I had high hopes for the NWT Sturgeon Bay tournament. I was fishing alone and with the tournament boundaries stretching from the southern end of Door County all the way to Death's Door on the northern tip. That meant I had to cover a lot of water as efficiently as possible. My plan was to stay north and hope the fish had migrated to their late summer home.
The final day of the AIM tournament was underway out of Oconto. Despite the forecast for 3-5 ft. waves with some to 8 ft. I decided to go north and stay out of the way of the AIM anglers. This turned out to be a mistake as I did not get much accomplished. I marked a lot of bait and some fish but did not catch a fish.
Because I wasn't on a team it was really important that I had someone with me so I could get more lines out which allowed me to experiment with colors, depths, presentations etc. I had a friend of mine from Madison, Scott, with me on Saturday and Sunday and on Sunday we added the son of a co-worker of Scott's. Richard will be a freshman at UW Superior where he says he is majoring in Walleyes and Whitetails. We put Richard through Walleyes 101 on the bay.
We went south and found plenty of drum but no walleyes. Part of majoring in Walleyes is dealing with sheepshead so we made Richard reel in everyone! He didn't seem to mind but we need to find walleye's. After a few stops we started marking fish and caught one 18" walleye. We set up a little deeper and then it was on.
We were pulling crawler harnesses and were able to identify colors with the biggest fish coming on a certain depth. The depth we targeted was just above the fish we were marking. Although the other baits did catch fish I felt like I was honing in on a pattern.
Our best 5 were all over 27" with the exception of one 26-1/2. I have fished this area before and fishing can seem so easy and the next day is another story so I hoped to find something up north but at least I had a spot with big fish. I slept pretty good Sunday night.
I fished with an old co-worker of mine and we went north. I was surprised to find water temp in the low 70's. Due to changing winds temperatures in the southern bay were all over the place, when we found the warmer water we found the walleyes.
The wind was perfect as I checked areas I caught fish last Labor Day weekend. There is a ton of structure and I covered as much as I could. I did mark a fair amount of bait and a few fish but nothing like I did down south. We lost 2 fish that I think were nice walleyes but the rest were sheepshead. I decided to spend the afternoon between Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor with nothing to show for the effort. In retrospect I wish I would have stayed north of Egg Harbor.
A small craft advisory was issued for the bay. Winds were out of the NW at 20-30 MPH with gusts higher. I wasn't going to fish but the thought of sitting around the hotel all day got the best of me. I only fished from 9 to 2 and I was happy I had one fish on. I never felt unsafe, thanks to my Lund but the conditions were not the best. I didn't accomplish anything fishing wise but it beat sitting around the hotel.
I wanted to fish north so bad but I chickened out. I wasn't confident that I could put something together up north especially when the fishing was so easy on Sunday. I decided to go all in on the south bite and would spend the next two days trying to hone in the pattern.
One of my favorite things about fishing tournaments is you get to meet some great people. I shared the boat with one of my co-anglers from last year, Sargeant Richard Wright who serves in the National Guard. Rich is character and we have a similar sense of humor. It also helps he brings beef jerky!
We tried a couple of different spots but the water temps were colder than I liked. I headed over to where I was on Sunday and there was nothing there. Just like years past these fish move. There is no structure and the fish roam around chasing bait fish. Once you found the bait you would see the walleyes with them. In some cases you could see where the walleyes were feeding as the bait fish were scattered instead of in a ball. When we found that we usually hooked up.
Just like Sunday, once we found them the bite was awesome. We had a double of 28's and just after taking a picture we had another one on of that size or slightly bigger that got off. I made Sargeant Rich drop and give me 20 for dumping that one. You hate to lose a fish like that but we knew what was there and we were happy!
Even better we were catching are fish quite a ways from other boats. I don't like fishing in big groups and it is always my goal is to find fish away from the crowds. Normally I don't net fish during pre-fishing if I can help it but because we were fishing away from everyone I was able to put the Frabill to use!
I fished the last day of pre-fishing with Rich and Mark Michael, the owner of EZEE Steps. We only had until 2 O'clock so my goal was to hone the pattern and get ready for Friday. We went where the fish were on Sunday, nothing. Next we went where Rich and I got into them, we marked fish but not like the day before. We caught a 28" and a 25" when we moved shallower but I was getting nervous.
I decided to move to another area. About two miles later I was going about 30 MPH when I noticed a couple of blips on my locator. I slowed down and noticed there were quite a few marks and some bait fish. We set up and made a pass. We caught one big catfish and a drum but I knew there were walleyes in there. We made another pass and we caught two good walleyes. That made me feel better for the tournament. It was clear that fish were moving and all I had to do was spend the time to find them on the electronics and go from there.
I will post the tournament re-cap later in the week. Thanks for reading!