Not every angler is a fan of fishing tournaments, but that doesn’t reduce their economic impact to an area.
Two bass contests today, a national walleye event tomorrow and the Midwest’s largest bass fishing tournament next Friday and Saturday translate into a much-needed boost to the county coffers.
Veteran anglers from all over the U.S. and Canada are already in the area to pre-fish for the 24th annual Sturgeon Bay Open, which gets underway Friday.
There are two events today, one a Sturgeon Bay Sport Fishing Association bass invitational for Door County teams and the other a Cabela’s North American Bass Circuit event headquartered on Little Sturgeon Bay.
On Sunday, Anglers Insight Marketing is holding a 100-boat Weekend Walleye Series at Green Bay. While most of the anglers will likely fish the lower bay, where the action has been terrific all week, some might opt to take a crack at some of the Door reef giants.
Next weekend, 154 two-person teams (signed up through May 5) will be trying for their share of the $100,000 prize pot in the Sturgeon Bay Open.
Last year’s winners averaged nearly 5.6 pounds per bass, smashing the all-time record. Three bass larger than seven pounds were put to scale, including a tournament-record 8.45-pounder — not much more than a half-pound shy of a 63-year-old state record.
For the second straight year, water temperatures are unusually cold, ranging from the upper 30s to low 40s off northern Door to the mid- to upper 40s in some of the shallower bays and harbors.
Under similar cold-water conditions last year, a North American Bass Circuit record five-bass weight was set at Sturgeon Bay with an average of better than 5½ pounds, including a six-pound, 15-ounce giant.
Most bass anglers are looking for the warmest water they can find while slowly dragging tube jigs and other plastics. Jerk baits and slow-worked Alabama (umbrella) rigs will be used by more anglers as water temperatures climb.
Meanwhile, some Sturgeon Bay to Little Sturgeon Bay walleyes are being caught jigging or casting from boat or shore, but many fishermen are covering water with planer boards ahead of stickbaits or spinner and live bait rigs.
Some brown and lake trout continue to be caught along the Lake Michigan shoreline, and a few trollers are getting after trout on the bay off northern Door County as well.
Northern pike are on the feed after spawning, and they’ve been hitting spoons, spinners and slip-bobbered live bait in some of the bays and harbors. Perch and muskie seasons are still closed, as is bass fishing within one-quarter mile of all islands in the Town of Washington Island. Bass fishing is catch-and-release only in the Mink River.
Finally, suckers and steelhead are wrapping up their spring spawn in lakeshore tributaries.
Could fishing become the next “in” high school sport? It’s gaining some traction throughout the state, and this year’s Wisconsin High School Fishing Championship is set for May 18 on the Mississippi River at LaCrosse.
The two-person teams and their “coach” — the person providing the boat they compete in — have a chance at more than just bragging rights: top teams can fish a national championship, with the top prize a $5,000 college scholarship.
Learn more by calling Mark at (580) 716-4251 or visiting bassfederation.com.
Three full periods and three days of the fourth seven-day spring hunt are down, with success rates up significantly over last year despite the severe winter weather.
Statewide, more than 30,000 bearded birds have already been reported, a 30 percent or so increase over last year at this time. Close to 7,000 turkeys have been taken in Zone 2.
A lot of hunters have been seeing fewer young birds and hens, but plenty of toms. Some report finding carcasses of what appear to be younger birds, or hens, that died over winter.
Grants of up to $5,000 are available to citizen-based monitoring groups for participation in high priority projects, including monitoring of aquatic and terrestrial species.
Proposals are due by May 30. Learn more at wiatri.net/cbm/Partnership.
• Peninsula State Park is one of five in the State Park System that’ll be running a pilot program allowing customers to make next-day campsite reservations beginning May 12. Learn more at wisconsinstateparks.reserveamerica.com.
• The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Directory has been updated with the latest county contacts. Find it at datcp.wi.gov.
— Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.