Sheboygan Wisconsin Charter Fishing Reports
Provided by Captain James Schlegel of Sea Dog Sportfishing Charters of Sheboygan, with contributing reports from other area anglers.

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2003 Fishing Reports

SHEBOYGAN CHARTER FISHING HARVEST 2002 - by Capt. James Schlegel April 19, 2003

Wow, what a year!  The 2002 trout and salmon fishery was the best in decades, and charter catch rates hit an all-time high.  This fact was supported by the 2002 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources creel survey just recently released.  Anglers and charter boat captains reported the best Chinook Salmon fishing in Lake Michigan in years.  The outstanding Chinook Salmon fishing witnessed the last two years was fueled by an extremely abundant and healthy year class that was stocked back in 1999.  That's interesting, because that was the year the four surrounding Great Lakes states agreed to reduce stocking by 27% lake-wide.  And they have maintained the reduced stocking levels ever since.  Does this mean that planting less fish is better for the fishery?  For the moment, all indications would appear that is exactly the case.  Sheboygan area charter captains had another banner year in 2002.  According to the Wisconsin DNR charter fishing harvest report, charter bookings here in Sheboygan were up more than 8% from last season.  The fish harvest was also up a whooping 38% and anglers had the good fortune of witnessing plenty of action all year long.  The 2002 fishing season was also my busiest charter fishing season to date, running more trips and catching more fish than any other year.  This seasons charter harvest was again tops in port and the 4th straight season of more than a thousand plus fish.  I had the privilege of personally guiding a record 242 fishing trips for the season, a feat no other licensed guide has ever accomplished in the history of Wisconsin charter fishing.  The increase in business could not have happened at a better time.  The fishing was outstanding from start to finish, the weather was great and there appeared to be a renewed interest in the sport of Great Lakes fishing.  I can't wait to see what new surprises this year will bring, the fishing season is just a few weeks away.

MAY 3, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Our first charter caught fish of the season, and what a dandy.  Ingmar Quist of Australia caught his first ever Lake Michigan Chinook Salmon this morning aboard the Sea Dog.  It was caught in 18 feet of water on a blue Rapala trolling along Kohler-Andrae State Park.  It topped the scale at 20.5 lbs. and is the largest Chinook Salmon we ever caught this early in the season.  I might have to start changing to heavier line.  Surface water temperature was 46 degrees along the park this morning and did notice a few dead alewives floating on the surface.  We tried fishing along the warm water discharge of the power plant for a while but found no takers today.

JUNE 8, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

After a tough month of May, we are now starting to see some fish being caught in our area.  Went out on the water both Saturday and Sunday during the free Wisconsin fishing weekend (no license required) with some limited success.  Caught a couple of nice Chinook Salmon and a pair of Lake Trout.  All fish were taken in 60 to 90 feet of water less then 2 miles from the harbor.  We used downriggers with glow-in-the-dark spoons set between 35 to 65 feet deep.  Surface water temperatures were between 48 and 50 degrees on the surface.  We measured 45 degrees on the bottom.  Although fishing has been somewhat behind schedule for this time of the year compared to the last couple of seasons, there are indications of improvement.  A good number of fish have been recorded on our sonar this weekend, and it is only a matter of time when these fish start a more active feeding pattern.

JUNE 10, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Every day a few more fish.  Fished this morning in 50 to 80 feet of water just outside the sailboat buoys.  The first Chinook Salmon of the day was taken on a downrigger set at 45 feet deep.  The largest salmon was caught on a diver pole.  Surface water temperature was 50 degrees.  Marked plenty of fish in the area but no schools of bait fish.  The fish were scattered from top to bottom of the water column.  Fishing should continue to improve if conditions remain the same.

JUNE 13, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Schools out and the youngsters are back out on the water.  Fished in 60 to 90 feet of water off the power plant today.  We were able to put aboard one nice Chinook Salmon this morning which was caught using a planer board.  Surface water temperatures were 49 to 51 degrees.  Marked some good schools of alewives with fish all around them close to the bottom, but were unable to get any interested in biting today.  One of the warmest days on the water this year.  Be advised that the United States Coast Guard life jacket rule went into effect 12/23/02 requiring all children under age 13 to wear a life jacket while aboard recreational vessels underway.  Tuesday at 7:00 PM June 17th is the last Sheboygan Area Great Lakes Sport Fishermen general membership meeting of the summer, newsletters went out this week.  Hope to see everyone there as well as on the water, and have a great summer fishing!

