made no exception but for grabbing my tackle and heading out the door.


That magnetic pull of rod and tackle on opening day, or whenever the bite is on, plays no part in stocking the larder. Some of us exhibit Pavlovian salivation at the thought of a shore lunch, others return a better person after an epic release. We fish for recreation, we fish for contemplation and relaxation, we anticipate the tradition of opening day.


None of us catch trout to pay the bills, none of us will go to bed hungry without trout on the table. Tradition brings predictability and constancy to our lives, that’s what the tradition of fishing gives us, that’s what the May opener has provided for decades.


Tevye the Milk Man, the likeable, laughable protagonist in the musical Fiddler On The Roof offers his explanation of the purpose of tradition:

You may ask, why did this tradition get started? I'll tell you why - I don't know. But it's a tradition, and because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do…


This past April the Wisconsin DNR Spring Hearings were held at each of 72 counties at which a ballot of advisory questions was put before attendees, an internet voting option was also available.  Question 2 on the ballot offered voters the choice of moving the opener to the first weekend in April from the first weekend in May thereby increasing the harvest season by one month. The advisory question passed in 70 of 72 counties effectively ending the May opener if promulgated by DNR.


Regulations must always be in flux as habitat changes for better or worse, as harvests increase or decrease, as budgets grow or whither, ensuring there will always be fishable trout water in Wisconsin, and there will. But let’s look beyond the creel and more towards the heart where our love of the traditions of outdoor sports belongs. Let’s cherish the tradition along with the catch.


Tradition, Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as, as ... as a fiddler on the roof!   -Tevye the Milk Man


You go, Tevye.