Blog : Piers



It’s late and I’m here and I should be wondering why. But I’m not wondering at all. I know why. It’s because I was meant to be here.  Something prompted me to stop here. Something beyond my control. Something urged me to stop at this office so late into the night, when there was nothing really that I needed to do. I checked Twitter. I checked the Cubs score. I checked Facebook to see if I missed any cat memes. I checked the MLS. I made the mistake of checking an investment account. I did the things I thought I should do. And then I saw something that I had recently thought I had long ago forgotten.

The picture was innocent enough. A pier. That’s all it really was. A pier on the lake. The pier was white, as it should be. The water was clear, as it should be. The pier and the water were unavoidably Geneva. I know this when I see it, without context or tip. I know it because I’ve spent all of my years here, never wandering away for any reason good or bad. Never chasing something I wrongly thought was better. The pier was fine. But on the right side of the image, tethered to the pier, protruding down into the water and deeper still into my consciousness: A metal ladder.

It’s been some time since I’ve been so offended. Stand or kneel, it’s up to you. But the only time I’ll kneel is on a white wooden pier with a drill in my hand as I unscrew the unholy connection between wood pier and steel ladder. It might be aluminum, that wouldn’t matter. If it’s staunchly upright and it’s metal colored and I know it isn’t made of wood, then it’s not something that I can abide. It’s not something any of us should abide. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand here and watch metal piers take over my beloved lake. What’s next, synthetic lawns?

There are very few rules here. Hardly any, really. Don’t send money to fire departments so they can buy cartoonish fireboats with it. That’s one rule. Don’t buy a pontoon boat. Yes I know it’s so comfortable and I know you can sit on it like it’s your living room, but just don’t. That’s another rule. Paint your pier white, even if you’re a Wrigley.  Don’t let your children wear floaties if they’re over 10 years of age. But these rules pale when stacked against the one unbreakable rule. Metal ladders are for metal piers. Metal piers are for other lakes. Wood ladders are for wood piers. Our piers are made of wood. Douglas Fir, to be exact. Respect the pier. Respect your feet. Respect my eyes. Ban the metal ladder.

Geneva Pier Legislation

Geneva Pier Legislation

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does many good things. They also do many stupid things.  They do a decent job managing fisheries, though even in this there is both good and bad. They help protect shorelines from erosion, which is uniformly viewed as a good thing. They also manage piers, and on Geneva Lake, piers are everything.  Take a nice house off the lake that doesn’t have a private pier. Then add a private pier to that house and you’ll see a value increase of perhaps $250k. Piers are life.  With the DNR watching Geneva as closely as any body of water in the state, it only makes sense that our piers are often in their crosshairs.

At issue over recent years has been the existence of pier canopy curtains, the canvas extensions that button down the side of a boat slip to better protect the slip from the sun, wind and rain. These curtains have existed for eons, and have only very recently caught the eye of a watchful DNR, who have in turn labeled these curtains to be detrimental to aquatic habitat. The theory on their side suggests that curtains limit the light that can make it through to the interior of the slip, therefore limiting plant growth, thereby limiting fish habitat. Nice theory DNR, but it’s pretty absurd.

If you’ve ever lived on this lake, or observed the fishing habits of those who ply these waters for our mighty gamefish, you’ll see why this theory doesn’t hold up to real life. Fisherman on Geneva tend to fish in one of three ways. First there are the down riggers. Those who troll the depths hoping for something large and toothy to bite their lure. Then there are the drop-off fishermen, those who find the weed edges in 15-25′ of water and fish those margins for large bass and pike and walleye. Then there is the most populated group of fishermen- those who throw plastic baits into and around the piers. Why do they pitch and cast their lures into and under the piers? Because fish love cover and piers passively offer plenty of it.

If you’d like to view this in person, I could meet you at a particular pier on the south shore of Geneva. The pier is large and the water deep, and the fish under this pier are amongst the largest you’ll see in shallow water. The fish love this pier.  Coincidentally, this pier also has three slips protected by canvas side curtains. The fish don’t seem to know that side curtains are detrimental to their health.  The DNR also doesn’t seem to know that shade cools water and cool water is beneficial for fish.

