Tourney small but fish big in Eagle Harbor

EAGLE HARBOR – With a weather forecast calling for thunderstorms, high winds and possible hail last Saturday, things didn’t turn out too shabby for the 10 boats and 30 fishermen and women competing in the Third Annual North Shore Invitational Fishing Tournament in Eagle Harbor.

The newest and smallest tournament in the Keweenaw started at 6 a.m. in thick fog and 45 degrees that lifted by noon, replaced by relentless 80-degree sunshine.

Some boats trolled closer to shore, while others ventured offshore in search of the thermocline and fished the fog bank on instruments.

Team Dee Bee, Jimmy and Pete Oikarinen and Cliff Nichols went deep, trolling at 40 to 80-foot depths over a 700 foot bottom and found the tournament’s biggest fish and lots of them, landing the heaviest overall weight of 47.55 pounds worth $140 and biggest fish honors with a 16.13-pound lunker laker worth $28.

“We ran into a lotta small shakers, precocious jack coho about 14-15 inches three miles out,” said Pete Oikarinen, “they were hitting Finn spoons half their size,” he added, “then we dropped ’em down to 40 and 50 feet and 100 feet behind the downrigger ball and got into some lunker lakers, catching our biggest fish and a 12-pounder on a doubleheader.”

Team Tom Cat, Scott and Glen Hyrkas, Dollar Bay, finished second with a 40.07-pound catch paying $84 and the second largest laker, a 14.12-pounder.

Hooker Right, Brian Lassila and Bob Murphy, both Yooper tournament trail veterans, placed third with a 28.54-pound catch worth $28, including an 11.12-pound laker.

Anglers fished from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., contributing their catches to the celebratory fish fry following the weigh-ins and pay outs. In a model of efficiency, fish go straight from the weigh-in scale to photo-op to the cutting boards where they are filleted, dipped in the North Shore Invitational secret beer batter and deep fried, with cole slaw and potato salad on the side.

“We hit a hot bite in the early morning fog bank and had two good-sized fish in the box by 7 a.m.,” said Brian Lassila, “both trolling Bay de Noc Laker Takers about two miles off shore, 60-80 feet down and 30-50 feet backa the ball.”

“Find the thermocline and you find the fish,” added Bob Murphy, we got bit in 40 to 52 degree water, pretty close to shore.”

Others slow-trolled shallow-running spoons and Rapalas on 100-foot long lines, catching fish sunning themselves near the surface.

“We’re still the smallest tournament with the smallest purse in the U.P.,” said North Shore organizer Jim Oikarinen, “We’re looking for sponsors interested in helping us outgrow that dubious distinction and are considering all comers.”

For more tournament information or to become a sponsor, call Pete Oikarinen, 337-5915.