Splash: Reporter reels in a fun time fishing with guide Mike Norton


Green Laker reporter Joe Schulz displays his 17-inch lake trout that he caught while fishing with Mike Norton. submitted photo

by Joe Schulz

I’ve never been much of a fisherman. Both of my parents worked full-time when I was growing up, and there never seemed to be time for it.

I’ve been fishing a total of three times: Once when I was around 10, once when I was in high school and most recently with Green Lake fishing guide Mike Norton.

All I remember about the first time is being bored out of my mind and not catching anything — though, at the time, I did have the attention span of a goldfish.

The second time, I went ice fishing on Lake Winnebago with some friends. We drilled our hole in the ice, dropped our lines down before playing football on the ice. Needless to say, we didn’t catch anything.

Fishing for lake trout with Norton was a different story because it was the first time I’ve had fun fishing and the first time I’ve caught something.

I met Norton and Green Lake residents David Howie and Stephen Siders at Norton’s boat on a beautiful summer morning a few weeks ago.

As we departed, Norton described Big Green Lake as one of the top-10 lakes in Wisconsin. Out of the 15,000 lakes in the state, Green Lake is one of 130 two-tier lakes, meaning it has a warm water segment and a cold water segment.

Once we found a suitable spot, Norton and Siders began attaching reflective attractors and small metal weights to the lines, before placing the poles in rod holders around the boat.

Once the rods were in the holders, Norton dropped a line down near the bottom of the lake. Each fishing pole had bells attached to it so that when a fish bit on the hook, the bell would ring.

When fishing for lake trout, Siders explained that the fish needs to be at least 17-inches long to be a keeper and that each angler is limited to two lake trout per day.

Soon after the duo had all of the lines cast, a bell began to ring and Siders yelled out, “Fish!”

Howie beat me to the line and began reeling the fish in. Once the fish was about level with the top of the water, Siders scooped it up with a net.

After the fish was caught, Siders measured it with a tool on the boat and found that the trout was 24-inches long.

About 10 minutes later, another bell began to ring, and Siders once again hollered, “fish.” This time I made it to the line, grabbed the pole with my left hand, and began reeling with my right.

I pulled the pole out of the holder and kept reeling. The fish popped out of the water, and Siders netted it.

Green Lake resident Stephen Siders nets a lake trout. Joe Schulz photo

After it was netted, I posed for a picture with my very first fish, which was about 17 inches.

Soon after I got my first fish, another bell began to ring out. Howie got to the line in time and began to reel. Norton netted it, before giving Howie the good and bad news.

“You got your limit, you’re done for today,” Norton said.

Howie laughed, and sarcastically replied, “you’re kidding me.”

We had to wait a bit longer for the next bell. Let me tell you, the waiting was the worst part. Not because it was boring but because once you get one fish, all you want to do is catch another.

The downtime between Howie’s final fish and the next bell gave us all a bit of time to chat. Norton told stories from his many adventures out on Big Green Lake — most of which I’m not at liberty to share.

About a half hour after Howie’s final fish, another bell rang out, and I went for the pole and began reeling. This time, when I got the line to shore, the hook was empty.

After exchanging stories for a while longer, Siders again yelled, “fish.” I darted for the pole and began to reel. This time, I caught a fish.

We stayed on the water until Siders and Norton hit their limit. As we rode back to shore, Siders navigated while Norton cleaned the fish.

Norton explained that lake trout could be cooked either on the grill or in the oven. He recommended covering the fish with oil and sprinkling additional seasoning on before cooking the fish.

When we returned to shore, Norton divided the fish up equally. I thanked him for taking me out on the lake and said my goodbyes to Howie and Siders.

That night, I followed Norton’s instructions and cooked my share of the day’s catch. It was delicious.

Overall, I’d recommend exploring Big Green Lake with Norton to anyone, regardless of fishing prowess.

He’s a good teacher, and even better company when you’re waiting for a bell to ring. As someone who had never really gone fishing before, it’s worth it.

Once you catch your first fish, you won’t want to stop.

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