Back In The Saddle Again
The Brown Trout Are Hitting
Finally!! I am back plying the waters of Lake Michigan off the beautiful shorelines of Door County in pursuit of piscatorial prey. I pulled the Pamela Ann out after my last soft water outing in late November. After the long winter months sitting sadly in the garage, she got her bow wet again this week. In the interim I had to placate my fishing addiction by drilling holes and putting some nice whities on the ice. I also took a couple of forays to warm water locations including Arizona (the details of which were described in a previous blog) and most recently two weeks in Florida. Now while I have to admit fishing in the winter months without having to spend an hour pulling on umpteen layers of clothing does have its appeal. Standing knee deep in my swim trunks on a sunny beach casting into the surf or paddling my kayak amidst swimming dolphins are indeed pleasant diversions. But seriously, it just is not the fishing I grew up with. It is not in my blood. In Florida, they consider 60°F water temperatures "cold water". We won't have water that warm for a couple of months yet. When fishing the flats for redfish, a 5-foot depression between the oyster beds is considered a "deep hole". And the water tastes all salty. It just ain't natural.
Nope, give me the chance to get out on a clear, cold Great Lake in pursuit of early season browns. I get that. At this time of year 39°F water is a "warm patch" and anything less then 50-feet is shallow water fishing. I can relate to that.
I launched the boat for the first time of the season at the Baileys Harbor Marina Monday about 10AM. I had seen a few boats fishing last week and talked to several anglers who reported fish being caught. The docks are not in yet, but once launched you can tie up at the pier. The entrance to the marina is shallow, as they have not yet started dredging operations, but I had no problem getting out. I would suggest using your trolling motor to get past the shallow area or at least trimming your motor up quite a bit. If you go slow and look for the deeper channel, it's fine. Keep an eye out for cables and hoses once the dredging of the marina basin starts which should be soon.
Once I got out on the lake I headed south toward Jacksonport. There was only a modest southeast wind, but some big rollers made it a rough run. The water temperatures were in the 33-35°F range and the inshore water was a little milky. I set up three rods with various colors and sizes of stick baits. I wanted to troll fairly shallow, less then 10-feet, but the surf pounding onto the rocky shoreline made me a little nervous about getting too close, particularly since I was navigating solo. I ended up with the boat in about 15FOW and a board running about 100 feet toward shore. Wind to my back, I comfortably settled into my seat in anticipation of the first lakeside action of the year. After about 45 minutes of bouncing around in the rollers, the inside board shot backward and the reel started to sing. "Fish On!" I have discussed previously the challenges of landing a big fish alone. Simultaneously maintaining the boat heading, removing the planer board, retrieving and netting the fish all while trying to avoid fouling in the other lines takes a lot of patience and no small amount of luck. The leaping of the boat in the rollers did not make the task any easier. It was with much satisfaction and exhaustion that I slipped the net under the first brown of the year and hefted her onto the floor of the Pamela Ann. There lay a 32 inch, 12 pound beauty glowing with golden black bespeckled sides. It turned out to be a spawned out female. Nice start.
After depositing the fish into the live well and cleaning up the havoc she had caused, I reset my lines and went back to work. Soon enough one of the straight-line rods started to pound and the battle with a nice fish was enjoined. Another long, stubborn struggle resulted in a second brown in the box. It measured out at 27 inches and 10 pounds. I set my lines again and hooked one more smaller fish that I released. By this time the cold water and the rocking boat were starting to take their toll on this old body so I decided to head in. No need to kill yourself. I'll be back out here soon enough. That is one of the advantages of living so close to this great fishery. There is always another day.
Hopefully the weather and the fishing will only get better. The 30th Annual Baileys Harbor Brown Trout Tournament will take place on April 19-22nd. Check out the Tournament Facebook page. There are some new registration points this year and the tournament should be bigger and better than ever. If my usual pattern holds, I'll catch some nice browns until the tournament starts, then it all goes to heck. Perhaps it won't happen this year. Perhaps this year Paul and I will make Team NorDoor Floor proud and put some nice ones on the board. Who knows, maybe we will win it all. All I know for sure is that if we don't go, we won't catch 'em. See you on the water.
Tight Lines, Bruce
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