Lake Trout Classic full of fishy fun in Ontonagon

ONTONAGON – There’s always something fishy going on in Ontonagon, but they kicked it up a notch or two during the 10th Annual Aspirus Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic, May 29-31. The popular first ice-out event traditionally kicks off the U.P. fishing tournament season.

On the eve of the Atlantic hurricane season, there wasn’t much sign of El Nino and warming waters. Here on Lake Superior, we’re more familiar with the cold weather and water of El Niemi.

With 6 a.m. temperatures around freezing and the water not much warmer, the 10th Annual Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic had anglers bundled up in long johns and Ice Armor, scraping heavy frost off boat windshields and icy decks and docks.

Stiff northeast winds kicked up 3-4 foot seas, making for rock ‘n roll trolling and competing anglers enjoyed a fairly hot bite with limit catches, but few big fish.

Mike Lester’s 22.85-pound laker was the contest’s biggest fish and Team Lester’s 36.93-pound catch took first place.

Forty-eight three-person teams of intrepid anglers braved rain, rock ‘n roll seas, savage sunshine, and nippy 30-45 degree temperatures to fill their ice chests, live wells and the tournament tote board with lake trout, coho and king salmon, browns and steelhead, showing those early season fish every kind of flasher, Finn Spoon, herring dodger, dipsy diver, J-plug, crankbait and piscatorial persuasion known to man.

To somebody who can get hopelessly tangled up with just three lines in the water, I am in awe of Captain Jimmy Johnson and Team Jolly Roger, who runs nine lines at varying depths. Their spread consists of two skis (planer boards on steroids), a bottom bouncer, two downriggers, two outriggers, and a couple of surface lines, way too many moving parts for me, but these guys know what they’re doing and have for 50 years. Don’t take my word for it, call Jimmy at 932-5196 and book a charter out of Black River Harbor.

His Team Jolly Roger with Denny Forslund and Don Maki, who finished first the past two years, took fifth place in the money, donating their winnings, as always, to the Ontonagon County Cancer Association. Participating anglers donated $450 of their earnings to the cause.

Twelve teams fished in the rain in Friday’s Women’s Powderpuff Derby and all the girls received the tournament’s trademark long stem roses. First place and $200 went to Amanda and Paige Kemppainen; Abby Polakowski and Kelsy Preiss finished second. Their husbands, Ed Polakowski and Steve Preiss, won first place and $200 in the eight-team Classic Pre-Fish Tournament.

Anglers from the women’s derby and the Pre-Fish tournament generously donate their catches to the Captain’s Meeting Friday night Fish Fry at George’s Shamrock Bar with cole slaw and trimmings furnished by Lynn’s North Country Caf.

The Aspirus Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic is held in tandem with the BBQ for Life Cookoff, where teams from throughout the U.P. and Northern Wisconsin compete for the best chicken, ribs, brisket and chili. This year seven teams served 425 dinners. The annual surf and turf event has raised $5-$10,000 for the Ontonagon County Cancer Association each year. For more information, call Tom Domitrovich, 884-4093.

For more tournament information, call Larry or Dianne Greig, 884-2770. For Ontonagon fishing reports, call Jill Johnson, JJ’s Tackle Shack, 884-2616.