The Cold Truth About Fall Fishing
Lake Brown, Bay Bronze
Open water fishing in the late Fall/early Winter is a lot of work. Sometimes that work pays off, other times not so much. Lately our fishing results have not been commensurate with the effort. I know I won't get any sympathy from the guys aboard the Southwestern pulling nets for Baileys Harbor Fish Company. They are out on the lake trying to make a living. After all, I choose to be out there. This is what I do for fun.
Although, sometimes it does not feel like that much fun. First of all, you need a "weather window" (see previous blog), one that allows you to be out on the water for several hours. With water temperatures on the lakeside in the mid to lower 40's and air temperatures colder than that, those windows are getting fewer and fewer. Then you have to put on those many layers of clothing. Whether it's casting plugs or dragging boards, you end up feeling pretty limited in your movements. Once you get to the landing, you may face an additional challenge launching your boat. The docks at Bues Point, the BH marina as well as most other Door County landings have been puled for the season. So, boots or waders might come in handy. Most of the channel makers and buoys are gone too. This is where local knowledge comes in handy. I know where most of the rocks and low spots are because I have hit many of them in the past.
Despite all of this Paul and I still found ourselves on the water several times in the last couple of weeks. We trolled crank baits out of Baileys Harbor expecting to pick up a northern or two. The water was a little murky from the recent wind and the water temperature was as low as 41°F. Last year, when the water was a bit warmer in late November, we picked up a nice bass doing the same thing. About an hour after we got our lines set it was "fish on". A dogged tussle resulted in a fat 19" brown swimming in the livewell. Perfect eater. Things were looking up. Two more hours produced nothing, not even a hit. So, as the low Autumn sun crept towards the horizon masked by grey scudding clouds, we made our way back to the marina with that lone brown to show for the effort. Better then nothing, I suppose. Two more outings produced exactly that, squat!
Well, maybe the bayside would treat us better. Last time I was out there, the bass bite was hot. Last season at this time of year we could not keep the bass off our lures. We set out with our usual optimism (Anglers are nothing, if not optimists.). We were using a mast and ski trolling system. This allowed us to use lighter tackle than you can use with in-line planer boards. We figured this would make landing a nice smallie a little more sporting. It turned out to be good lesson in "be careful what you wish for". Once we got the skis in the water and all of the lines set, we waited for the fun to start. We had put in at the private landing at Gills Rock with not another angler or rig in sight. The water temperatures were a balmy 47°F so we expected the bass to still be active. We did not have to wait long for one of the clips to pop off the trolling line and a rod start throbbing. We had a nice bass jumping out of the water about 200 feet behind the boat. She had hit a #11 fire tiger Rapala in about 15FOW and was not all that pleased about it. It was quite a task to bring this fish to the net on a spinning rod with the boat moving forward. I admit I started to rethink the idea of using lighter tackle for trolling. My arms were a little tired by the time we landed the plump 19" smallie. We estimated it to be about 4 pounds. After pictures and a clean release, we continued trolling with expectations high. Two more hours of dragging lures brought two small bass and nothing else except cold hands and dampened enthusiasm. Why are we out here? Remind me. Oh yea, to have fun.
As Paul and I were driving back to town, commiserating about out recent lack of success, we noted that the weekend weather looked pretty nasty. Maybe this was our last outing of the year. It might be time to start thinking about winterizing the Pamela Ann and put the trolling rods back in the rack for the winter. Then again maybe, just maybe, there will be one more window left in the season. We still might have an opportunity for more fun on the water.
Tight Lines, Bruce
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