Spring Fishing
from the Marina

Spring Fishing from the Marina

As we sat around the breakfast table eating Cheerios, my little nephew, Christopher, had a disappointed look on his face. For the last month all he would talk about on the phone was going out in the boat fishing on the “big water,” as he called it. My brother and his family, visiting from Wausau, were hoping to get out salmon fishing but it was way too windy.   Getting everyone sea sick would not make me the favorite uncle anymore so I had to come up with a plan B to keep everyone happy.

I floated the ideas of going to the beach at Newport State Park, visiting the Door County Maritime Museum in Gills Rock and going mini golfing, but to a 5 year old whose heart was set on fishing on Lake Michigan, none of those ideas sounded appealing at the time. Finally, my brother, hoping for a compromise from his son, suggested we just fish off a dock like they do when visiting my parents in Northern Wisconsin. I explained that due to the large waves that pound the shorelines we don’t have docks like that on Lake Michigan but we do have marinas and break walls where we can fish.   So that became the plan for the day and breakfast ended on a slightly better note than it started.

I gathered a few rods, the tackle box, and a container of night crawlers. A few beverages and snacks were also packed in a small cooler. Keeping a 5 year old occupied between bites can be challenging sometimes! Christopher also brought his Spiderman pole and as we were loading everything up he explained to me how he always catches fish with it off grandpa’s and grandma’s dock in Northern Wisconsin. He thought it would work well here too.

We headed into Sister Bay and set up on the break wall of the town marina. There were a good number of people walking around enjoying the view of the bay with their morning cups of coffee.   A few other fishermen were trying their luck also, and we found a spot and got set up. The marina was protected from the strong south winds and we were able to sit on the rocks near the water’s edge without getting splashed by the waves.

We rigged the rods and the Spiderman pole with bobbers and used the night crawlers as bait. My brother helped Christopher cast it out as far from the break wall as he could but before he could hand the pole back to Christopher, the bobber started to bounce.   Christopher grabbed the pole and started to reel. At the end of his line was a big, fat goby. Neither of them had ever seen one before so I explained that they were invasive species that were brought in by accident on shipping vessels and that they didn’t belong in the lake. When they asked what they should do with it, I suggested feeding the seagulls.

For the next half hour all we caught were gobies and the gulls were getting fat. There were 3 or 4 of them that would sit and wait for us to throw a goby on the walkway. Then they would run over and try to snatch it up before the others could get it. Christopher had as much fun feeding the gulls as he did pulling in the gobies. He looked much happier than he did at the breakfast table that morning.

Suddenly, the bobber on the Spiderman pole went down fast. Expecting another goby Christopher started reeling it in, but this time something started pulling back hard. The drag on the reel started going out and he was doing all he could to hang on to the three foot plastic rod. He was trying to crank but more line was going out than was coming in. My brother and I knew it wasn’t a goby this time. Our thoughts were confirmed when a smallmouth bass broke the surface of the water trying to shake the hook.

Hoping the Spiderman pole, reel or line wouldn’t break, we coached him for the next 5 minutes as he battled the fish. Of course we didn’t bring a landing net so as the bass tired out Christopher had to reel it right up to the rocks before we could attempt to land it. I got down as close to the water as I could and was able to grab the fish by the mouth as he reeled it in. As I stood up with the fish to turn around I promptly slipped on the wet rocks and got wet up to my knees, but held onto the fish!

Christopher was all smiles as we unhooked the 18-inch smallmouth bass. It was one of the biggest fish he had caught so my brother took a couple pictures of it. Neither my brother nor I wanted to keep the fish so we explained to Christopher why we should let it go. We told him since we didn’t want to eat it, we should let it go so it could get bigger and be around for him to catch again next time he comes to visit us in Door County. He liked the idea, so we made our way back down the rocks to the water and released the bass. After a few seconds it swam off.

We fished for another half hour and caught several more gobies and another smaller bass. The day was getting warmer and the 5 year old’s mind began to think the beach wasn’t such a bad idea either. We packed up our gear and dropped it off at the truck. Before heading back to the campground to get ready for the beach, we walked to the ice cream store just down road from the marina for a Death’s Door Chocolate cone. I wish all of my fishing trips could end like that!