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Dick Ellis Blog:
3/25/2024
DICK ELLIS Click here for full PDF Version from the March/April Issue. Seeking Wolf PhotosOWO’s informal census continuesOn Wisconsin Outdoors’ informal wolf census continues. Please send your trail cam photos of wolves in Wisconsin to: wolves@onwisconsinoutdoors.com. List the county where the photos were taken, the date, and verify the number of wolves visible in each photo. Your name will not be published. OWO publishers do not b...
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Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

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Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

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OWO and Kwik Trip

OWO and Kwik Trip

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Bob's Bear Bait

OWO and Kwik Trip

OWO and Kwik Trip

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OWO and Kwik Trip

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LATE SUMMER HAS GREAT FISHING ON LAKE MICHIGAN

     The drag was screaming. “There’s a fish,” Captain Scott yelled. The cabin and deck exploded in action as John lurched across the deck, the boat rocking back and forth as four-foot rollers slammed into the boat. Dave, the First Mate, pulled the rod out of the holder, handing it to John as he planted his legs into the side of boat for stability.

     The trolling rod was doubled over, plunging as a fish tore off, drag still screeching, giving out line. “It’s a big fish,” Dave shouted out. John finally stopped the fish, cranking furiously on the reel but got back only a bit of line before the fish raced off again, burning off more line.  

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Old Sheboygan with commerical fishing as seen in the boat to the rear has been replaced by sport fishing in the boat heading out into Lake Michigan.

     On the third or fourth run the fish changed directions, line slicing through the water to the side of the boat.  Scott rushed to the back of the boat, getting other lines out of the way when suddenly one of the other trolling rods began to sing as a fish slammed the bait, charging off. He pulled back on the rod, held it high for a moment as the rod bucked, turned to the cabin and waved for Doug to come forward.

     The fish was peeling off line as Doug took the rod, forcing his knees into the back of the boat to hold himself against the rocking of the boat. Dave grabbed the net as the rest of us tried to get out of the way. Doug stopped his fish from running and was now getting back line as it twisted and turned in the water below. John’s fish was now slapping the water while skimming across the top of the waves.

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Early morning on Lake Michigan from the stern of a charter boat.

     Doug’s fishing was coming in quicker and David extended the net as Doug pulled the fish into it. David lifted up the net, clearing the water, with the fish twisting and turning in the mesh as he pulled it in. Dave and Scott quickly untangled the net, unhooking the fish, dropping it in the ice box, and getting the net out for John’s fish. The fish was a big slab of silver in the blue water as David brought the net up under it. Both fish were king salmon and the last two fish of the night for us. Darkness descended with the lights of Sheboygan in the distance.

     Earlier in the afternoon we arrived in Sheboygan for our salmon and trout charter with Dumper Dan’s Charter Fishing service. Our group consisted of Reggie Bennett of Apple Valley, Brian Frelond of Mendota, Bill Barnes of Farmington, John Davis and Doug Hurd, both of Eagan, all from Minnesota and this writer from western Wisconsin.

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John Davis fights a king salmon on Lake Michigan.

     We were assigned to Dumper 1, a 30-foot cruiser with Captain Scott Cudworth and David Nitze as the First Mate. “David is also a captain, although he is our mate for the day,” Scott pointed out. “So you are getting two captains.”  Scott has been a charter captain for eight years, fishing Lake Michigan since he was five. David has been a captain for nine years and has fished Lake Michigan for 35 years. David is also retired from the U.S. Army Reserves and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.

     Dumper Dan’s Charter Fishing is located on the south pier of the Sheboygan River. Back as late as the 1960s this river was lined with commercial fishing boats as a part of the vast commercial fishing fleets that netted whitefish and perch for markets throughout the country. Today there are just a few of the boats remaining and few commercial fishermen still working.