Current legislation features an exemption from the side curtain ban for those side curtains that are covering wooden boats. This might be viewed as a win for some, but it’s discriminatory to those who own fiberglass boats.  Who is the DNR to suggest that only wood boat owners have the right to protect their personal property? This would be akin to allowing only those homes with hardwood floors to install drapes. Carpet lovers be damned.  I understand that the legislation is attempting to make the best of a sticky situation, but why is it sticky? Why should the DNR have so much power over private property owners?  What’s next, citations for too many umbrellas on a pier?

Today it would be a good idea to email Representative Tyler August (R), and tell him to adjust the language in his bill to allow fiberglass boats as well. Maybe tax the curtains at $10 per year, then the DNR can remain loyal to their actual goal: fee collection.  But don’t discriminate against fiberglass boat owners just because it seems an easier way to pacify a department that continues to persecute riparian owners.


Tyler August

Email:          Phone: (608) 266 – 1190         Address: P.O. Box 8952 Madison, WI 53708



If we were in the deep south, it would be understood that there would be certain words we’d use at certain times. We’d drop the G on many words, like he’d be “fixin” to catch a “beatin”. This is hard for us yankees to understand, but this is the way it is. Why then, should it be any different for us? Why shouldn’t we have our own set of words, meant to describe our own set of things? We aren’t in the northeast where things are strange and er is pronounced uh, but we are unique. At Lake Geneva it’s less about the pronunciation and more about the chosen word.

With Memorial Day on the very near horizon, it’s a good time to take a refresher course in our preferred words. Perhaps you’re new to the lake scene altogether, which means you haven’t yet had a chance to learn these linguistic lessons the hard way, through the embarrassment of the utterance. Or maybe you’ve been here so long you’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters, you say, is world peace and kindness. You’re being silly, because the words matter far more. Without further ado, the list:

There is a company here called Pier Docktors. This is a company that makes, installs, and removes piers. The name is a pun, a play on the words, which is the only reason we’ll give them a pass for using the root word “dock”. The white thing that juts out from shore in front of your house is called a pier. It’s not called a dock. There is no acceptable substitution for this. A pier is a pier and a dock is a dock, and what we have here are piers. Don’t call them docks. It’s embarrassing to the pier, and to you.  There are a couple of piers on the lake that aren’t white. Those piers are not the piers you should emulate if you own your own. Piers are to be white, end of story. Docks can be brown, but we don’t even have those here.

If you’ve worked hard and sacrificed and you’ve made your way to the lakefront, your front lawn is the lakeside lawn.  When your friends are coming over to hang out, you tell them you’ll be in the front yard, or front lawn. This is the lake lawn, not the street side lawn. I’m amazed at how many people- seemingly intelligent, good natured, people- get his wrong. Your backyard is the street yard. Your front yard is the lakeside yard. Please don’t confuse the two.

Did you catch a bass off your pier? Really? Was it a largemouth or a smallmouth? If you say, neither, then you didn’t catch a bass. There are only two types of acceptable bass in Geneva Lake. The largemouth and the smallmouth. If you caught a rock bass, then you caught a rock bass. Don’t call it a bass. It’s only a bass of sorts, in the way that a Redfish is really just a freshwater drum which is really just a carp. Don’t church up a rock bass by calling it a bass. It’s a rock bass, nothing more, nothing less.

The little white plastic or wood or foam thing that floats out in front of your house beyond your pier isn’t called a can. It isn’t called a mooring ball. It isn’t called anything except what it is: A buoy.  I’ve heard all sorts of other abuses, but this white bobber that you tether a boat to is called buoy. It’s a buoy now and it’s a buoy later. It’ll always be a buoy. Please don’t call it by any other name, and if you have one, don’t you dare tie a pontoon boat to it.

The Shore Path has received much attention this spring, mostly due to the absurd Muck Suck race that was supposed to be held this coming weekend. In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the race was canceled as a result of a significant push back from the lakefront owners. The shore path, as it is, is a lake path, but it should never be called that. Your great Aunt’s name is Edna, but you don’t call her Edna, you call her Auntie Edna. Show a little respect and call the lake path what it is: The Shore Path.

If you invite me over to your house this summer and you send me a text like this, “David, stop on over. I’ll be in the backyard on the lake path trimming some weeds that have grown too close to the dock”, just know that I won’t be coming over.