When one family went fishing on Lake Ontario, they were no doubt hopeful that they would make a monster catch. But as they spotted an unusual shape in the water, they had no idea just what was up for grabs. Needless to say, it was a trip that they would never forget.
Joe Schmelzinger’s big passion in life is fishing. The Lakeview, New York, native loves the pastime so much that he travels all around the United States on the hunt for the best catch that he can find. And some of his favorite angling spots include Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
His Facebook page is like a shrine to his favorite catches. Indeed, photo after photo shows him posing alongside all manner of fish. Whether big or small, it’s clear from the father’s expression that he’s proud of the catches that he’s hooked.
And like many dads, Joe enjoys sharing his passion with his family. So, in August 2017 he whisked his wife, Annette, and their six-year-old daughter, Alivia, off on a fishing vacation to the Thousand Islands. This stunning archipelago connects Canada and America by straddling the Saint Lawrence River.
To the southwest of the archipelago lies one of Joe’s favorite fishing spots – Lake Ontario. And Thousand Islands itself also offers plenty of opportunities to cast out. As a result, it was the ideal holiday spot for the Schmelzingers.
So, one day during their break, Joe, Annette and Alivia were out on the lake. They were cruising along, probably trying to find a place to fish, when they noticed a strange shape in the water. They decided to investigate, unaware that what they were about to see would stay with them forever.
Because, upon closer inspection, the unidentified object turned out to be a baby deer. The animal had probably jumped in the lake after something scared it on the shore. The creature now appeared to be way out of its depth, however.
Recalling the surreal moment when they stumbled upon the deer, Annette admitted that the animal surprised them. “We were driving along, and all of the sudden, my husband saw something in the water. It was a deer just swimming in the middle of Lake Ontario,” she told WIVB in September 2017.
Although she was only six, even little Alivia seemed to realize the seriousness of the animal’s situation. The youngster was particularly concerned by the deer’s apparent lack of preparation before entering the water. “That thing didn’t even have floaties!” she pointed out.
The Schmelzingers knew that they had to step in or else face watching the deer drown in front of their eyes. “Our first reaction was, we gotta help this deer,” Annette said. As a result, the family hatched a rescue plan.
Before they could do anything to help it, though, the Schmelzingers would have to get to the deer. “He was definitely way out there. We were probably in 70 feet of water,” Joe revealed. “It was headed out into the lake. It was headed the wrong way.”
Realizing how unusual the circumstances they’d found themselves in were, Annette pulled out her phone and started filming. And the footage that she captured was simply astonishing. It followed the family as they sailed up to the deer.
When their boat was finally within reaching distance of the animal, Joe leaned over the edge of the vessel. He grabbed the deer and thankfully was able to retrieve it from the water. The whole experience had left the creature clearly shaken. Nonetheless, it seemed relieved to be glad to have its hooves back on solid ground.
Within a matter of moments the animal calmed down, as though it knew that it was finally safe. “Once he got up on the boat, he pretty much hopped right down on the floor and laid there,” Joe revealed. “We covered him up with a towel. It didn’t even try to run away or anything.”
Now that they had the deer safely onboard, the Schmelzingers could transport him back to dry land. And on the way there, they did everything they could to comfort the animal. After all, it’d had a pretty big adventure for such a little deer.
When the gang arrived on shore, onlookers were excited to see Joe bundling something large off his boat. However, they had the shock of their lives when they saw what he had managed to catch. “People were yelling, ‘Did you catch anything?’ from fishing, you know,” Annette recalled. “And my husband holds it up and says, ‘Just the baby deer!’“
Now, all that was left for the Schmelzingers to do was deliver the deer to a more suitable home. And it didn’t take long for them to come across the perfect place. “The first wooded area straight off the island, we set him down and let him go back into the woods,” Joe revealed.
Although the deer was reluctant to leave his rescuers at first, it soon made a break for freedom. The animal trotted off into the woods without so much as a second glance at Joe, Annette and Alivia. Still, the family couldn’t have been happier to have helped.
Now, the story has become a great anecdote for Joe and his clan to share at parties and other social occasions. “To even see a deer in the lake, you would never think that, you know?” said Guy Peterson, who was also on the boat at the time. “A lot of my buddies are saying to me, ‘Are you going to go hunting in the woods and find a fish?’“
So, it’s safe to say that the Schmelzinger family won’t be forgetting their strange encounter anytime soon. After all, Joe might just be the first fisherman in history to catch a deer on Lake Ontario. Who would have thought that his most memorable fishing trip wouldn’t have involved a single fish?