JUNE 15, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Lots of Lake Trout.  They seemed to be the catch of the weekend.  Huge schools of small alewives have been showing up on the sonar this weekend in the 50 to 100 foot depth range and the fish are feasting on this opportunity.  The few salmon that were caught had their bellies full of these tasty treats.  The Lake Trout, however, were much more interested in the artificial baits we had to offer.  We fished mainly south of the power plant in 60 to 100 feet of water and caught most of the fish at or near the bottom.  Had some good luck with glow Evil Eyes on downriggers.  Saturday, July 5, 2003 is the date set to have a photo taken of your boat from the air.  A photo will be provided free of charge to all Sheboygan Area Great Lakes Sport Fishermen club members.  The  SAGLSF club is sponsoring this activity and details and sign up sheet will be provided at this Tuesdays club meeting.

JUNE 18, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Fished south of the power plant this morning in 60 to 90 feet of water.  Had some luck with Lake Trout there the day before.  Surface water temperatures were the warmest of the year reaching 56 degrees and a wind from the south.  Marked plenty of fish, but only caught a Chinook Salmon and a Lake Trout.  Both were taken on a downrigger set at 40 feet on green and silver spoon.  Conditions and fishing seem to be changing daily.

JUNE 21, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Area skippers have now been able to limit out of Lake Trout.  Fished south of the power plant in 80 to 100 feet of water today where we fished the bottom.  Had a number of doubles, and even a triple on Lake Trout ranging from 4 to 10 pounds each.  Even despite losing a bunch and some wrestling on board, we managed getting our 12 Lake Trout in about 3 hours of fishing.  We then tried some offshore fishing in about 260 feet of water in search of rainbows after a few good reports on the radio.  The surface water temperature out there was still 47 degrees.  The action was a bit slower but we were rewarded by finding some extra big rainbows trolling JB spoons behind planner boards.  Pappa George had the good fortune of putting a 32" long, 12-3/4 pound Rainbow in the boat.  The fishing is picking up just in time for the Sheboygan and Manitowoc fishing tournament scheduled for next weekend.

JUNE 24, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Tried getting our limit of Lake Trout first thing Monday morning.  It just didn't happen this time.  We did find 6 and lost a few fishing close to the bottom, south of the power plant in 80 to 100 feet of water.  Heath Luedtke did catch a 15-3/4 lb. Lake Trout that morning and entered it in the Sheboygan Big Fish contest.  The fishing just seemed to shut off for us at about 10:00 am.  We then decided to head offshore to about 280 feet of water where we found a good temperature break.  Had all kinds of action, mostly Rainbows and even 3 more Lake Trout.  The majority of fish were caught on diver rods using a variety of orange baits.  Tuesday afternoon the Lake turned over bringing colder water closer to shore.  We fished in about 200 feet of water.  Lost a few good fish right from the start. Our luck changed, and our landing percentage improved.  Caught 5 Rainbows and a 6 lb. Coho Salmon.  Surface water temperature was 52 degrees.  Coho Derby tickets and brochures are now available by calling the Wharf at 920-458-4406.  This years Coho Derby is set for the weekend of August 9th & 10th.

JULY 3, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Started the morning in 40 feet of water straight out of the harbor.  Hooked a big Chinook Salmon as soon as we put a few downriggers in the water.  The water cooled down to the upper 40's overnight in that area.  That one got away as well as the next five, as we continued to work out to deeper water.  It looked as though we might not get one in the boat today.  Our guests this morning, Bob Newton of Sheboygan and his family from Oregon  finally got the hang of this type of fishing after a few tries.  We made a good rally at mid morning and caught a nice Chinook Salmon and 6 Cohos.  Most of the fish were taken at the surface using fly and dodger combinations.  We fished from 40 to 240 feet of water and had hook-ups all the way out.  Sunday through Tuesday we caught every species except a Brown Trout.  It's been a great week to catch a good variety of  all of Lake Michigan's game fish.  Saturday July 5th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm is the time set for the Photo Fly Over (weather permitting).  All Sheboygan Area Great Lakes Sport Fishermen get the chance to have a free photo of there boat taken from the air.  If you see a blue and white plane over head, smile for the camera.  And better yet, hope you have a fish on.

