A Door County Double Dip
The First Salmon of the Season
I love the opportunity to fish in waters of Door County on a regular basis. Yesterday was a great example of why. In the morning I spent a few hours fishing smallmouth bass under towering Eagle Bluff on the bayside. The afternoon found me on the vast expanse of the big lake in pursuit of salmonoids. Different settings, different tackle, different techniques, still some good fishing. A Door County double-dip.
I put my boat in at the excellent landing in Peninsula State Park. Lots of kids and families were fishing off the rock jetty adjacent to the boat launch. Every time I fish this area, I never fail to appreciate the beautiful setting. The tree covered bluffs of the Niagara Escarpment provide a dramatic backdrop for each cast. The water temperatures on the bay are warming up (mid-60s), but the foggy morning and rain the night before had cooled things down a bit. I took my first cast just before 9AM. Using mostly small crank baits and drop-shot rigs, I boated and released several nice smallies (and missed a few) including a fat 17"er. I saw many fish on the beds, but with the recent fishing pressure, they were pretty skittish. After about two very pleasant hours, I returned to the park landing, trailered up and headed home for an early lunch.
Paul and I had planned to fish in the afternoon but a stubborn fog put the trip in jeopardy until late in the afternoon when it finally burned off. This was our second time on the lake this week. The earlier foray produced five rainbow trout or "steelhead" including a 31", 11 pound beauty. We also lost three other fish including one on the downrigger that we were convinced was a Chinook salmon. We never got a look at the fish to confirm our hunch. I had to wait a little longer for my first salmon of the year. Not long, it turned out.
Two days later we were at it again. The wind had shifted to the southwest from the north wind earlier in the week. However, the surface temperatures were still in the low to mid 50s and we found the 45F water we wanted at a mere 40 feet down. The sonar screen showed numerous bait clouds and more the a few "hooks" in the top 35 feet. We fished mostly in 100-120FOW. Our first action came while Paul was still deploying one of the lines. A small rainbow hit an orange spoon before he could even connect the line to a planer board. This seemed a good sign for the nights' fishing. We boated two nice 29" steelhead (both on orange spoons and planer boards) before the night found us approaching the Cana Island Lighthouse with an orange sun nearing the horizon. Suddenly the bowed rod connected to one of the downrigger lines straightened up and started to throb. We were pretty sure a salmon had slammed our J-Plug. Sure enough, after a dogged battle with several wild runs, Paul slipped the net under my first Chinook of the summer season. It was a very husky 30", 12.5 pound fish. Later cleaning found about a half dozen small alewife in its belly. He had been feeding well.
So, the bottom line out of Baileys Harbor is that the steelhead bite is hot and the salmon are here and the action is picking up. Reports from other boats and anglers seem to confirm this. It should be a great weekend of fishing. Alas, I won't be able to get out there until Monday. However, after a weekend with my wonderful granddaughters, I will be ready to get back on the water.
Tight Lines, Bruce
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