One Last Outing Before The End
Hard Water Soon!

Harbor Angler Report, December 6th Photo

It is sad. I don’t mean S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), although that may be part of my problem this time of year. The sun seems like a distant memory lately. No, what is sad is that I have very reluctantly come to the inevitable realization that the open water fishing season in Door County has come to an end. Maybe it was the foot of wet, heavy snow I had to remove from my driveway, not to mention the fallen tree. Or maybe the layer of ice in the marinas and on Kangaroo Lake. Perhaps the last straw was the forecast for temperatures in the single digits next week. I waited as long as I could for one more not-horrible day. That’s really all you can really hope for this time of year, a “not-horrible” day with maybe a little sun, temperatures near freezing but not much below and calm winds. Those days can be scarce in the early winter. I texted back and forth with fishing buddies asking, “What do you think, can we get out?” The answer usually came back, “Well, maybe tomorrow.”  No more tomorrows this season. I drained the lower units on the outboards, sprayed fogging oil in the cylinders, greased up the bearings and soon the Maggie Leigh will be up on blocks for the season. However, she has one more ceremonial duty to perform before she slips into hibernation for the winter. The Maggie Leigh will be taking part in the Baileys Harbor Community Association’s Annual Holiday Light Parade Saturday, December 7th. She will be decked out with lights and decorations for the parade down Highway 57. The parade begins at 5PM. Following the parade, The Maggie Leigh will be destined for a few months in the garage waiting for that first open water in the Spring.

We did end the open water season with a flurry, however. Our two final outings produced some nice brown trout as we targeted the fish beginning to come into the shallows for the annual spawning activity. Brown trout in Lake Michigan spawn from October to December, but some fish start showing up as early as September. They typically seek our rocky and rubble-filled areas along the shore, but some will make their way into tributary streams. Browns can be spotted during late fall and winter in the area streams including Heins, Hibbard and Rieboldt Creeks. The brown trout populations in Lake Michigan and Green Bay are maintained by annual stocking by the Wisconsin DNR as browns seldom spawn successfully in the lake.  Fortunately for anglers, the trout don’t know if they will spawn successfully or not.  They still go through the motions. This makes them convenient targets for anglers from fall through the spring. The fish will stick around in the shallow areas after the spawn as long as temperatures are tolerable and there is food around. Browns can be caught through the ice all winter and in the early Spring, one of the best times to target browns. Just in time for the Annual Baileys Harbor Brown Trout Tournament, this year coming up April 23-26th.

The late fall bite can be very good, as Paul and I found out the days before Thanksgiving. Bundled up against the chilly temperatures, we slipped the Maggie Leigh into water on the Bayside hovering around 40°F. We set out lines off planer boards with the usual array of stick baits and crank baits. We have found the darker and more natural colors, purple and silver, seem to be more effective in the clear, cold waters. We fished each day in the afternoon, three hours before the early sunset. The action was not fast, but the ice-shrouded shorelines off the northern Door make for a dramatic backdrop for a day of fishing. There is the potential, as well, of landing a trophy fish like the twenty-one-and-a-half-pound monster we boated the week before. On these final two days we fished, we boated three nice fish including an egg-packed 18 pound female and a couple of dark colored males weighing in at about 15 and 7 pounds. The males can be easily identified by the prominent hooked jaw or kype they develop during the spawning period. Although, there is no guarantee that these fish will actual spawn, Paul and I decided to release the female fish with eggs as well as the larger male. Those are the types of genetics that you want to keep in the lake and the chances of them spawning is pretty close to zero in the freezer. We did keep the smaller male to provide a nice fresh trout dinner for each of us.

So, that was a nice, but always premature end to the open water season for me. The winter does give me time to fix a lot of broken tackle and organize gear and tackle boxes. I can also take stock of the lures I lost during the season and start to resupply for the spring.

And hard water is not that far away. Although it may not be until after the New Year when the surface of Green Bay will be safe enough to travel on, with the cold snap forecast for next week, the north end of Kangaroo Lake might be ready for some early season action. I can also travel to central and northern Wisconsin in search of fishable ice. I had better start hauling out the ice fishing gear. I think it’s piled under the downriggers.

I hope to see many of you at the parade Saturday. Also, don’t forget to about the Annual Fishmas Tree in front of the Baileys Harbor Marina (see the post from November 30th for details). Your additions to the tree will be very welcome. Merry Fishmas to all and to all a good night.


So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Bruce

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