JULY 6, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

All salmon in the morning and a mixed bag in the afternoon.  Fished the break lines between 150 to 220 feet of water a little south of the harbor.  When the lake was flat calm the fishing was tough, but as soon as a little breeze rippled the water the fish started to bite.  Our first two fish of the morning were big cohos topping the scale at 8-1/2 and 8 pounds.  Most of our fish were caught on fly and dodgers on the surface.  We also took a 20 pound king on a downrigger 50 foot down on a green and glow Pro-King.  Was a bit foggy at times, but a very nice day on the water.  Our local fishing clubs "Photo Fly Over" went on as scheduled Saturday July 5th despite a little fog.  Club members who signed up to have a picture taken of there boat from the air can pick up photos at the Wharf by the end of the week.  There's talk of another scheduled fly over this fall.

JULY 11, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Limit catch today consisting of Kings, Cohos and Rainbows.  Best action today was fishing in 80 feet of water just south of the power plant.  All fish were caught in the top 50 feet of water using planer boards, divers and downriggers.  Glow spoons on the downriggers were best for the Kings, while dodgers and flies on the surface worked best for the Cohos and Rainbows.  Double digit catches were the norm for the week, as well as a good mixed bag of fish.  Chinook Salmon are now being caught more frequently and at all times of the day.  Surface water temperatures ranged from 54 to 56 degrees.  This is what we've been waiting for all year, let the good times roll.

JULY 14, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Fished this morning with retired Sheboygan charter captains Roger and Diane Schelk.  Went 8 for 12 fishing between 100 to 130 feet of water north of the harbor.  All the fish were caught fishing back and forth along a break line.  Although we marked a number of fish deep, all our fish were caught in the top 50 feet of water.  Red dodgers trolled behind planer boards on the surface worked best.  Surface water temperature was a constant 56 degrees.  A lot less boaters on the water today then on the weekend made surface fishing a little better.  The Wharfs Powder Puff (Women's Tournament) will be held this Wednesday.

JULY 17, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Put 42 fish in the boat on Wednesday.  Great action all day long fishing 60 to 110 feet of water.  Best evening bite for salmon of the year.  Today a cold front moved through and slowed things down a bit.  Caught 7 in the morning and 8 in the afternoon.  Fishing the 130 foot range was our best depth for the day.  All fish were caught in the top 50 feet of water using spoons and dodger flies on the surface.  This is a good time of the year to hook up with a variety of Lake Michigan fish including some big Chinook salmon.  Caught every thing but a brown trout the last 4 trips out.

JULY 25, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Another limit catch this morning.  Fished in 60 to 100 feet of water just north of the harbor.  All the fish were taken on downriggers and diver rods using Pro-Kings and JB spoons.  The early morning and late evening bite has been awesome the past few days.  This has been some of the best salmon fishing we have experienced all year.  We've been able to put a few 20 pound plus kings in the boat on every trip.

JULY 29, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Lit them up again this morning.  Got our 3 man limit of 15 Chinook salmon in less than 2 hours.  Fished right outside the harbor.  Went out again in the afternoon and picked up 14 more.  Wall to wall boat traffic all day long.

AUGUST 1, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Fished in 140 to 190 feet of water this morning.  Started the morning with a triple after setting just a few downriggers.  The downriggers were hot early in the morning running 30 to 50 foot deep.  We are running glow-in-dark Pro Kings as well as dodgers and flies.  The diver rods took over later in the morning.  Caught 2 lake trout, 4 cohos and 4 kings.  Had a bunch of rainbows on our diver rods but lost every one.  Colder water is still closer to shore and around the harbor.  Isolated thunderstorms have moved through the area the past few days motivating the fish to bite.  We've had as many as 4 fish on at the same time during the last few days.  The harbor area is still producing some salmon, and have been fishing the area during our evening runs.  The Sheboygan Coho Derby is right around the corner and scheduled for August 9 and 10.  See you in this years two day Super Tournament.

AUGUST 5, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Yes the fish are still biting, and the Sheboygan Coho Derby is this weekend.  The Niskanen boys fished with us this morning and yesterday afternoon, catching 9 fish each trip.  This afternoon we caught our limit in 140 to 160 feet of water.  The kids from Friendship House had some of the best action of the year on Monday morning, when fish hit every downrigger and diver rod we threw at them.  Sometimes it just doesn't matter what baits we run.  The surface water temperature is warming up fast.  Today it was in the upper 60's out in 160 feet of water.

