Former Wisconsin Trout Editor Todd Hanson Passes Away

By Duke Welter


Todd Hanson, a significant contributor to Wisconsin TU, a strong resource advocate, talented brewmaster, dedicated outdoors person and genuinely good guy, died in May at his Madison home. He was 69. Todd was born May 31, 1953 in New London.


Many Wisconsin TU members will remember Todd’s work as editor of Wisconsin Trout, beginning with the January 2000 issue through October 2013. There, he successfully worked to broaden the contributions of writers and photographers from around the state. For his work, he was honored with national TU’s premier award for a state communications publication in 2001.


Todd was an avid angler, hunter, sports fan and gardener. Following his graduation from UW-Stevens Point, he taught high school in Sheboygan before pursuing a Masters in Communications from Boston College. He worked for several publications and founded Fox Classic Brewing Company in Appleton, Wisconsin. During the 1990s he served as president of the Fox Valley Chapter of TU and co-led a project to publicize catch-and-release fishing with fellow Wisconsin TU leaders Bob Hunt and Jim Hlaban. The video they produced, “CPR: Consider Proper Release,” was filmed here and narrated by Joan Wulff.  It was nationally distributed through TU chapters.


Todd also served as the communications director of the Wisconsin Stewardship Network during the 1990s, after he’d move to Madison. WSN brought together environmental groups and outdoor groups from around the state to focus on key resource issues such as the Crandon Mine and the “Prove It First” statute. That bill required proponents of sulfide mines to prove similar mines had been operated and closed without causing environmental damage. It was repealed by the Walker Administration and Legislature in 2017, a black eye for state environmental protection.


In 2008 Todd wrote a helpful anglers’ book, “Map Guide to Improved Trout Waters of Wisconsin” and published it through WhereamI Publications. A second edition in 2013 updated the first. He also collaborated with former DNR fisheries biologist Dave Vetrano in 2013 on a similar book covering Minnesota and Iowa trout streams.


Todd was a soft-spoken, thoughtful advocate for resource protection. Under his editorship, Wisconsin Trout covered many issues and Todd wrote editorials offering his informed opinions on various issues. He figured out a secret to encouraging otherwise reluctant writers to contribute: For each story one wrote for the paper, he would provide a bottle of his excellent home-brewed beer. At the annual State Council meeting, he would show up with 5 to 10 cases of beer and a spreadsheet telling writers how many beers to take home.


Henry Koltz, former chapter president, state council chair and grassroots trustee, recalls a welcome chance meeting with Todd. “Todd Durian, Steve Rose, Duke and I were fishing Hornby, above Mick’s (a/k/a the Woodcutter, a/k/a the “Crazy Hippie Indian”) place. It was late, after a State Council meeting at Avalanche. We’d jetted out, fished all day, and it was now dusk. As was normal back then the valley was perfect, there was no other traffic, and it was perfectly acceptable to sit in a chair behind your car on the side of the road and have a cold one while I played NPR jazz on my radio.


“I do recall that the group was, in fact, all sitting in chairs or on coolers behind our cars, having Two Hearted Ales. And we ran out.


“And I believe – honestly – that I uttered “the only way this could get any better would be if we had more beer.”


“Almost on cue Todd Hanson’s vehicle appeared on the horizon, and we watched as he made his way towards us. He stopped, asked how the fishing had been, and pulled a pony keg of his homemade beer out of the back of his Jeep Cherokee.


“It was as if heaven itself had opened the door just a little and let its light shine on us, and we basked in it while we laughed and had another round of suds. Good times. He’ll be missed, but we’ll meet again.”


After he left Wisconsin Trout, Todd took a job editing esoteric scientific articles and books. He sometimes observed that he might have been the sole person who read them who didn’t have a Ph.D. and a faculty position somewhere.


His travels took him annually to canoe and camp in wilderness places and to hunt deer with friends near the Fox Valley. As a gardener with a fenced backyard plot on the north side of Madison, he carried out an ongoing campaign to reduce damage to his crops:  he was a dead shot with his air rifle at marauding rabbits, which he would save and bake in fall for a winter’s worth of good eating.


Todd also relished looking for and finding little-fished hidey-holes for good trout. Former State Council Chair Kim McCarthy remembers one: “My best memory of Todd is, in some ways, similar to Henry’s in that it also involved fishing after a State Council meeting minus the beer. Todd approached me toward the end of the meeting and told me he had something he wanted to show me if I had a few hours. I made sure I had a few hours and we headed out to a creek I had never fished. We got geared up and kept our feet wet between a couple of homes finally ending up in a big meadow. We approached the first good hole and immediately started catching fish, some of them very nice brook trout. After the hole slowed down Todd told me to walk up to the hole and look into it from high on the bank. This was what he wanted to show me. The pool was loaded with big brook trout. Those who have fished much in the driftless have all walked up to holes and seen large schools of trout - usually browns. Imagine walking up to a hole and watching 30 or 40 14-18 inch brook trout in the pool. We repeated that scene several more times before it was time to leave. I have never gone back. I can just remember it as Todd’s spot.


Todd is survived by his father, Norman (Dub) Hanson of Wisconsin Rapids, brothers Terry (Geneva) Hanson, Marinette, WI; and Theo (Michelle) Hanson, Lake Mills, WI; sister Tina (Lee) Matlock, Auburn, WA; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother, Margaret (Mugs) Hanson; sister, Cindi Kileen; brother, Tom Hanson, brother, Tim Hanson, sister-in-law, Tina Slempkes and stepmother, Audrey Granger Hanson.