Anglers go into overtime at Longest Day

COPPER HARBOR — “The Solstice can turn into a 48-hour shift in Copper Harbor if you’re not careful,” said my fishin’ buddy, Ed Wetelainen, whom I enjoy wettin’ a line with on the Longest Day. “For openers, it’s daylight from 5:45 a.m. ’til 9:45 p.m.,” he continued.

The tournament starts with an anglers’ registration and rules meeting and kala mojakka, (Finnish fish boil) at the Copper Harbor Community Center Friday night with fishing from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the weigh-ins, awards shindig at the Mariner North, and live music by Wayward Sons.

“Rain and fog seems to be the favorite weather of the Yooper Fish Gods so far this summer,” said guest of honor, Summer Solstice herself, “they like to pull rank once in a while just to show me who’s boss.”

In spite of her best efforts, the 23rd Annual Longest Day Tournament met the same less-than-summery fate as Ontonagon’s Lake Trout Classic, the Keweenaw Bay Classic and the Rice Lake Derby. But fueled by beer and sisu, the show must go on and the Solstice arrived right on schedule with the Harbor’s lilacs, lupine, poppies, wildflowers galore, and the obligatory geese and gulls.

Fifty-seven teams and 129 anglers fished the event celebrating Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year. Sponsored by Labatt Blue and McCabe Distributing, Mariner North and Copper Harbor Improvement Association, the 3-venue tourney includes Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor and Lac la Belle with a 5-mile offshore limit in Lake Superior. Registration is $40 per angler, two person team $35 and 3-4 person team $30.

Eagles and ospreys circled, selfishly voicing their displeasure with the human competition for their fish.

“The weigh-in action was pretty sporadic with a lot of smaller fish, and the weather didn’t help,” said Jeff Coltas, official weighmaster at the Gas Lite General Store (289-4652). Pink Floyd Kaiser, Mike Swaney and Vici Burrows were official weighmasters at Lac la Belle, where the walleye category is catch and release.

The tourney paid out more than $3600 in cash prizes for the first five places.

Tom Waara caught the largest lake trout, a 12.5-pounder good for first place and $600. Peter Sax and Justin Oikarinen both weighed in 6.1 pound splake to tie for first place, so the tie-breaker went to Sax on length, 25-1/2 inches to Oikarinen’s 24-3/4; Clovis Fortin caught the biggest walleye, a 9.1-pounder worth $650 in Lac la Belle; Ron Racine, Jr. weighed in a 12-inch, .75 pound yellow perch to win that category.

Copper Harbor visitors Peter Sax, Ben Matus (9) and Jaden Matus (6-1/2) of Minneapolis placed first, third and fourth in the splake category.

Team Sohlden won total weight and $100 in the lake trout category with a 26.36-pound catch.

“The goal of the Copper Harbor Longest Day Tournament is to promote fishing in the Keweenaw,” said Don Kauppi, “Funds raised are used for area stream and lake improvements and to increase fish plants, especially splake.”

For more information, call Kauppi at the Mariner North, 289-4637.