EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim is away this week. Please enjoy this column, which originally ran Sept. 4, 2008.
While Hurricane Gustav was ravaging Louisiana over Labor Day weekend, the Keweenaw was sweltering under her first 90-degree days of summer. With highs of 95, overnight lows of 70 and inland lakes a tantalizing 70-75, I spent more time in the water than on it.
The heat wave was tailor-made for a beach tour and float-tubing. We'd dangled in Torch, Portage, Perreault, Rice, Medora, Manganese, Lac la Belle, Lake Fanny Hooe and No Name Pond, but this was the hottest float-tube action we'd had all summer.
When WWW Beach Correspondent Sandy Bottom invited me on her official Labor Day Beach Inspection Tour of the Keweenaw, I knew my FBI (Federal Bikini Inspector) credentials would pay off big time. We were the perfect pair for this investigative journalism assignment; she'd inspect the beaches while I inspected the bikinis. We made the rounds, starting at her namesake beach out backa Dollar Bay and ending up right back where we started from.
The hottest weekend of the summer drew record crowds to Big Traverse, Brunette Park, Bete Grise, the Breakwaters at McLain Park, White City, Eagle Harbor, Eagle River, Cat Harbor, the Dunes, Calumet Waterworks, Lake Linden and the Copper Island Beach Club on the Hancock Waterfront.
Our float-tube fishing adventures came between beaches. You know how the Caribbean has its Club Med? We have our Lake Med. Lake Medora is one of the Keweenaw's prettiest lakes. Originally called Mosquito Lake, it is home to legendary deer camps like Camp Frimodig and the Mosquito Lake Culture Club.
Lake Med covers 695 acres, has a maximum depth of 30 feet and healthy populations of walleye and smallmouth. Its picturesque islands and lichen-covered, rocky shorelines are reminiscent of Isle Royale.
For those of you who rarely stray this far north, US 41 runs right along it and you can't miss the boat landing, 5 miles southa Copper Harbor. Lake Med was suffering from crowds and heavy boat traffic over the long weekend.
There musta been a good four to five trailers in the parking lot with just as many boats on the water, a couple of kayaks, a canoe or two, a few float tubers, a sailboat and a pair of loons. That's it.
There was elbow room for all.
Lake Med walleye aren't just good eating, they've been eating good all summer. The ones we cleaned were fulla crawfish and perch, but not so full they wouldn't take our minnows and crick chubs, fresh-trapped from secret beaver dams, and fished on 1/8 and 1/16 oz. yellow, orange and parrothead Northland jigheads in 10-20 feet of water.
The lake's scrappy smallmouth were aggressively pounding live and Gulp Alive minnows and crankbaits in 2-4 foot shoreline shallows.
If you like your smallmouth scrappy, you've come to the right place. I'd rank our Keweenaw smallmouth the scrappiest. We've got scrappy crappie, too. There's nothing tentative or subtle about a smallmouth bite. They will pull a planer board under like a bobber and tug a float tube around the lake.
We got to Copper Harbor just in time to meet the Isle Royale Queen as it off-loaded its season finale, the last regularly scheduled trip from the island, then conducted our final two beach inspections and float-tubed Lake Manganese and Lake Fanny Hooe until dark, milking the weekend for all it was worth.
All good things come to an end, and the heat wave did on Tuesday with a full frontal clash of the high that had brought us the hottest days of summer with a low that resulted in severe thunderstorms. Temperatures tumbled into the 60s, with high winds and heavy rain. Did you hear a tornado touched down in Calumet and did $250,000 wortha improvement?
For bait, tackle, and Fall fishing reports, call Harter Mountain, Calumet (337-0913), Northwoods Sporting Goods, Hancock (482-5210), Gas Lite General Store, Copper Harbor (289-4652), Indian Country Sports, L'Anse (524-6518), Wilderness Bait & Tackle, Chassell (523-4878), Lac la Belle Lodge (289-4293), Greig's Taxidermy & Tackle Ontonagon (884-2770) or your favorite backwoods bar. Or stay tuned to this column. For fishing and hunting licenses online, visit mdnr-elicense.com.
Jim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.