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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

Trophy fish beyond the horizon

August 6, 2010
By Jim Junttila

"Whenever you hear somebody caught a 20-pound lake trout, the first thing you think of is Stannard Rock," said WW&W senior fishing correspondent, Ed Wetalainen.

Lake Superior has some far-flung, world-class bluewater fisheries, but Stannard Rock takes the cake. Or should I say splake? It's where the wall-hangers come from; Michigan's state record lake trout came from here in 1997; caught by Lucas Lanczy, it hangs on the wall at the Hilltop Restaurant in L'Anse. Go see for yourself.

Local bluewater angler Steve Stackhouse, Houghton, recently made the 1-1/2 hour run from Lac la Belle to the Rock with the motley crew of Jerry Parker, Jerry Kotajarvi, Bruce Racine, Ron Racine Sr. and Ron Racine Jr. They all limited out, fishing jigs tipped with cutbait marinated in herring oil, and released more than a dozen fish, several topping 20 pounds.

Stannard Rock, coordinates 47 degrees, 11 minutes, 0.62 seconds north, 87 degrees 13 minutes, 30.42 seconds west, is called "the loneliest place in the world" and is truly the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, or day. These remote rocky reefs, shoals, humps, lumps, bumps, pinnacles and the forage base around them are magnets for predator lake trout and salmon and here's how to catch them, but first this message from our sponsors:

According to Google and Wikipedia, the lighthouse was built in 1882 and named after John Stannard, captain of the schooner John Jacob Astor, who discovered this underwater mountain range lying beyond the horizon from any direction in 1835.

Located off the tippa the Keweenaw Peninsula, 25 miles southa Manitou Island and 50 miles northa Marquette, it's the lighthouse most distant from shore in the United States. Most people wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole in a lifetime; the only ones who go anywhere near it are adventurous fishermen, sailors, pirates, lake freighters, lost mariners, and oh yeah, the trophy lake trout we go there for.

Considered the most dangerous hazard to navigation and shipping on Lake Superior, the treacherous mile-long reef lies just beneath the surface in a major shipping lane 50 miles offshore from Marquette. She runs 2 to 16 feet deep, and drops off to 150-foot depths providing structure, forage and sanctuary for the trophy lake trout fishery.

These fish are lonely and responsive; they are willing biters for jigging spoons, spinners, crankbaits and jigs tipped with cutbait, Mr. Twister grub tails or Berkley Gulp. Big jointed Rapalas, RJs and Reef Runners provoke vicious strikes, and Silver Streaks, Lucky Strikes, Laker Takers, Luhr Jensen and Finn Spoons all do the trick.

The Rock has some impressive credentials: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is rated as one of the top 10 engineering feats in the United States. The 100-foot monolithic limestone tower was built from 1,270 tons of block quarried from Marblehead, Ohio, then shipped to the site over a period of years. One hundred twenty-six tons of iron, 76 tons of brick and 7,276 tons of concrete also went into the construction of the lighthouse, atop of which they installed a 1,400,000-candlepower second-order Fresnel lens with 12 bulls-eyes which produced 12 beacons of light making a complete rotation every three minutes. Pretty good for the 1880s, eh? It was completed in 1882 at a cost of $305,000, including the $5K budget overrun. Obamanomics could take lessons.

Known as a watery graveyard for ships and lures, the Rock has a particularly grabby bottom that comes up quick and will not budge an inch. Vertical pinnacles are death to props and downrigger balls. I have broken off many a jig, spoon and lure here. It shows no favoritism and has grabbed Swedish Pimples, Syclops, big Mepps, Roostertail and Panther Martin spinners. I have also been broken off by trophy fish who wanted my lure more than I did. Trolling with planer boards, surface lines and Dipsy Divers that keep lures relatively shallow is a good way to pick up salmon and steelhead, and keep from losing lures.

In 1961, the Coast Guard was preparing the station for automation when an explosion ripped through the machine room; one of the three seamen on duty was killed, and the fire destroyed everything but the structure. In 1962, the light was automated with a fog horn and a solar- powered 3,000-candlepower, 300mm acrylic lens which casts a beam 18 miles from Stannard's lantern. The historic Fresnel lens was disassembled, hauled down 114 tower stairs, packed in six wooden crates and lowered down to the water with block and tackle. It is now on display in the Marquette Maritime Museum. Go see for yourself.

To book a fishing charter to Stannard Rock, call Captain Fred Funkey, Fred's Charters, Copper Harbor (906-289-4849), kraig@pasty.com; Kimar's Charters, kimarscharters.com, Shelter Bay, (906-892-8277); Uncle Ducky Charters, Marquette, stannardrockfishing.com, (877-228-5447); Fisher-Price Charters, Portage Entry, 906-523-0044; Shelter Bay Charters, AuTrain, shelterbaycharters.com, (906-892-8230).

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@chartermi.net.

 
 

 

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