Winter Fishing in Door County

It is December 12th and the winter season is nowhere to be found.  The temperatures in Northern Door County should be in the mid to high 20’s this time of year but our thermometer reads 43 degrees today.  Depending on the type of person you are, this is a blessing or a curse.  For the winter enthusiast, who enjoys skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing, this season has been a bust so far.  For those of you that like the cool weather ideal for hiking, jogging and golfing, November and December have been a great extension of the fall. 

I am having mixed feelings about this El Nino winter so far.  The amount of outdoor maintenance work I have been getting done around the campground has been great!  On the other hand, I want the cold and snow to come so I can enjoy the outdoor activities I love doing with my family and friends during the winter.

A couple days ago, as I drove back from the hardware store along the Sister Bay waterfront, I glanced out at the bay.  It’s beautiful blue color and slight chop was calling me.  I decided the maintenance projects could wait for another day.  I was going to get my wife, Kathy, and our dog and spend the afternoon on the water trying to catch some late season walleye...or whatever would bite.

I drove home and pulled the boat out of winter storage.  After about 30 minutes of searching, I located all of the necessary tackle and rods.  Kathy grabbed Whitney, our 3 ½ year old Brittany Spaniel, some freshly made Christmas goodies, and a few beverages.  We loaded up the boat and headed to the Ellison Bay launch.  Last year at this time the launch was covered with ice and looked breathtaking, but this year was a completely different story, it was wide open with no ice to be found.

We launched the boat and it seemed like we had the entire lake to ourselves.  The water was still fairly warm at 44 degrees.  With that temperature, I knew I wouldn’t be walking on the ice anytime soon.  As we cruised along, Whitney was snuggled in a blanket with Kathy.  The sun was out and the temperature hovered around 45 degrees but speeding along in the boat gave us a slight chill.

When we reached our destination I pulled out the trolling rods and got the gear in the water.  Whitney kept an eye on all of the rod and planer boards as we trolled along.  She would move from one side of the boat to the other waiting for something to happen.  The only thing that drew her away from her post was the sound of me opening the jar of homemade Chex Mix.  She desperately needed a pretzel to keep from starving and dropping dead right there in the boat!  But then one pretzel became several as she moved between Kathy and me…but dog owners know how that goes.

We trolled for about an hour without any bites.  It didn’t matter though, the lake was beautiful and you couldn’t have asked for a better day on the water…especially on December 8th!  I tried changing the baits, fishing a bit deeper and a bit shallower, but the fish just didn’t seem to be interested in biting. So instead we munched on our Christmas Chex Mix and had a few beverages as we trolled along and enjoyed the scenery.

After about 2 hours we finally had a bite!  The planer board jumped around in the water as the fish tugged back and the dog took notice.  She suddenly lost interest in our Chex Mix and excitedly watched the board.  Kathy grabbed the rod and fought the fish to the boat.  I was hoping it was going to be a brown trout for supper but it turned out to be a smallmouth bass.  We took a quick picture and released it.  It was the only fish we landed that day.  We stayed out just long enough to watch the sun set before picking up and heading back to Ellison Bay. 

I put the boat back in storage but left most of the fishing gear in it.  If this weather keeps up, I am sure I will get out again before the New Year.  And if winter does decide to show up in the next few weeks, not a problem!  The cross country skis, tip-ups and ice shelter are ready to go!