A Family Fishing Trip Takes An Unexpected Turn


When The Schmelzinger family went out on a day trip to the lake, they were certainly shocked when they noticed something menacing lurking in the water.

Suspicious Shapes Underwater

The family packed the car, and drove to the beautiful Lake Ontario, where they were excited to find a monster catch of the day. It however, ended up being a trip they would never forget, perhaps for the wrong reasons.

What Happened That Day

Fishing was one of their favorite hobbies. Lake Ontario was somewhere that they frequented and knew the waters well. They never imagined that a seemingly normal fun outing would unfold in a very different way.

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They Weren’t Prepared For This

The father’s Facebook page is a total shrine to his favorite catches. Among his album 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. He was excited to find some big catches on this day out.

Thousand Islands

And like many dads, Joe instilled his passion in 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. It is known for having a plethora of fish.

Lake Ontario

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. They were so excited to cast out their fishing rods and see what came their way.

Catch Competition

Part of the fun of these fishing trips was to see who could catch the biggest fish. And the winner would get an exciting prize that would change each time. Little did they know, that today on this particular trip, the winning catch would be very unusual.

Cruisin For A Bruisin

So, Joe, Annette and Alivia were out on the lake. They were having a whale of a time, trying to find a place to fish, to find the biggest fish so one of them would win today’ prize when they noticed a strange shape in the water. They decided to investigate, unaware that what they were about to see would change them forever.

Mystery In The Deep

They couldn’t work out what this mysterious shape was, so they decided to steer the boat towards it to get a closer look. The weather looked as though it was taking a turn for the worst, but they couldn’t turn back around just yet, they had to investigate further to see for themselves. What could be living in this water that they were not aware of?

Too Close For Comfort

The sky was darkening, the water was rocky and the tension was heightened, but never the less, they steered the boat in the direction of this bobbing shape. They didn’t know how close to get to it, as they had no idea what it was. So they stopped just a few feet away from the moving shape until it was in clear view and they could make out what it was To their utter surprise and shock.

Not What They Expected

The family had been regular fishers on this lake for years. Ever since their daughter was born they had taken her out for fun days out. In all of the years they had gone out onto the lake for an exciting day out, they had never had an experience such as this. Maybe this was a huge fish that would top their record, or a never before seen creature living in the lake that they would discover.

Clear as Water

Upon closer inspection, the little shape was bobbing up and down and looked like a startled creature, but what was in the middle of the lake? What could it have been? They just had to get closer, they couldn’t leave now, curiosity got the better of them.

Is It A Bird Is It A Plane?

Recalling the surreal moment when they stumbled upon the creature, Annette admitted that the animal surprised them. “We were driving along, and all of the sudden, my husband saw something in the water popping its head up we did not know what to expect. We couldn’t believe that it was a deer just swimming in the middle of Lake Ontario,” she told WIVB in September 2017.

Deer Me

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. It was very cold in the water as well, they feared that the baby might either freeze or drown.

Face The Fear

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. They just had to do something in that moment, they could not leave that baby in the water struggling for its life.

Dow A Deer

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.” They weren’t sure of how they would navigate this situation but had to think on their feet.

Unusual Circumstances

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. The footage went totally viral, as people could  not believe that in the middle of a huge lake, a baby deer had wandered so far out.

Shaken And Stirred (Up)

When their boat was finally within reaching distance of the animal, Joe leaned over the edge of the vessel. He tried to grab the deer from the water. Yet the whole experience had left the creature clearly shaken, which does not surprise us. Imagine having to tread water for such a long time and it being freezing cold AND being a baby animal. So this was going to be harder than they originally thought. But they could not let it stay in the water fighting for survival. They needed a Plan B.

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The family wanted to know why and how this baby deer had swam so far out. They quickly researched on their phones and learnt that deer often take to the water when frightened. Sometimes, they just keep on swimming in the direction that they were headed. At other times, deer will take to the water in an attempt to find food or shelter that is not easily accessible by other means. This baby could have been so scared and that’s why it did that, but then got lost. They had to do something.

[post_page_title]Plan Of Action

They needed to let the animal know that it was now safe and that they weren’t going to hurt it, in order to lure it into the boat. They drove the boat a bit closer now, and Joe then jumped into the water and swam up close to it.He finally managed to get a grip on the baby animal who was frantically treading water, and lift it onto the boat with the help of a friend who was also with them. It was quite a struggle and the animal was clearly distressed which was heart breaking to watch.

Within a matter of moments the animal seemed to calm 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.” It seemed to be totally relieved.


Now that they had the deer safely onboard, the Schmelzingers could transport the frightened baby 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. His heart beat was going very fast and they were worried that something could be wrong. Perhaps it was pneumonia due to the freezing cold water.

Deer Catch Of The Day

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!’

Quite A Catch Of The Day

It was funny for them to think that usually when they return from their trips they proudly bring home a collection of big fish. This time their catch was very different, but what an interesting and unexpected trip it was, and one that they would never forget. So what was the next step, what would they do now?

Can We Keep It?

Of course Alivia was desperate to keep this baby deer and have a new pet. She begged her parents to let her keep it. As fun as it would be, they knew that had to do something, but were not sure what the best thing would be for the baby. It was clearly separated from its mother how could they rehouse it? They didn’t want to upset the little animal any more than it had been already. But they took it home to warm up and to dry off,and even fed it some milk which it seemed to really enjoy.

Home Sweet Home

Alivia was getting very attached to the deer. It seemed to calm down as soon as it got fed and dried off. It even played in the garden with her and bounded around in the grass. It was going to be hard for them to have to say goodbye. It was weird to think that just a few hours earlier they hadn’t met or even considered meeting this little baby and it brought their daughter so much happiness. They knew she would be sad but they had to think of what was best for the deer.

HomeSweet Home

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, with the help of other volunteers. “The first wooded area straight off the island, we set him down and let him go back into the woods,” Joe revealed.

Into The Woods

The question was, would this little guy be able to navigate its way all alone, and where was its mother? They were getting attached to it and were worried for its safety. They did not know what their next move should be.

Bambi Set Free

They found an open area in the forest that was perfect to see Bambi free. With the help of other locals, they gently let the baby out of the jeep, and it bounded into the countryside instantly. They felt so relieved that they were able to help the animal who could have died out in the water, and put it back into its natural habitat.

Safe And Sound

They stayed to watch the baby and make sure it was ok and not distressed again. Just like a duck to water, it immediately started hopping around and exploring its surroundings. They were told there was a lot of deer in this area, so they were confident that this baby would find his tribe and be ok. They could sleep easy tonight knowing that they did such a good deed.

Deerest Memories

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?’ It is something you don’t see every day though.

Back To The 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? His video and story did attract a lot of attention. We will watch out for a deer next time we go fishing, you never know. Never mind Jaws, seems like its more Bambi month.