Staying Connected in the Age of COVID

2020 is sure to go down as one of the most difficult times our organization will face. The driving force propelling our mission of conserving, protecting, and restoring our coldwater fisheries and their watersheds has always been the passion and commitment of our grassroots volunteers.


Now, due to circumstances (somewhat) beyond our control, we find ourselves isolated and disconnected. Banquets, Kids Fishing Days, Veterans Events, and Chapter Picnics all keep popping up on the Cancelled list. As a volunteer, it’s disheartening and exhausting.


Cold, clean, fishable water gives me hope.


I’m a firm believer in responsible recreation. Fishing is social distancing. You go upstream, I’ll go down. You take these two bends, I’m going to go on up ahead. So the stories at the end of the day lose a little luster because we’re not all huddled around the campfire. But there are still adventures to be had close to home and stories to be told.


Fish don’t know the Corona Virus from Corona beer. It’s ironic that as our ways of life have ground to a halt, life in the stream carries on much the way it has for ages – eggs laid, hatched, juvenile growth, predator, prey, survival, mate, repeat.


Sometimes I feel like we’re cleaning up from a manure spill. It looks dire and toxic right now, but we can come together and we can remedy the situation. We can give nature a chance to heal itself. When we do that, the waters will eventually run clear, the spawning gravel will become exposed again, and a new generation of life will find opportunity in the stream.


Many TU Chapters and Councils are creating their own opportunities now, giving us all new ways to connect with each other.


It helps that most of us are walking around with computers in our pockets. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram give Chapters instant access to a much wider audience within our communities.


I think it’s safe to say that Zoom is here to stay. From Board of Director meetings to Chapter Gatherings and fly tying events, video conferencing is a game changer. Many national and regional seminars are now all virtual, eliminating travel expenses and providing many of us with a chance to attend from the comforts of our own home.


The Council will be using our Zoom account to bring you a new series called “Talking Trout”. The Series will run live on the first Wednesday of the month at 8:00 p.m. (Central time).  We’re kicking it off with special guest Tim Flagler from Tightline Productions on Oct. 7. Subsequent episodes will feature presentations and interviews with guests in the Wisconsin conservation and angling communities. Episodes will be archived in video and podcast formats.


For those looking to be active outdoors, stream monitoring offers a safe volunteer opportunity. You could start by offering to walk a stretch of your “home river” or a recent chapter restoration project and record conditions. TU’s new RIVERS app is ideal for this. If you’re in the Driftless, see Kent Johnson’s article on the new WiseH2O app and how you can use it to help us gather data about the health of our watersheds. Or consider becoming a Water Action Volunteer stream monitor ( They offer formal training and will help you identify sites close to home that need monitoring.


Some Chapters are starting to put in place measures to hold socially distanced habitat restoration workdays! Small groups of volunteers, safely spaced and dispersed along a project site are still able to valuable maintenance work like brushing. Please don’t share food or beverages at this time.


TU National’s Volunteer Operations staff should be commended for their help in making our efforts easier. An all new, easier to manage Tacklebox will be unveiled this fall, packed with the information volunteer leaders are looking for. They’ve also done a fantastic job of setting up a Digital Fundraising Platform that’s available to all Chapters and Councils.


I’m really bummed that we won’t get to meet in person this February to celebrate at our 50th Anniversary Wisconsin Trout Unlimited Banquet. But the decision made by our Banquet Committee to postpone the event was the correct choice.


I can’t wait for the days of handshakes, high fives, raised glasses, and pats on the back.  Until then stay safe, mask up, and keep washing those hands.  We’re all in this together.


Much Respect,

Mike Kuhr

State Council Chair