Not being much of an outdoorsman, it’s not too often I can say that I caught my own meal, but after spending a recent afternoon at one of Wisconsin Dells older attractions, I can now cross this off my list.

B&H Trout Fishing and Bait Shop was established in 1950, and is open year round every day from 6am until dark. Located on Highway 13, just seven miles north from downtown, the bait shop has everything you need for a great day of hunting or fishing. With a huge selection of tackle and live bait, B&H is a place where you can also get your fishing or hunting licenses, local maps, and even fishing tips if needed.

 During family visits to my grandma’s house on Fawn Lake every summer as a child, I used to hike over to the bait shop almost every day of our stay. I would beg my father for money to buy a soda, candy bar, and a new fishing lure to add to my growing collection. I had always wanted to catch trout from the ponds behind the bait shop, where you buy them by the inch, but dad would say that if I was going to spend his hard-earned money on lures, that I at least go to the lake and catch fish for free.

Being I haven’t been to the bait shop in many years, I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit my childhood hangout. When I arrived, I was warmly greeted by Kristina, who came to America twenty-four years ago from Poland, and has been the trout farm owner for the past 17 years.

After explaining my intentions of wanting a behind-the-scenes look where I spent many hours of my youth, Kristina suggested that we start by feeding the fish. Throwing handfuls of brown pellets into the water didn’t really do much at first, but quickly the water started to look as if it was coming to a boil, similar to a piranha feeding frenzy.

Seeing all of this action in the ponds, I was eager to start catching my dinner. Grabbing one of the long bamboo poles, I could hardly contain my excitement. After a few futile minutes of moving the line up & down in the water trying to entice a bite, Kristina walked over and grabbed the pole. “Just stay still!” she chided me. Immediately after this playful scolding I started to feel bites – and soon enough, I got one on the line.

With a huge smile on my face I pulled the trout out in triumph. Kristina asked if I wanted to take the hook out with the pliers, but not really wanting to get too grimy, I asked her to show me how it’s done. “You seem like you’re scared to fish!” she said with joking disdain, as she expertly took the hook out of its mouth.

The second time around, with my manhood on the line, I insisted that I do everything myself. I was able to bait the hook easily enough, and using the technique of standing still, I quickly caught my second trout. Getting it up on the grass, I built up some courage and tried to bare hand the fish. Flopping around all over the place it took about a dozen tries before I finally grabbed hold.

Using the pliers to try and remove the hook, I soon realized it was imbedded quite deep. After a few awkward attempts to get it out, Kristina mercifully came to the fish’s rescue. She views the trout as if they were her pets. She definitely didn’t want any unnecessary pain to be brought upon by my fumbling.

We brought my catch up to the shop for the next step – learning how to clean them. I watched as she expertly worked the knife, making it look very easy. When it came to my turn I willingly took the sharp knife to begin carving, but she could see by the sweat starting to drip from my brow, that I would need to be walked through the process step-by-step.

The first instruction was for me to shove my thumb through a gill so that it came out of the trout’s mouth. I have to admit, this freaked me out a bit. Next, while trying not to envision lopping off my finger, I sliced the belly open. Then came the time to rip out the guts. My light tugs weren’t doing the trick, so I had to get primal, and tore them out with a grossed-out sense of accomplishment.

Once the trout had been cleaned, I placed them in a plastic bag filled with ice, and they were now ready to be brought over to grandmas’ for dinner. I have to say, the fresh spring fed trout tasted mighty good – especially knowing everything I went through to obtain them.

- Chris Dearman

*** I'd like to say thank you to Kristina for giving me the opportunity to have the behind-the-scenes access, for helping me take a bunch of pictures (which can see more here), and for the delicious trout! I'd also like to thank Trisha Bungert for her thoughts & ideas, as well as Kay James for finding the piece Wisconsin Dells Events newspaper worthy.