"I'm just a girl who can't say no," WW&W wildlife correspondent and fishinista Paris Hiltunen broke into song with her arousing lyric from "Oklahoma." It was her theatrical way of saying yes when I asked her to help me cover the Northern Electric Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic this weekend.
There's always something fishy going on in Ontonagon, but they kick it up a notch during the Lake Trout Classic, attracting Lake Superior anglers and fans from Duluth to the Soo and as far south as Chicago. Some come for the fishing, some for the food, some for the fame and fortune, but they all come for Paris and to support a good cause. Funds raised from the fishing tournament, BBQ Cook-Off and Shamrock fish fry benefit Ontonagon County Cancer Association. For more event info, call 884-2770 or visit greigstackleshop.com.
Operating out of the WW&W media bureau at the Dry Dock Bar, Bed & Breakfast and aboard the notorious Jolly Roger with Captain Jimmy Johnson, we cover the waterfront, from the Ladies Powderpuff Tourney today, through two full days of serious fishing on Lake Superior, with fish fries and a BBQ cook-off back on dry land. It's quite the shindig, and the hottest surf and turf action in the U.P., but first my walleye opener report.
Bright sun, raw wind, and water colder than a mother-in-law's love greeted us on Lac la Belle as Jim and Jonathan Baker set their planer boards in a perfect walleye chop, one-foot waves with whitecaps blowing off the top. The kinda wind that blows your lure back at you when you cast into it, spools you off when you cast with it, and keeps a lotta anglers off the frigid 44-degree water.
Despite the cold, the fish were hot, but they weren't walleye. We caught and released the kinda smallmouth that pull your planer boards under and don't want to give them back. Angler pressure and traffic was conspicuously absent; We saw three other boats all day on LLB, none on Bete Gris.
"It was a tough Opening Day bite all over," said WW&W walleye correspondent Sandra Vitreus, "anglers on Portage and Torch Lakes also reported aggressive big smallies, my favorite fish oxymoron, snappin' prematurely and ravaging Rapalas, RJs and Reef Runners - I love my lures with teeth marks in them."
WW&W May-June Outdoor Calendar
Going on now: Keweenaw Migatory Bird Festival, Karen Karl, 289-4588, copperharborbirding.org, keweenawraptorsurvey.org
May 27-29, Ride the Keweenaw Weekend, copperharbortrails.org, keweenawadventure.com, Sam Raymond, 289-4303
June 4, Knights of Columbus Walleye & Northern Tournament, Portage & Torch Lake, Mark Ozanich or Gary Marcotte, 296-0139
June 11, 6th Annual Baraga County Lake Trout Festival, L'Anse Waterfront Park & Marina, Steve Koski, Indian Contry Sports, 524-6518, laketroutfestival.com.
June 12, 38th Annual Rice Lake Fishing Derby, 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Family fun, $6,500 in prizes, two tagged fish worth total $200, Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Association, llhsa.org.
June 18, Labatt Blue Longest Day Fishing Tournament, Copper Harbor, Don Kauppi, 289-4637
With the walleye playing hard to get, we activated Lac la Belle Plan B, battened down the hatches, and headed for the Mouth of the Montreal. Jim's 18-foot Lund Fisherman and Honda 150 make short work of the wet, wild and woolly ride across Bete Gris, and it was worth it. We had the place to ourselves, and the gushing run-off of warmer 49-degree river water made the difference; we drifted, jigged and fan-casted every inch from the base of the falls to the outer edge of the colored water, catching splake on Mepps Syclops, Little Rippers, Jr. Thundersticks, jointed Rapalas and big, fat, juicy crawlers drifted beneath a slip bobber.
One of my biggest wading thrills at the Mouth is feeling a firm bump between the knees of a wild steelhead with spawning on his mind surging upstream, then watching his silver filets flash in the sun, disappear in a flash into the cascading water, then reappear again and again as he valiantly jumped up the falls.
You don't get that walleye fishing.
In outdoor fashion news, if you thought Paris looked lovely in her Yiffy yellow snowmobile suit and ice drill this past winter, her favorite color is out in full bloom with screaming yellow daffodils, forsithia, Scottish Broom, and marsh marigolds everywhere. In other Spring flower news, you can see Arbutus Peterson at the Phoenix Store, or trailing arbutus anywhere along the trail.
Stay tuned to this column next week when we report all the glory details of the exciting Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic, the carnivorous competition of the BBQ Cookoff, and continue our exhaustive coverage of where the walleye aren't biting.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.