Many catches, releases at K of C tourney

LAKE LINDEN – Sixty-two-degree water with a perfect walleye chop greeted the 26 boats and 62 anglers fishing the 14th Annual Knights of Columbus Walleye and Pike Tournament on Portage and Torch Lakes and Lac la Belle last Saturday. This was indeed the year of big fish and lots of ’em for the popular three-venue catch and release tourney, where 6-pound walleye didn’t even finish in the money.

“Anglers caught more and bigger fish across the size spectrum than in previous years,” said K of C tournament chairman Brad Fortin. “We owe a vote of thanks for that outcome to the Copper Country Walleye Association and the DNR,” he added, “both small and big fish, 15-30-inch walleyes speaks well for the fishery and renewed planting program as a whole.”

Official catch and release weigh-in stations at Chassell, Lake Linden and Lac la Belle did a brisk business, as anglers seemed to have the fish dialed in early with a hot bite in the morning, tapering off in the afternoon. The Skinnydipper Lures Fishing Team of Ron and Jenny Racine took first place and $700 weighing in their 38.1 pound catch including the contest’s biggest walleye, a 32-inch, 10.2 pound whopper aught on a Skinnydipper, a lure of their own making.

“I think I’ll call this pattern the Moneymaker,” smiled happy lure painter Jenny Racine. To see these locally hand painted lures, visit skinnydipperlures.com.

Dan Loyd, Northwoods Bait, caught the biggest pike, weighing in at 36 inches, 15.8 pounds.

You’ve gotta be quick and in the right place at the right time to get photos at a C & R tourney, with about 10 seconds to get your shot while the anglers transfer their fish from their live wells to the weigh-in, then dump them back in the water. Fish that don’t swim away are few and far between and the tournament has an impressively high fish survival rate.

“With Portage Entry and Keweenaw Bay on the south end, and the Breakwaters at McLain State Park on the north, you never know what you’re going to catch,” said Dan Dube and Mark Butke, who caught a gorgeous 7-pound Seaforellen brown trout. “It ravaged our sexiest walleye presentation and pulled the planer board under like it was a bobber,” Butke added.

When I saw the fish, I thought it might be an Atlantic salmon, but wasn’t sure. When I asked them what it was, they grinned “dinner.”

Indeed, everything that swims in Lake Superior swims through Portage Lake, and uninvited lake trout, steelhead, king and coho salmon, browns, carp, smallmouth and sturgeon have all crashed the tourney over the years.

Although the K of C Walleye & Pike Tournament is strictly catch and release, rogue fish are traditionally filleted and released to the frying pan.

For more information, call tournament chairman Brad Fortin, 370-1903.