If it's midsummer and you want a fishing guide, Roger Sabota of Rhinelander probably isn't your man.
"There are so many more boats on the lakes today, I won't accept many guiding jobs in July," says Sabota, who's been in the business for decades. "The boat traffic has picked up dramatically over the years."
Sabota guides on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes, the Eagle River Chain and the Three Lakes Chain. Boat traffic is pretty reasonable in early June, he says, and it thins out in early August. But July? Wall-to-wall boats.
On the Minocqua Chain, for example, "when you put all those people in that many condos [surrounding the lakes], and you get all those people out on the lake? The waves are tremendous," Sabota says. "Same thing on the Eagle River Chain."
The boom in boat traffic also complicates matters for Tom Harris, whose job it is to keep Eurasian water milfoil out of the Three Lakes Chain. This invasive species is most easily spread via boats, attached to their hulls and boat trailers. Once it gets into a lake, milfoil grows exponentially, and can wipe out native vegetation. And it's right at Harris' doorstep, just downstream in the Eagle River Chain of Lakes.
To keep milfoil out, Harris and other volunteers distribute educational packets at Three Lakes boat landings. Part of this is done through the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program, overseen by the DNR. Currently, the Three Lakes program has 80 volunteers.
"They're spending all kinds of money to try to knock it back down there [in Eagle River lakes]," Harris says. "This spring they're going to do some chemical treatments. We're hoping that doesn't happen to us!"
Floating Our Boats
The top 10 states for registered boats in 2005:
Florida (973,859) California (963,758) Michigan (944,138) Minnesota (853,489) Wisconsin (639,198) Texas (614,616) New York (508,536) South Carolina (416,763) Ohio (412,375) Illinois (380,865)