No matter the season, Mike and Joanne Norton have an adventure waiting for you. Serving outdoor enthusiasts has been a passion of theirs for 40 years, and they don’t plan to quit any time soon.
The Norton’s family business is twofold: serving anglers with their Green Lake business, Norton’s Fishing Adventures, and working with hunters on their 275-acre Princeton farm, Pheasants by the Fox.
Mike’s history in fishing runs as deep as Green Lake. His great-grandfather began giving fishing tours in the mid-1800s. The next two generations of Norton men continued the tradition, each adding their own nuance, such as ice fishing and pioneering pontoon boats.
Mike has been guiding fishermen since he was a boy and took over the family business in his late 20s. He charter fishes off a large pontoon that anyone can enjoy fishing from May 1 through October 1. Guided tours can be as small as a few people to as large as a whole group. “We get people here with their kids and families, businesses having an outing or just a couple guys wanting a day on the lake,” says Mike. He welcomes all sorts of clients, from experienced fishermen to those who’ve never fished before. People catch lake trout, brown trout, white bass, and cisco, to name a few.
Joanne is just as instrumental in keeping the anglers and hunters happy. Together, they annually raise 4,000 pheasants for Pheasants by the Fox. The birds are minimally handled to reduce stress and kept safe from predation by extensive fencing and netting. “Pheasants have such a hard time breeding in the wild,” Joanne says. “There is so much predation.”
On their farm, the Nortons plant different crops to give the hunter and his dog just the right amount of challenge. Because it’s a privately operated game farm, no hunting license is required. The Nortons see a large variety of clients during their October through April hunting season—everyone from age 10 to over 90. “It’s a wonderful way for friends and family to get out and enjoy nature,” says Joanne.
Their experience and passion is not only evident in the way they talk about fishing and the land, but also in how much Mike and Joanne care for the Green Lake community. Mike is active in the Green Lake Cold-Water Fishery Council. “I advocate for the average guy who wants to go fishing. I work with people in the [Green Lake] conservancy, the Fishery Council, and those just trying to keep the water clean. It’s about the whole community.”
Joanne has planted the entrance to their farm with edible herb gardens, and many of their hunting acres double as prairie restoration. Best of all, the Nortons will welcome you to their home as if you were old friends. “We have some clients that have been coming since my father was guiding,” Mike says.
Rebekah Sell is a freelance writer and blogger in the Fox Valley.