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Homesteading Last Year (HLY) # 1: Fishing in the Channel

Hi Friends,

I was looking through some photos I took in 2011 and realized that we did a lot of homesteading even before we moved to Oshkosh. I documented many things we did, from canning to harvesting free apples to fishing, which I never wrote about in here.

Welcome to my series entitled "Homesteading Last Year." HLY for short, it's incredibly creative, don't you think? (sarcasm)

I'll have about ten in the series to pick up when things in the here and now aren't so very interesting or we're on another spurt of canning tomatoes and you are asking for Pete's sake, Becky, please don't blog about more tomatoes.

Fair enough! I'll begin the first blog today seeing as our household has been a bit under the weather and any sort of homesteading has been pretty nondescript.

HLY # 1: Fishin' in the Channel 

Last year we lived with a friend of a friend and he happened to have his home based securely on a man-made inlet. Everyone on the block had a boat dock and a boat. It was a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood and many of the things people owned or did were completely foreign to us simple folk. For instance, the few homes not situated on the channel housed their nice yachts in a small harbor at the end of the channel and would need to drive or walk from their home to go boating. We never did see anyone walking. But we did see several variations of golf carts or ATVs traversing the nicely paved roads on Saturday mornings. Our family preferred the solace of the backyard, small as it was, with its charming edible landscaping and terraced gardens. The dock sprouted right out of the lawn and made for a very picturesque scene, no matter what time of year it was.


Our host was an avid fisherman with his own bass boat, but during our stay we never saw him take it out. Every once in awhile we'd see him fishing for bluegill off the end of the dock, a few tip-ups at hand and a cold iced tea. Andy decided he would learn to fish.

He'd fished as a youngster with his paternal grandfather and knew the basics, but it had been a few years. He and Elly and Ethan dug for worms in the garden and grabbed a likely looking fishing rod from the garage, donned life preservers and headed to the dock. I stayed back with Liam, who was not yet walking and photographed the fun.


Yes, there's a fish in this photo! :-)


Removing the hook as gently as he can, Andy places the bluegill into the bucket.


The kids then poked at the catch with nets...


As all boy as Ethan is, he wouldn't touch the shiny fish.


Elly catches her first fish, with Daddy's help reeling it in!


Now one might not immediately think of fishing as a homesteading opportunity but little thought has to go into the idea. Talk about relatively free food! A little investment in supplies, some patience and a good fishing hole and you can potentially have hardy protein for the whole year through. The day we caught bluegills, the tiny filets lasted a single meal. However, with some prep and foresight, practice and time, one can catch a lot of fish and lots of larger varieties at that. Good ways to preserve fish besides freezing it is to smoke it or salt and brine it. Some even enjoy the flavor of pickled fishes (pointing at my own family for that one)!

In the Great Lakes Region and specifically in our area of Wisconsin, one must be cautious with fishing as the rivers and lakes are laced from years of paper factory pollution. Up until the late 1980's large local companies used the precious waterways to dump unwanted "refuse" completely unchecked. Only until the government began enforcing environmental laws written in the '70's did they clean up their own acts.

The legacy is fish that are laced with PCBs and other toxins that have harbored in the silt and sand along the bottoms of the rivers and streams. Bottom dwelling fish in specific are discouraged from being consumed wild, but since everything is connected in a delicate web, all fish from the water systems here must be carefully considered before consuming in large quantities.

How sad and unfortunate! Even as I type, the Fox River (which runs along the northern border of Foxwood Farm) is being dredged anew for PCBs. Our home here in Oshkosh is nestled within blocks of the Fox River as it pours into Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin's largest unshared lake. To our south is the river. To our east is the lake. We see people fishing during the various seasons. We don't fish. Not here. The ferries and barges with enormous dredging cranes float past daily and parts of the river are off-limits to boaters, small buoys and inflatable barriers marking just where they happen to be pulling up nasty dirt at any given moment.

So here one could feed themselves indefinitely on fish alone, yet be poisoning themself with every bite they take. The fish we caught near Winneconne came from a tiny man-dug inlet, but ultimately that water ends up in the Bay of Green Bay and out to Lake Michigan, up the St. Lawrence Seaway and to the ocean beyond. Nothing is an island when it comes to water. The best we can hope for is a spring fed lake and while they do exist crystal clear in part of the state, we don't know of any around here.

So, while we enjoyed our meals here and there at the channel, fishing for food will not be one of our mainstays for quite some time. Still, the idea has merit and if you can make it work where you live, we encourage you to commune with nature in that very unique way; taking what you need to live for the day or the winter and sitting out in the elements soaking it all in.

Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward. Find her on .