The Club

The Brule River Sportsmen’s Club, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Brule River in northwest Wisconsin.  The Brule River is one of the finest spring-fed streams in the nation and it is the intent of the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club to help maintain its cold, clean waters and aesthetic beauty.

cedarisland_oldThe Brule River Sportsmen’s Club is an active organization dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the Brule River and its environment.  Membership presently (2011) numbers more than 500 nationwide.  It is a state non-profit entity that received its federal 501 (c) (3) classification as an educational, charitable and social organization in 2000.  The group meets monthly except for December (See the News tab on this website for meeting information).  Meeting minutes can be found by clicking on Monthly Minutes.  The monthly newsletter contains information about the fishery, habitat issues, and various club activities.  Click on Newsletters to read past newsletters.

Every spring the members participate in a river corridor clean-up; litter is removed from the stream bed and the road sides along the Brule River.

Beginning in 1999, the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club had awarded a $1,000 scholarship to a regional college student who is studying in a natural resources field (Click on Scholarship Information for details).  In 2010, a longtime member donated up to $25,000 of guaranteed matching funds dedicated to increasing the annual scholarship to $5,000.  Education costs continue to rise, so this offer couldn’t have come at a better time.  This donation and the matching contributions that we received allowed us to increase the annual scholarship to $5,000 beginning in 2012.  Teaching tools such as fish rearing coolers and insect identification kits are also distributed to local public schools by the club annually.

Stream habitat projects such as wing dam repairs and channel improvements on the Little Brule and other tributaries have been among the most popular Club activities.  Click on Habitat Management Overview for more detail.  In the mid 1990s, the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club cooperated in an aggressive program of spawning bed restoration in the Brule River under the direction of the DNR fishery personnel.  Wheelbarrows, pails, boats, canoes and even a helicopter were used to place gravel in spawning beds which had deteriorated over time.  Annual habitat projects have continued since.  Brook, brown and rainbow trout are now more able to propagate and today there is an overall enhanced fishing experience.

The Club was also involved in changing regulations to help allow fish to spawn at least once before they are harvested from the river.

The Brule River Sportsmen’s Club is also a participant in state and national wildlife organizations and frequently partners with other local sporting groups on environmental issues.

The Club also offers a few items for sale that promote the Club and interest in and support for the Brule River.  Click on Club Store if you have any interest in this merchandise.

Club History: By Larry Drews, in Collaboration with Larry Denston

Larry DrewsLarry Drews on his 96th birthday in 2004

The Brule River Sportsmen’s Club obtained it’s charter on July 3, 1968 at which time it had a membership of 127.  The Club had it’s beginning, however, six years before when a small group of individuals, namely Tom Johnson, Larry Denston and Ray Miller met at Jack & Edna’s Tavern (now the Hungry Trout) with other anglers who aired their gripes about the fishery (possibly over a few beers) and decided that a Sportsmen’s Club should be formed in order to better address the concerns they had about the Brule River.  Their main concern, as well as many other anglers, was the decline of steelhead and brown trout fishery.

Considerable interest was evident so each person was asked to join the new Club by contributing $5.00 for a membership.  In the beginning there were no regular meetings and no officers.  Money was collected and a list of members was maintained by Louise Denston, who with her husband, Larry, operated Jack and Edna’s Tavern.  Membership soon grew to 20 or more fishermen.  Meetings were not held on a regular basis, but were called occasionally in the back room at Jack & Edna’s.  Other early members to join were John Lee, Walt Muttenen, Edna Anderson, Emil Tahtinen, Arnie Schultz, Roger Martin, Jimmy Killoren, Dick Pariso, John Rogers, Roy Lyons and Phil Larson.  Most members of the new Club attributed the decline in fishing success to the development of a sand bar over the mouth of the Brule over a period of years, causing the entrance into the Lake to move to the west by several hundred feet and reduced the depth to only two or four feet, which many thought impeded the migration of trout into the river.

Years before the entrance ran straight out into the Lake with a depth of about 8 or 10 feet.  But at that time the mouth of the stream was protected by some old pilings which were the remains of a pier used by sailing vessels in the early 1800’s to load logs which were floated down the river during the logging days.  This pier and the pilings deteriorated and disappeared gradually over a long period of years, mainly due to weather and ice conditions.  The first Club project was an attempt to reestablish the old location of the entrance of the Brule River into Lake Superior.  Original thoughts of doing this without DNR approval were discarded after due deliberation.  Permits and help from the DNR were soon received and the work was completed.  However this turned out to be a fiasco.  Heavy storms and high waves soon replaced the sand at the entrance where it was removed so nothing was accomplished.

Thereafter, no further attempt was made to change the course of the river.  The membership of the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club grew slowly during the next few years.  In 1965 under the leadership of several new energetic members it was decided to have a drive to increase the membership to over 100 in order to qualify for a charter.  At this time, Harvey Stipe, a new resident in Brule, joined the Club and was appointed as chairman of a committee to draw up the Constitution and By-Laws (click on Constitution and By-Laws) and apply for a charter.  After diligent effort on the part of many members this was accomplished by July 3, 1968.  Dues were set at $3.00 per year and officers were elected as follows: Tom Johnson, President Walt Muttenen, Vice President Larry Denston, Treasurer Harvey Stipe, Secretary Reino Perala, Attorney.

During many years thereafter the Club continued normal activities for the preservation and improvement of the river.  Many people enjoyed the river for fishing, camping, hiking, etc.  Tubing (the use of inflated inner tubes to float down the river) also became very popular and reached proportions which created user conflicts, causing many complaints from fishermen, canoeists, and property owners.  The Brule River Sportsmen’s Club took the position that tubing on a pristine river like the Brule is an unwarranted violation of that resource and should be prohibited.  In 1976, the DNR began work on the Master Plan the Brule River which included the proposal to ban tubing on the Brule.  In 1979, the Legislative Commission headed by Don Simonds endorsed the proposal by the Natural Resources Board to seek legislation prohibiting tubing on the Brule River.  It took two years of effort by the Legislative Committee and members such as Roger Anderson, the Club’s president, and Carl Runge, a Madison University law professor and Brule River resident, to lobby legislators and testify at three public hearings before Bill S-351 passed the State Senate and Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Dreyfus.

By 1981, the Club’s paid up membership increased to 619 with continued growth hoped for in the years ahead.