I was strolling the Isle Royale Queen dock, casting a Syclops out backa the Fisherman's Daughter in Copper Harbor when it hit me. A heady whiff of lilacs, apple and chokecherry blossoms in full bloom wafted along the water's edge. I recognized the scent immediately, and could do so blindfolded. It was Summer Solstice's signature fragrance. I knew she had to be nearby.
It may just be the first day of summer to you, but it's the longest day of the year in Coppa Hobba, as the locals say it. It's a quiet, peaceful place mosta the time, except when Summer Solstice and her entourage rolls into town for the longest day of the year and the fishing tournament by the same name kicks off quite the celebration.
"Not much happens in the harbor until Summer gets here," said tournament director Don Kauppi. "It's been a cool Spring, and as much as we've enjoyed having Verna Equinox around, we're looking forward to Summer taking over and warming things up."
"It was like herding cats, but we're tournament-ready," Kauppi and WWW Copper Harbor Correspondent Fanny Hooe said as we taste-tested the kala mojakka and Labatt's for the fish boil tonight, served at the Captain's registration and rules meeting at the Community Center.
Summer draws quite a crowd, luring an armada of fishing boats and an onslaught of a couple hundred anglers for the event. The sun barely sets over Coppa Hobba, then cruelly, the days start getting shorter again until Summer's sister Winter arrives. They're both seasonal residents of the Keweenaw, but as you know, Winter stays longer. This year, Summer Solstice and Father's Day both arrive on Sunday.
"Once we had Summer signed up, the rest pretty much fell into place," Don said. She and Fanny rounded up the usual suspects, recruiting WWW correspondents Paris Hiltunen, Dolly Partanen, Sandy Bottom and Sarah Palinen to work the weigh-ins at Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor and Lac la Belle, and hand out checks and prizes at the awards ceremony.
"They're always up to something fishy and know what they're doing," Summer said proudly. "Not only are they good fisher-gals, but if you ever need a husband stolen, they're the girls to call. Fanny Hooe will supervise her namesake lake here in town."
The Longest Day has traditionally been a big-fish tournament. In recent years, a 12-pound lake trout hasn't even finished in the money. A 32-pounder was recently caught off Copper Harbor by Glenn Hyrkas.
Every angler has a strategy. Some go with tried and true presentations from local Yooper lure makers RJ Lures and Finn Spoons. Others swear by Swedish Pimples and Laker Takers from Bay de Noc. Flashers and flies or squids, Mepps Syclops, Rapalas, Reef Runners, Mirrolures and other minnow imposters are also popular tournament choices. They run surface lures, Dipsy-Divers and planer boards. There's long liners and miners, guys who work a geppu with a jig tipped with smelt or cutbait on the bottom in 200 feeta water.
"Downriggers are de rigeur," said Summer, fogging her cowbell blades with her breath, then polishing them to a fine shine with the hem of her white eyelet cotton sun dress, revealing a glimpse of white fishnet stocking ever so appropriate to the occasion. "I've caught more fishermen with these," the fashion model-turned-meteorologist admitted, demurely tugging her stocking, "then I've caught fish with these," she added, twirling her cowbells so they flashed in the sun. "Remember when a glimpse of stocking was something shocking? Now heaven knows anything goes."
"Isle Royale and Stannard Rock are outside tournament boundaries," Summer said. "So if you're thinking of making a trophy run offshore for that winning lunker laker and getting back in time for the weigh-in, forget it," she added sternly, wagging her well-manicured finger.
A quick glance at the Longest Day:
17th Annual Labatt Blue Longest Day Fishing Tournament, Copper Harbor, Saturday. Kala mojakka (fish booyaw) dinner/rules and registration meeting 6-9 p.m. today, Copper Harbor Community Center. Fish 6 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday. Awards Ceremony & Celebration with live music, 8 p.m., Mariner North. Official Weigh-In Station at Gas Lite General Store. $3,000 in cash prizes. Trout, salmon, splake, walleye, smallmouth and perch categories. Grand Prize drawing for 17-foot Princecraft bass boat, 115 hp Mercury and trailer. Sponsors: Labatt Blue, McCabe Distributing, Mariner North, Copper Harbor Improvement Association. For info, call Kauppi, 289-4637.
"The Longest Day Tournament promotes sportfishing and tourism for Copper Harbor and the Keweenaw," said Kauppi. "Funds raised go to prize awards, lake and stream improvement and increased fish plantings in Keweenaw County."
WW&W Tournament Calendar:
7th Annual KBIC Kids Fishing Derby, June 27, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Ojibwa Recreation Area, Sand Point Pond, off US-41, Baraga, between Pines Gas Station and M38 Junction. Fishing, food and fun for kids 4-12. For more information, call KBIC Natural Resources, 906-524-5757.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.