AUGUST 10, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

This weekend was Coho Derby weekend.  The weather was great and the fishing was good.  Gary and Deborah Olen from Minnesota were our guests this weekend and participated in the Coho Derby Super Tournament held Saturday and Sunday.  The first day out we caught our three person limit of 15 fish but were unable to locate any of the big ones.  The second day of the tournament we had better luck finding some good sized fish, but only managed to land 7.  We finished the contest in 10th place out of the 46 boats and had a total catch weight of 137 pounds.  The top boat, skippered by Wes Schaetzer, was Stone Cold.  His crew finished the tournament with a combined catch weight of 217 pounds and won the $3000 cash prize.  Congratulations to Wes and his fishing team for an outstanding finish.  They were the only boat to catch over a 100 pounds of fish each day.  A special thanks goes to The Wharf and the volunteers who made this years derby a memorable experience for all those involved.  The individual prize winners were not available at the time of this report.

AUGUST 16, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Had our best action today in 120 to 150 feet of water.  Caught all Chinook Salmon, the biggest weighed in at just over 19 pounds.  All our fish were caught fishing below 80 feet, due to the warmer surface water temperatures in our area the past few days.  Fishing deep was difficult today due to the changing water currents and the fact that the winds changed three directions in the past twelve hours.  We had more then our share of tangled lines this morning and as a result lost a number of nice sized fish.  It also did not help matters that we had a fishing jinx aboard (Peter V.)  Once we kept him away from the rods and the baits, we then started putting a few fish in the cooler.  And yes, Peter did finally get to catch a fish today.

AUGUST 18, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Same old story.  Warm surface water is all around our port and the fish are still laying close to the bottom.  Caught 10 fish this morning consisting of 1 Lake Trout and the rest Chinook salmon.  Dodgers and flies and glow spoons run deep on downriggers and wire lines are still our weapons of choice.  When the salmon are pushed deep to the bottom they just seem to bite all day long, regardless of the weather conditions.  Lots of 3 and 4 year old Chinook Salmon are the catch of the day.

AUGUST 24, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Our first Lake Michigan Whale.  We spotted this strange creature in 100 feet of water near North Point.  In addition to a 5 foot whale we also caught 16 fish in the same general area.  The water conditions have changed several times since my last report, and staying on top of the moving fish has been a challenge.  Today's fish have all been taken trolling the top 50 feet of water.  Surface water temperature was in the mid 60's but much cooler water was not to far down.

AUGUST 28, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Got our limit of fish by 8:50am this morning despite the changing wind directions.  Found a good nest of fish in 70 to 80 feet of water about 3 miles north of the harbor.  Tried our best to take out the whole family, but left a few survivors.  A gold and glow magnum JB spoon, on a downrigger set at 55 foot deep took the majority of fish.  Surface water temperature was 65 degrees but cooler water was just below the surface.  I marked fish today as thick as Harley-Davidson Motorcycles on our roadways.  Have a Happy 100th this weekend and hope to see all my friends at the Motor Company this fall .

SEPTEMBER 1, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Went 11 for 15 this morning fishing in 60 to 80 feet of water near the north ship wreck.  Surface temperatures are in the 60's but much cooler water is just below the surface keeping the feeding salmon in our area.  Fish were caught at all different levels in the water column with no apparent preference to lure style or color.  All our fish caught today were Chinook Salmon.  Limit catches were common the past several mornings.  The early morning and late evening bites were some of our best of the season.

