Wild Things: Charter-Fishing Industry Dry-Docked

Captains want state to open access

Troy Mattson of Kinn’s Sport Fishing. Photo courtesy of Kinn’s Sport Fishing.

Hundreds of Lake Michigan and Green Bay charter captains and guides lure thousands of visiting anglers to Lake Michigan each spring, but not this year.

Or at least not yet.

Troy Mattson of Kinn’s Sport Fishing in Algoma co-owns the largest charter fleet on Lake Michigan: 11 boats targeting everything from southern basin coho salmon and Green Bay walleyes during the spring to chinooks and steelhead off Algoma during the summer.

“I’ve been telling my customers [we’ll be fishing] after Memorial Day, but honestly, I don’t think that means anything,” Mattson said. “We’ve got no answers from the state. I get the concern, but at least tell us where we’re at. Do we put the boats in the water? Do we leave them in dry dock? What do we tell our customers?”

What’s most frustrating for Mattson is seeing so many other industries able to operate, albeit with restrictions.

“We’ll put on masks if needed, or let the customers decide,” Mattson said. “Right now I could take six people on my boat and fish for fun, but if someone offered a dollar for gas, it’d be illegal. And this weekend there’s another walleye tournament on the bay. Those guys are fishing for money. None of this makes sense.”

Sport fishing is a major driver of tourism at many ports. The annual Kewaunee/Door Salmon Tournament – this year’s 38th annual, set for July 17-25 – attracts close to 3,000 participants in nine days. Impressive, yes, but the dozens of charters on the Kewaunee/Door peninsula bring in even more anglers during the course of a season.

A UW-Extension economic-impact study estimated that anglers who were trailering and launching boats at the Algoma Marina alone meant more than $1 million to city businesses annually. That number does not include dozens of charter boats and nearly 100 moored boats in the two marinas and the Ahnapee River.

Last week, the Wisconsin Lakeshore Business Association (WLBA) filed an amicus brief with the state’s Supreme Court on behalf of its members to protect the constitutionally protected right to fish that the association says has been infringed upon by Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency order deeming thousands of businesses as nonessential.

Tom Kleiman of Kewaunee, president of the WLBA, recognized the concern with the COVID-19 virus and the charter captains. However, he’s also concerned about the impacts on the community. 

“We hope the court will recognize the hardship this order has put on these businesses and communities,” Kleiman said. “We think there is great benefit to getting people outdoors to enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources, and we can do so in a safe manner that protects from the spread of disease.”

Interest in Birding Soars

Birds are doing what they do every spring: migrating, making nests and laying eggs. Some species such as owls, eagles, ducks and geese have already had babies.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society are reporting that interest in birding has soared during the pandemic, with downloads of popular bird-ID apps spiking and visits to live bird cams doubling a normal spring.

Closer to home, the folks at Havegärd Farm Bird Feed Outlet Store in Sturgeon Bay are seeing booming sales in seed and feeders. 

“We’re essential,” said Kevin Sheehy, one of the brothers in the family-owned business that was established in 1974. “We buy from local farmers.”

Meanwhile, experts at eBird say that birders should be mindful of health and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Birders should not share optics or phones, and they should maintain at least six feet of space between themselves and others. To read more tips and track the latest sightings throughout the state, visit

Check Out Bird City Photos

Coronavirus concerns canned Algoma’s annual Bird City Migratory Bird Celebration this weekend, but you can see the colorful images submitted by Kewaunee and Door County photographers in an online video compiled at

Cold on (and in) the Water

Spring is here, but it can still feel like winter on the water. That’s the word from the U.S. Coast Guard, which is urging safe boating and paddling. 

The agency says to wear a life jacket, monitor the weather, never operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and always leave a detailed float plan with a family member or friend. 

Remember to dress for the water temperature, and stay dry. Water robs the body of heat 25 times faster than air.