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Southwest driftless smallmouth bass team

Streambank Protection Program

Black River Streambank
The Platte River Region is a smallmouth bass country and provides the best opportunities in the Driftless Area for anglers to fish smallmouth bass.  The habitat potential for smallmouth bass is good to excellent for much of this region. The Galena, Sinsinawa, Platte, Little Platte, and Grant River watersheds all offer good habitats for smallmouth bass.  This region is unique with the majority of the smallmouth bass water being wadable and containing nearly ¼ of all smallmouth bass stream habitats in Wisconsin.  Smallmouth bass streams within this region capable of sustaining a fully developed smallmouth bass population are typically characterized by summer water temperature exceeding  72° F, course rock/gravel substrate, watershed drainages from 16 to 324 square miles, annual flow ranging 30-207 CFS, mean width 15-40 feet, mean pool depth 3-4 foot deep, and gradients > 5.0 feet/mile.  Many of the smaller warm water streams within these watersheds lack the habitat to support a fully developed population but still act as smallmouth bass nursery streams contributing to the reproductive success and recruitment into the adult population.


  • Although the Platte River Region has the smallest number of trout stream miles of the eight planning regions, there are some healthy populations of brown trout found in headwater creeks. In particular, some of the streams in the Upper Grant River watershed host impressively large numbers of brown trout.
  • The region has good to very good natural habitat potential for smallmouth bass and modest levels of land use stress. Although there are some problems with polluted runoff from farm operations and residual lead and zinc mining waste, significant progress has been made over the last couple of decades in addressing these issues in many watersheds. The result is outstanding overall conditions to support smallmouth bass in large numbers. Indeed, the region has 25% of all smallmouth bass stream habitats in Wisconsin.
  • Although sizeable smallmouth bass populations are found in many of the Driftless Area’s bigger rivers, more than any other part of the state, the Platte River Region has wadeable bass streams. The Grant, Platte, Little Platte, and Galena (Fever) rivers are big enough to have large bass populations and small enough for anglers to enjoy while wading, paddling a canoe, or walking the publicly-accessible shorelines.
  • The distribution of smallmouth bass is projected to expand considerably in the coming decades due to warming stream temperatures. Although some waters higher in the watershed are projected to be warm enough to meet the habitat needs of bass, most of these streams are not large enough to support adult fish and will likely be limited to serving as nursery waters.
  • A modest amount of stream restoration has occurred in the region with the bulk of it in the Upper Grant River watershed, which includes Borah Creek and Rogers Branch. The Upper Grant and the Little Platte rivers have the most publicly-accessible trout streams in the region. The Galena River system has the most publicly-accessible bass waters with over 500 acres of narrow easements spread over miles of streams and rivers.
  • Of the eight planning regions, the Platte has the least amount of Department-owned lands along trout and smallmouth bass waters. Although the federal government holds over 12,000 acres along the Mississippi River in the region, there are no State Fishery Areas here and very little land has been protected through the state streambank protection program.


Team Leader
Bradd Sims, DNR

Real Estate Specialist
Mike La Bissoniere

Highlighted streams

  • Blake Fork
  • Grant River
  • Rattlesnake Creek
  • Kuenster Creek
  • Little Platte River
  • McPherson Branch
  • Culver Branch


  • Wisconsin Smallmouth Alliance
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Southwest WI Land Conservation Departments
  • Grant County Outdoor Sports Alliance
  • UW-Platteville Fishing Club
  • Friends of the Platte River
  • Bloomington Area Sportsmans Club
  • Stitzer Sportsmans Club
  • Dubuque Fly Fishers
  • Grant County Economic Development Corporation


The Southwest Driftless Smallmouth Bass Team and their conservation partners have worked to acquire stream bank easements directly from landowners within their region. These easements provide public access to high-quality smallmouth bass streams and allow the DNR to manage these stream corridors to increase the health of the smallmouth bass fishery for today and future generations.

From July 2014 to June 15, 2016, the Southwest Driftless Smallmouth Bass Team worked with property owners to purchase 2 easements in 2 subwatersheds. These transactions resulted in a total of 21.7 easement acres encompassing 9,648 stream feet (1.83 miles) for $120,100; an average of $5,535 per easement acre or $12.45 per stream foot.

Easement accomplishments