SEPTEMBER 2, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Excellent early bite again this morning.  Left the dock at around 5:30AM and had our 2 person limit by 6:15AM.  Never got to my first cup of coffee.  The fish were biting so well, my first mate Troy and I decided to stick around a while to catch a few for ourselves.  Fished in 50 to 80 foot of water near north point.  Ended the trip with 3 Rainbows, an 11.2 pound Coho and 14 Chinook Salmon.  The largest fish weighed in at 21.5 pounds and was the last fish caught.  Fish were caught at all depths using a variety of glow spoons.  I'm having some fresh salmon on the grill tonight.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Went 12 for 20 this morning catching everything but a brown trout.  Fished 80 to 130 feet of water north of the harbor.  Slightly cooler water moved in today.  Our fish were caught at all depths from the surface down to 80.  Best lure of the day was the magnum JB spoon in a variety of glow colors.  Monday morning was our fastest 5 man limit of the season.  Andy Beck and the group from Harley-Davidson witnessed some fast paced salmon action.  We left the dock at 5:30 am, set up in 50 feet of water, and trolled straight northeast.  By 7:50 am we had traveled to 120 feet of water and boated 27 fish.  We ended the trip with 4 fish on at the same time.  Almost every fish we hooked was put onboard by our amazed anglers that morning.  I think it took more time to clean them then to catch them.  Thanks for another great day.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Fished the harbor area this morning.  Everyone caught a big Chinook Salmon.  Went 6 for 6 and someone mentioned we had not lost a single fish.  That was all it took, we then lost the next three.  The Lake turned over Friday evening bringing in ice cold water close to the shore line.  Surface water temperatures were as cold as 46 degrees outside the harbor.  This should hold the salmon closer to shore as long as conditions remain unchanged.  Tuesday, September 16th at 7:00 pm is the first general membership meeting of the Sheboygan Area Great Lakes Sport Fishermen Club.  A check in the amount of $4000 will be presented to our club from the proceeds of this years Coho Derby.  The donation will be used to enhance our area's sport fishery.  Thanks again to The Wharf and everyone who supported this years Derby.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Caught 27 fish by 9:00 am this morning.  Fished right outside the harbor as the river water pumped out into the lake.  Plenty of fish around the area including a lot of smaller salmon.  It was non stop action all morning long.  Basic downrigger fishing with spoons took the majority of the fish.  Caught 25 Chinook salmon and 2 brown trout.  This type of action picked up mid-day on Wednesday and just kept going.  After a slower than expected spring, fishing has really picked up.  This years catch rate per trip has been one of my best in 20 seasons of charter fishing.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Went 15 for 25 today fishing from 1:30 to 4:00 PM.  Found a nice temperature break offshore in about 280 feet of water.  The inside temperature was 47 degrees and in about a half a mile warmed up to about 62 degrees.  This is one of the best offshore breaks I have witnessed this year, and appears to be holding quit a few fish if it remains intact.  Fished the top 50 foot and every lure we ran took off.  Went back and forth over the break and had all kinds of action in the limited time we fished.  Fished the same general area the day before with the same results.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Caught 15 fish this afternoon consisting of 6 Rainbows, 4 Lake Trout and 5 Chinook Salmon.  Fished offshore in around 280 feet of water.  We had a bite on every single lure we ran.  Fished the top 50 feet of water using a variety of hardware.  Only one double for the trip, just a steady bite of one fish at a time.  Noticed very little boat traffic the past few days.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Fished right outside the harbor this morning.  Caught 20 Chinook Salmon all on hardware.  Water temperature was around 45 degrees.  Best action was between 6:00 and 7:30 am when fish were snapping on everything we threw at 'um.   Chucky single handedly lost his two man limit of fish, and even managed to knock one off with the net.  And to think he shared in last years Grand Prize Coho Derby prize money?  Chuck would not pose for the picture below.

OCTOBER 9, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

Fished the harbor area this morning.  Caught our 2 man limit of 8 Salmon and 2 Brown Trout.  Lost a few more nice salmon and threw back a bunch of little ones.  All fish were taken on a variety of spoons where the river water was pumping out into Lake Michigan.  A good number of Brown Trout have been caught recently.  We boated a big one weighing 18.85 pounds on Friday.  Surface water temperatures were around 47 degrees in the lake water.

OCTOBER 18, 2003 - Captain James Schlegel

That's all folks, were done for the season!  The boat has now been stored away in preparation for next season.  What a great year it was.  This one goes down in the books as my personal best in 20 years of charter fishing.  We topped last years record catch, as well as turned in our best catch per trip average this year.  Who would have thought it was possible after a tough start due to unseasonably cold water temperatures early in the season.  For those that got the chance to get out on the water this year, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Once the favorable water moved in our direction, the fishing kicked into high gear and remained to the end.  This fishing resource just can't be beat.  I feel very fortunate to share the experience daily with the many friends I've made over the years.  Our quaint little fishing village may be changing due to recent development, but the sport fishing experience will remain the same.  Hope to see everyone again in 2004.

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