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Steve Meurett/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

Northfork Sportfishing Charters LLC:

For more on Northfork Sportfishing Charters LLC visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northfork-Sportfishing-Charters-LLC/278145365672911.

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Each spring, anglers get the itch to head out to the waters, myself included. I'm not as diehard as a few of my friends and my grandfathers. They lived and breathed fishing. I'm just lucky enough to have a good friend (also fish crazy), that happens to own a charter boat.

While the fishing opener in Wisconsin can resemble a NASCAR starting line on inland lakes and streams, the big water of Lake Michigan takes her time offering up scales and fins and, depending on the species, gives fishermen a mix of opportunities to wet a line. Steelhead begin their runs up tributaries first, browns can be caught near shore off of piers and my favorite, Cohos, (smaller and tastier cousin to the big Chinook salmon) start moving up the lake as water temps rise.

Kris Davis, from Loganville Wisconsin, is the buddy I want to be closest too this time of year when the fish start hitting on the great lakes. He's one of those fishing nuts. He's much more content on the lake in his boat 'Corkscrew' then on land. His back story on big water fishing began in cold lake Superior catching lake trout, salmon and anything else he could from a smallish boat. It was his calling. A quick progression of larger boats and a change of venue to Lake Michigan have spurred his love of the sport. He enjoys 'hunting' for fish and his love for the activity continued to grow.

This year he decided to jump into the sport fishing business.

Northfork Sport Fishing LLC was born this year after Kris acquired a 1993 Luhrs Tournament Open, a beautiful 32 foot boat perfect for Lake Michigan fishing. He purchased it this past fall and motored it over from Michigan to it's new home in Kenosha.

Although he's spent a lot of time pulling salmon in from Door and Kewaunee counties, he decided to make Wisconsin's southernmost harbor his port of call.

Kenosha has the longest season, with waters warming earlier (May) and fish still being caught late into October. For Kris, this was a perfect location to start his endeavor. No one gets rich in the charter fishing business, but in Kris' mind, as long as he out on the water, he might as well take some folks along. I've noticed for him the joy is more in figuring the fish out-what they're biting, where they are, the correct presentations and techniques than reeling them in himself. He takes particular pleasure in putting other people on fish. That's success in his boat and a good business model for a charter captain.

Kris invited me for a shake down cruise. This is basically getting everything from gear to boat dialed in prior to his paying clients arriving. I brought an equally fish crazy friend of mine, John Merrick from West Allis along for his first taste of Coho fishing. To say he was excited was an understatement. Some of Kris' family had the fish warmed up the previous day and located the best spots to troll. Although it would involve a cruise up the lake to Racine, those few miles were worth it, as fishermen go where the fish go!

More on fishing: Fishing news from around the state | Your fishing photos | Build a map | Read fishing reports

After seemingly weeks of straight rain, it was a welcome sight to have clearing skys and just a light chop on the water. Normally, I'd fished on his boat in deep off shore waters, but the cohos this day decided to stay in close. Water temps were still cold at the plus side of 45 degrees.

In under 20 feet of water, we had a lot of gear down and spread out in hopes of inciting some action. It didn't take long-soon we had 'bonus fish' as Kris called them (some on the line before we reached the hot spot). It's always a good sign to get a couple in the cooler before all the lines are set.

A combination of planer boards, dipsy divers and downriggers were used to to cover as much water as possible. Subtle speed adjustments, accounting to underwater currents, were monitored closely along with water temperature changes as we trolled up and down the lake in a pattern of ovals. It seemed we'd pick up one or two fish on each pass, sometimes with multiples on at the same time. It was pretty exciting and chaotic with flopping salmon, nets and us dancing around the stern.

Even though we had six fishermen (and fishergirl and first mate Megan, Kris' daughter) on board, we had plenty of room and everyone helped. There is a lot to do landing fish and getting gear back out. Since I don't get out that often, it took me a while to re-learn setting planer boards and lines and amazing the others at my netting technique (what, fish get scooped into the top of the net?). Friend John was loving every minute and we both remarked multiple times that being on the boat pulling in silvery Cohos sure beat working!

With just a half day in, we had more than enough fish in the cooler and a bit weaker forearms from reeling. Some of us had long drives back, so we decided to head in, and start cleaning fish at the marina. The deep red filets would make delicious table fair. Some obligatory photos were snapped under the NorthFork trophy board hanging with our catch-the first time for Kris' charter business-and no doubt many more will follow.

As good as the fishing was, meeting and fishing with some great guys was as enjoyable. There are always hearty laughs at each others expense on trips like this.

While other anglers worked inland lakes and streams, perhaps crowded with opening day enthusiasts, we had enjoyed a beautiful Wisconsin day on aqua colored water with plenty of breathing room. The boat was perfect and having a smart captain in Kris, nearly guaranteed us fish. Even with fewer filets in the cooler, we'd still have had a successful day.

Nothing quite beats wetting lines on the big water.

Read more posts from Steve Meurett.

Steve Meurett lives, works and plays in West Central Wisconsin and spends about every free moment outdoors where his passions lie. His outdoor interests take him on and off trail, pursuing mountain biking and skinny skiing, photography and hunting, while keeping an eye on wild mushrooms and the next fruit for craft wine. Steve is the Trail Director at The Levis Mound Trail System and member of the Clark County Trails Advisory Committee. He resides, teaches and is a photographer in Neillsville. Steve can be reached at steve@meurett.com.

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