It stays light til after 10 these days. The sun barely sets over Duluth when it seems to be coming back up again at the Soo, as if Lake Superior was its entire celestial arc. Sunday, Father's Day, is the Solstice, the longest day of the year; Monday is the first day of summer, when the days start getting shorter again until Summer's sister, Winter, arrives on Dec. 21. You know how they work; they're both seasonal residents of the Keweenaw, but Winter stays longer and dresses warmer.
It was dawn, and the heady scent of lilacs, apple and chokecherry blossoms in full bloom, the signature fragrance of Summer Solstice, wafted down Brockway Street, along the waterfront, and throughout Copper Harbor. She was here at the tippa the Keweenaw for her annual first day of summer celebration and the legendary Longest Day fishing tournament.
"My name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still)," Summer explained during a press conference at the Mariner. "At the solstice, the sun seems to stand still, especially at this far northern latitude. It occurs precisely when the earth's axial tilt is closest to the sun at its highest point in the sky. Though the Summer Solstice is only an instant in time, a blink, the term is colloquially used like Midsummer to refer to the day it happens."
"Hasn't Summer Solstice historically been an ancient pagan festival celebrated with bonfires, music, dancing, feasting, wine, women and song?" I asked hopefully.
"Yes, the Longest Day has all that and more, and don't forget fishing," Summer replied. It's when the bite reaches its height among the bugs and the fishes."
She'd brought along her spinning rod, A-game and A-Team; WW&W Correspondents Paris Hiltunen, Dolly Partanen, Sandy Bottom and Sarah Palinen to work the registration and weigh-ins, help tournament officials Jake Anderson, Pink Floyd Kaiser and Mike Sweney, and look good doing it. Fishing venues are Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, Lac la Belle & Lake Fanny Hooe. Inland lake correspondent Fanny Hooe will supervise her namesake lake.
"They're every bit as foxy as the correspondents at Fox News, even Shannon Breen," said Summer, "just not so conservative, plus they can fish and have the Yooper work ethic to boot."
The tournament kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight with the captains meeting, registration and fish boil & beer social at the Community Center. Fishing is from 6 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday with Official Weigh-In at Gas Lite General Store and Awards Ceremony & Celebration, 8 p.m., at the Mariner North. There is $3,800 in cash prizes, a Grand Prize drawing for a 16-foot Fisher boat, Evinrude E-Tec Outboard & trailer. Call 289-4637 for more info.
"Now's when you can catch lake trout and brookies, or both in one fish," said tournament organizer Don Kauppi, referring to the popular brookie/laker hybrid. "With the success of the splake fishery, we've beefed up the category with $600 for first place, $450 for second, and $300 third. Plus we're starting a year-round tournament that pays $100 for the biggest splake caught every month. Our goal is to keep splake a viable economic attraction and boost to the Keweenaw."
Hooking up with a splake in Copper Harbor is a constant threat, whether you're fishing from shore or a boat. Nine-year-old Tyler Kipina caught an 8.5-pounder off a dock last week on an ultralite rod and reel with a smelt.
Out on the big lake they'll be chasing rainbows, lakers, browns, coho and king salmon. Other categories are perch, walleye and smallmouth.
"You'll see a lotta downriggin, outriggin, long-linin', flat-linin, gebbu-lainen, even suomalainens out scumlinin," said Ed Wetalainen. "Some go gebbu-mining for lake trout at 250 feet, others poke around pilings and cast into shallow weedbeds from a kayak."
Lake Superior trollers drag cowbells, flasher & squid combos, flashers & spin 'n glows off downriggers and dipsy divers; Finn Spoons, rapalas, reef runners, laker takers, and RJs remain popular behind planer boards. Or try bobbin' with a gebbu and a jig with cutbait. The new 5-mile limit levels the playing field.
"It's the kinda tournament where you can catch a winning fish from shore, a canoe, kayak, or float tube," Kauppi added. "Set up your favorite deck chair and a cooler on the township dock, throw out a smelt or crawler with a bobber, and you stand as good a chance as anybody."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.