Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan trout, salmon anglers still catching fish on the Big Pond
I hadn’t been on the Big Pond in more than a year and hadn’t been to Port Washington in several years, so when Capt. Ruben Ojeda offered to take me, my son, Hunter, and his friend, Bennett Connelly of Richfield, I was happy to accept.
“We’ve been doing well. It sort of shut-off for a day, but we’ll get on some fish,” he said.
Along with being a charter captain, Ojeda, of Waukesha, 50, has also been a police officer for 15 years in East Troy.
“I enjoy being a cop but it was always my dream to be a fishing guide,” he said. “It takes a lot of persistence and it helps to share information with other trusted captains. We have a group of captains who work together, which helps put customers on fish. The key for anyone fishing Lake Michigan is to network and share information to locate fish.”
We started out in about 130 feet of water and went out as the day went on. Before too long, Hunter had one on. Soon after so did Connelly.
“That’s my first fish ever out here,” Connelly said. “Fought pretty well!”
Within the first hour we had a coho and a king in the box.
Ojeda’s rig, at 21 feet, isn’t the biggest on the lake, as he uses the same Lund he has all over the state chasing walleyes and other species, but we didn’t get a drop of water on us even when the waves got a little choppy.
“The boat really runs dry,” he said. “One of the reasons I like Port Washington instead of Milwaukee is that it drops off more quickly, so a person doesn’t have to run as far to get to deeper water. I can get in quick if I ever have to.”
We fished a couple hours and had six more bites but we didn’t get them in the net.
“The guys aren’t doing anything wrong,” Ojeda said. “It just happens sometimes. The lines are so far out that they have a lot of opportunity to get off.”
While Ojeda does love his job, he said fishing is fishing and they just don’t always cooperate.
“I like to provide an accurate report of what’s happening on the lake before we head out. This gives the customer a realistic expectation on their trip,” he said.
Hunter was the next to hook up with a lake trout, which Ruben specifically targeted halfway into the trip when some other species weren’t cooperating.
“The depth makes such a huge difference in this game,” he said. “One minute you have to go down 100 feet for lakers and then then next minute you’re getting rainbows hitting on baits nearly on the surface.”
Wind makes a huge difference and if you’re fishing from the breakwalls in the harbor, it makes an ever bigger difference.
“Right now, it’s a bit tough for the shore guys,” he said. “The water is too warm in there. You need a few days of the wind blowing from the west to get them. The best months to shore fish are September and October. Once you get in those months it still helps to have a west wind, but the fish will move into the harbors to spawn. It can give the shore anglers a really nice opportunity at some big fish. Rainfall is also helpful to get the rivers flowing which triggers fish to move in.”
As I listened to Ojeda chat back and forth on the radio with other captains, most were struggling but we felt pretty good about our day. Three nice fish and at least seven other fish on. Some of the other boats didn’t have a fish.
“I really do just love being out here,” he said. “I guess I’m most happy when I get someone their biggest fish. I have that happen a lot and it could be a 25-pound king or a 10-pound rainbow. There’s just such an opportunity out here, close to home, for catching a true giant. And when it’s a little kid that does it, it’s even better.”