Muckraking Mendota: Let’s Just Be Friends

UW undergrad, Emily Hilts, spent her summer getting to know Lake Mendota. While she didn’t fall head over heels for Madison’s lakes, she’s leaving on good terms.
by Emily Hilts
This morning, I moved my books and papers out of the desk I used at the Center for Limnology all summer, and took some time to reflect on what I’ve learned about Lake Mendota after three months of snorkeling, paddling, boating and exploring its shores. Thinking about the goals I set for myself, I realized that the out-of-work experiences I never shared in this blog taught me just as much about the lake as all of my naturalist-inclined explanations of its flora, fauna, geology and ecology.
In June, I was charting my way around Lake Mendota, searching for stories.
The purpose of this blog was twofold. First of all, I wanted to share my discoveries about Lake Mendota with my readers. At some basic level I think it’s safe to say I’ve accomplished that. But, in hindsight, that’s not really what I cared about.
I realized this after a morning of fishing with Jim Bruins, who was a UW zoology undergrad and a project supervisor at the Center for Limnology in the mid 1960s. After three summers with the department, it was time to at least learn how to catch a fish on a line, and I can hardly think of a better person to teach me than Jim. It wasn’t necessarily that he shared a wealth of technical information – we were just bobbing for bass and perch – but he was a library of stories about Madison and Lake Mendota. He told me about how the cisco used to be so abundant, he and some buddies could dip-net them out of the water when they came in to spawn. He knew where bass used to be easily caught, and how perch cycle between good and bad years. Read Emily’s final thoughts on life on Madison’s lakes –>

To read the full series of Emily’s work, visit The Life Aquatic, the blog for the lab of Dr. Jake Vander Zanden.