Peck: Grab all rods, head to Sturgeon Bay
Special to The Gazette
Forget that “You should have been here last week” stuff. Hook up the boat NOW and head for Sturgeon Bay. Bring every fishing rod and hook you own—even though the easiest action right now is for world-class smallmouth bass on the spawning beds.
I spent several days working out of the base of “Wisconsin’s thumb” late last week, chasing bronze-backed bass in the Sturgeon Bay ship canal and other well-known venues like Sawyer harbor, Sand Bay and Little Sturgeon Bay.
Action was continuous and pretty much sure thing, sight fishing these scrappy gamefish with goby pattern Venom tube jigs with my old pal Gary Nault. Several larger bass found the hook a little farther up the Door County peninsula in Rowley’s Bay with guide Lynn Niklasch.
We caught several fish in the 20-inch class at both locations. But the reason you need to vector northeast TODAY is the really big bass were just beginning to move in to the spawning areas.
Decades ago I learned the wisdom of bringing all the fishing gear you own when heading to Sturgeon Bay. To my mind, there is no better multi-species fishing venue in the state when based out of this small city of 9,000 at the south end of Door County.
Even though it was clear the focus of this most recent road trip would be chasing the too-easy smallmouth bass, there was some steelhead and walleye gear in my Lund.
Cookie-cutter 19- to 21-inch walleyes are easy to catch now just 30 minutes south, pulling Salmo Hornets and Scatter Raps behind planer boards on several reefs around Green Bay—most notably Volk’s Reef.
With the same planer board technology and “flamethrower” trolling spoons there is an excellent chance of tying into several quality rainbow trout if the winds are blowing light out of the West, especially during periods of low light—including overcast days—setting lines the moment you leave the ship canal and enter Lake Michigan.
Wind is always a factor when fishing out of Sturgeon Bay. There are times when it is blowing so hard the only good option is doing the “tourist thing,” shuffling through the countless little specialty shops and boutiques in chic little towns in northern Door County.
This is why there are always a couple perch rods in the boat on a road trip to Sturgeon Bay. Even though perch action doesn’t get good along the weed edges of the ship canal until arrival of high summer, pretending to fish is better than shuffling through some over-priced yuppie magnet with an enticing candle scent in the air.
Now that we’ve settled into summer weather patterns, winds are usually mellow enough to get out on Lake Michigan or Green Bay or the ship canal, depending on velocity and wind direction.
Surrounded with more options than a blind dog in a meat market, you would think that following the strongest fish scent would be a short path to peace and happiness. It would have been, had I remembered to take my own advice and pack every fishing rod in the arsenal.
Bringing the muskie gear didn’t even cross my mind, until my wife called me to the balcony of our suite at the Snug Harbor Inn to join her for a nice glass of wine after a hard day on the water.
She thought I would be happy to see the “great big fish” cruising just out from the dock in the gin-clear water right in front of our luxurious, but affordable, digs.
The muskie was at least 50 inches long, and very fat. I’m guessing well over 30 pounds. If I had just remembered to bring a muskie rod, a double Cowgirl and a Top Raider this column would have meandered down an entirely different trail.
Sure, the muskie was “sunning” and not likely to bite. But there are 24 hours in every day and a fish has gotta eat sometime. The best option in the boat was a #5 Mepps double-blade Aglia.
The behemoth muskie followed this lure twice in about 400 casts over three days, actually bumping the bait.
Since returning home, my obsession with this fish has gone pretty much full-blown Ahab—plotting a quick return to Sturgeon Bay in pursuit of Moby Esox. My wife will stay home. She has seen that look in my eye too many times.
Ishmael, get the net! She’s a big-un!
Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.