Businesses look to bounce back from flooding through fishing season

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DANE COUNTY (WKOW) — This weekend marks Wisconsin’s fishing opener. While the season usually comes with an economic boon for lakeside communities, last year’s flooding made a dent in Dane County’s profits.

Noah Humfeld, a fishing guide with Madison Angling Experience, said consistent and extreme high water brought a mixed bag in the last few months of the season.

“Fishing was awesome because we didn’t have to deal with a lot of floating weeds with a lot of boat traffic,” he said. “However getting from spot to spot was kind of a pain because it was all ‘no wake.’”

As many across the county dealt with coastal flooding, Humfeld said his business understandably slowed down.

“It seemed like people wanted to stay away from the lake and really didn’t want to go fishing,” he said.

This year, however, Humfeld is hoping for a stronger season. He said he’s already booked through much of May, starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

“This is my happy place, this is pretty much where I want to be,” Humfeld said. “Fishing pretty much everyday.”

While Humfeld felt the high water had an impact, he said it wasn’t insurmountable, but further down the Yahara Chain of Lakes, flooding came earlier in the year and left a longer impact.

At Kegonsa Cove, a boat rental business and campground off the shore of Lake Kegonsa, late June flooding left parts of the business inaccessible. The owner, Henryetta Dufoe, showed 27 News the damage.

“There was no fishing,” she said. “The docks were underwater and nobody could take boats out.”

The water receded in July only to rise again when historic flooding struck Madison.

“That was the worst thing I saw in nine and a half years,” Dufoe said.

For much of the remaining season, she said the lake was still too high for much demand for boat rentals.

“We might have got maybe two months last season,” she said. “It made a lot of decisions for me.”

Ultimately, Dufoe decided this would be her last fishing season running Kegonsa Cove and plans to sell the business later this month.

“I’m ready to spend more time with my grandkids,” she said.

Dufoe said she would have made the decision without last year’s flooding though she said it made the decision easier.

“It’s a lot of hard work and I need a little more help than I have,” she said.

Though Dufoe said it was no longer worthwhile for her, she still believes a lakeside business can run profitably here in Dane County.

“I’m hoping this year for a better start,” she said.

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