By Darl Black
Every self-respecting bronzeback angler has a Bucket List of smallmouth bass waters they want to visit. I surely do. Many of them I have been able to check off the list, including today’s destination – Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Actually, it’s more than just Surgeon Bay. It’s all the bays and harbor inlets on Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula just northeast of football city of Green Bay.
Green Bay (the water) is a large, deep bay off Lake Michigan. Door County Peninsula is a finger of land that separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. Sturgeon Bay (at the town of Surgeon Bay) is the largest bay-on-the-bay. But when it comes to smallmouth fishing, you do not want to count out any of the smaller inlets on Door County Peninsula, including Little Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor, Fish Creek and Sister Bay on the west side of the peninsula, and Moonlight, North and Rowley Bay on the east side (Lake Michigan side). Together with the shoals around Washington Island on the north tip, this stretch of water comprises one of the best smallmouth fisheries in North America.
Bassmaster Magazine named Sturgeon Bay #1 on their Top 100 List of Best Bass Fishing Destinations for 2014. While I’m not going to rank what I consider the top smallmouth fisheries because each is so unique, I will disclose what puts the Door County Peninsula bays on my list.
First, it’s the high percentage of BIG smallmouths. For years I thought the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie gave up an incredibly high proportion of five-pound-plus smallmouth. That was before I visited Door County. Oh my! If you want the best crack at a six or seven pound smallmouth today, head to Wisconsin’s Door County.
Second, there is a progression of warming in the bays as you travel up the Green Bay side and then flip over to the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula. Due to gradual warming of one bay after another, the sequence of pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn periods extends from the first week of May(bass opener on Door County) to late June. And the locals tell me that smallies don’t hit the beds around Washington Island area until July – which is when Washington Island bass season opens. Focusing on pre-spawn bass moving into the bays is the best time frame for a truly BIG bass. And due to the high number of bass, smallmouths move in to different spawning areas in waves.