     In the 1960s salmon and trout were stocked in the lake finding a huge forage base in the schools of alewife, which invaded the lake in the 1940s. As a major food source, trout and salmon fishing exploded in Lake Michigan, seeing tremendous growth rates of salmon exceeding 20 pounds in four years.

     Life changed dramatically along Lake Michigan as a new industry was born in sport charter fishing. Today most of the boats lining the Sheboygan River are charter boats like Dumper Dan’s. Dan Welsch started his charter service 31 years ago with his first boat, Dumper Dan 1, the boat our group was on. He now has six boats, employs 20 people and has six condos on or near the river so he can offer charter fishing with lodging packages. His season goes from mid-April to mid-October, running over 1200 charter trips a year, which, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is the most of any charter service on Lake Michigan.

     It was dark with the beginning of day as a ribbon of orange color on the horizon with dark clouds overhead as we headed back out on Lake Michigan. Lights from Sheboygan dropped behind us as boat lights around us glittered in the darkness. It didn’t seem as windy as the afternoon before, but the lake still swelled with three-foot rollers. It was cool but not cold as the day dawned gray. “It is a beautiful day,” Captain Scott said as we moved farther out. Dave and Scott bounced around the back of the boat as they got lines out, most of them baited with either spoons or J-plugs.

     We were now in about a hundred feet of water with Sheboygan still in sight when line screamed off one of the reels. Dave grabbed the rod, pulled it out of the holder and waved for Reggie. Leaning into the back of the boat Reggie’s trolling rod was bent in half. He stopped the fish, turning it, but it raced off as it pulled more line off the reel. As the fish finally came to the surface, it was flipping out of the water. David lowered the net and a moment later dragged the fish into the boat. It was a 12-pound rainbow trout, the only one caught on the trip.

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Brian Feelond holds the biggest king salmon of the trip, a twenty pound plus four year old fish.

     As the sun rose higher, the lighter blue skies with stringy white clouds melted into the deep blue lake water. It was getting warmer and we took our off jackets. Three smaller king salmon had been caught and released.

     “Rigger,“ Scott yells. A fish smacked the bait, now racing away. Dave dashed toward the trolling rod as Bill moved to the back of the boat. The fish was charging off as Bill cranked on the reel, succeeding in stopping the fish. But it was only temporary. The fish raced off and again Bill fought the fish back, starting to get more line back on the reel than he was losing. The fish sagged in the net as David pulled it out of the water and into the boat. It was a 15-pound king salmon. It would be our last fish of the trip.

     We are moving into the best time of the year for Lake Michigan salmon and trout. “We have been having a phenomenal year,” Scott stated. “It will only get better.”

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All of our fish, like the king salmon Bill Barnes caught, were taken with spoons or J-plugs.

     Brian caught the biggest fish of the trip early on our first day. It was a 20-pound king salmon. Scott pointed out that fish was probably four years old. “From the middle of August on we will see a lot more four year-old fish.” Scott said.

     “Fishing has been fantastic,” Dan Welsch said. “We are seeing lots of big and healthy fish. There are unbelievable numbers of bait fish.”

     “The fall season will be great for trophy fish.” Dan added. “If you want a big wall hanger, this will be the time to get it. We will see 30-pound salmon this fall.”

     Author’s Note: Dumper Dan Charter is located at 676 South Pier Drive in Sheboygan. They can be contacted by phone at 920-457-2940 or by email at dan@dumperdan.com. They also have a website with videos and fish reports at www.dumperdan.com.

     Editor’s Note: Mike Yurk’s column is sponsored by Warner’s Dock in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Warner’s Dock is the premier marine dealer in northwestern Wisconsin. They have a complete supply of new and used boats, motors, and trailers as well as other marine supplies, plus a complete maintenance staff for all your boating needs. They can be contacted through their website at www.warnersdock.com or by telephone at 888-222-3625. 

On Wisconsin Outdoors

Reggie Bennett shows off the only rainbow trout caught on our charter.