Some of these waters are very small, but find an ORW or ERW and the fishery will be loaded with trout most of the time. Some ORW and ERW streams will start off very small, but down stream become larger. Even if the lower sections are not listed as ORW or ERW most of the time it will still have great fishing. These sections of streams often serve as the spawning grounds for wild brook and brown trout.
Use listings like these to narrow your search.
What is a ORW or ERW??
"Wisconsin has designated many of the state’s highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an “antidegradation” policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality – especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value." - Wisconsin DNR website
What is the difference between a ORW and ERW??
ORWs receive the state’s highest protection standards, with ERWs a close second. ORWs and ERWs share many of the same environmental and ecological characteristics. They differ in the types of discharges each receives, and the level of protection established for the waterway after it is designated.
- ORWs: ORWs typically do not have any point sources discharging pollutants directly to the water (for instance, no industrial sources or municipal sewage treatment plants), though they may receive runoff from nonpoint sources. New discharges may be permitted only if their effluent quality is equal to or better than the background water quality of that waterway at all times—no increases of pollutant levels are allowed.
- ERWs: If a waterbody has existing point sources at the time of designation, it is more likely to be designated as an ERW. Like ORWs, dischargers to ERW waters are required to maintain background water quality levels; however, exceptions can be made for certain situations when an increase of pollutant loading to an ERW is warranted because human health would otherwise be compromised.
Since these waters receive such high protection many of them have public land.access directly to the water. I enjoy fishing small water loaded with trout and some of these streams have some nice sized trout in them. If you are looking for a 20+ inch trout fishing in these areas isn't your best bet, however last year I caught three 20+ inch trout in September when the big browns and brook trout make the fall spawning migrations.
Trout caught in 2010 in a ORW stream VERY close to my house.
To find an ORW or ERW water near you visit the Wisconsin DNR website. Minnesota has a similar list for it's outstanding waters resources I believe they are called Outstanding Resource Value Waters.