I Get To Fish Here
The Salmon Cometh?
I get to fish here! That thought came to me as I was fingering the control of my electric trolling motor preparing to arc yet another cast towards a limestone rubble shoreline. Over my shoulder a verdant bluff of the Niagara Escarpment towered above me. It was a glorious early summer day. The patchy blue sky was mirrored in the silvery water of the upper Green Bay. After several rather overcast and rainy days, summer had finally blossomed just ahead of the Summer Solstice. Following several less than successful outings searching for salmon on the lakeside, I decided that I needed to again feel the tug of an actual fish at the end of my line. Smallmouth bass seldom disappoint, particularly at this time of year. A long cast with a searching crank bait followed by a slow retrieve just below the surface soon produced a strike. It was a solid hit. I could see it was a small bass, but little smallies don't know they are little. They slam the lure and battle with a ferocity that belies their diminutive size. I soon was lifting an 11-inch bass, no net required, into the boat. The next few hours produced several dozen hits and brought twenty bass to the boat. Nearly all were small, footers mostly, with a couple 17-inchers scattered in. This is exactly what my lagging sprit craved after the long hours out on Lake Michigan endlessly waiting for downrigger rods and planer boards to elicit a cry of "fish on". Sometimes I just need to catch a fish.
It is fishing after all and the purpose ostensibly is to catch fish. That said, I have to say that the majority of pleasures I derive from the pursuit of angling do not involve actually catching a fish. It is the process I love. I enjoy gathering the tackle, arriving at the landing, launching the boat and moving expectantly out on to the water. I love being on the water. Some of my most wonderful and astonishing encounters have occurred while fishing. The bald eagle snatching a fish from the water yards away, the loon flying beneath water surface of the water just below my feet, the pod of dolphins surrounding my kayak, the unseen beaver noisily slapping its tail and causing me to jump out my skin. Could I have had these experiences without having a rod in my hand? Perhaps. However, my pursuit of fish has placed me in the right places at the right times to have such experiences more often than I can relate. It has also guided me to some of the most beautiful settings in the world. A wilderness lake in northern Ontario, a sparkling mountain stream in western Montana, a steaming river in Uganda, the white expanse of a frozen lake in Wisconsin or, as now, under the rocky crags of a dolomite cuesta festooned with shrubs clinging precariously from the vertical surfaces and capped with second-growth woodland.
And I get to fish here. Not just for a day or even during a week’s annual vacation. I get to fish in Door County all year round and that still seems not enough. Sometimes expecting to catch fish while enjoying all of the other pleasures of angling just appears greedy. I like to catch fish. I like to catch lots of fish. I like to catch big fish. But mostly, I just like to fish.
The bass continue to be active, to varying degrees, all around the county. The water is warming although still cooler than it should be by this time of year. I found water in the mid-60s on the bayside, but the waters on the lakeside are still struggling to get out of the fifty's. Guarding male smallmouth can be found on spawning beds, but schools of smaller males are showing up to provide a lot of action. Larger fish are feeding off the shallow breaks. You may even encounter a school of feisty rock bass or the occasional northern pike. I have continued to have success with small goby-like tube jigs but have also been using Ned-rigged plastic worms. Flat Raps and X-Raps have been useful to find active fish.
The trout and salmon bite on the lakeside is showing signs of life. I have heard reports of boats coming in with Chinook, but these reports have been spotty. The charter boats out of the marina have had moderate success on salmon and rainbows. Paul and I spent a couple of evenings trolling off of Baileys Harbor. The sunsets were nice. We did manage to boat a smallish rainbow that became part of a delicious poke hors d'oeuvre as a prelude to deep fried whitefish dinner. We are still waiting for first salmon of the year. With the warming of the lake, the development of a stable thermocline and lots of baitfish in the area, it should be only a matter of time. Maybe this weekend. Until I hear a screaming reel indicating a big King salmon run, I will enjoy the process, the experience and never forget how lucky I am that I get to fish here.
Tight Lines, Bruce
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