While local fundamentalists were bummed out about the world not coming to an end once again last Saturday, hundreds of infidel fishers of men and women enraptured and captured a lotta big fish, relieving Lake Superior of some of her finest during the Northern Electric Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic.
I was glad to be in that number and so was WW&W wildlife correspondent and fishinista Paris Hiltunen, who wowed the crowd on land and sea in her, dare-I-say appropriate, trademark fishnet stockings she wears to every tournament. As fellow judges in the BBQ for Life Cook-off, we mingled and tasted too much with radio personalities Mitch Lake and Jan Tucker. It was a motley crew and ecumenical crowd, well beyond the fundamentals.
The usually sleepy river town was in full-throttle party mode, what with the Ladies Powderpuff Tourney, the BBQ and the Shamrock Fish Fry fundraiser, all benefiting the Ontonagon County Cancer Association.
We were covering the event in the lappa luxury aboard the Jolly Roger, a sleek 38-foot classic 1967 Chris Craft Commander out of Black River Harbor, piloted by Captain Jimmy Johnson and Denny Forslund. There's plenty of elbow room and creature comforts, with a beamy stern deck that dances 12 with a three-piece band, surrounded by Cannon and Walker electric downriggers and stem-to-stern rodholders that form a hip-high safety rail so you can't fall overboard, no matter what. But don't take my word for it, book a charter at 906-942-5196.
"That's a heckuva big fish," Jimmy smiled as he netted a thrashing 11-pound lake trout for Denny, "it's got a head, a tail and three feet in between."
Well, maybe two feet.
They were trolling a lure they called the Carbon Copy that caught a lotta fish of different persuasions duplicitously. Strategically running spoons at staggered depths, they found most fish in 10-15 fathoms of the 47 to 51-degree water.
For two days straight, from 5:30 a.m. to the 3 p.m. weigh-ins, they spoon-fed Finn Spoons and Creative Touch Needlenose spoons to lakers, browns, coho, kings and steelhead, weighing in 40.17 pounds, good for a fourth-place finish in the money, just a few ounces southa third. They held their checks only briefly, then kissed them goodbye before selflessly signing them over to the Cancer Association.
At the cracka dawn, a fishy armada of 60 boats and 120 anglers spread out from the chocolate milk plume at the mouth of the Ontonagon River, running as far west as the Porkies and Silver City, and east to Misery Bay, trolling every manner of downrigger, uprigger, outrigger, bottom bouncer and planer board, luring fish with every kinda flasher, dodger, dipsy diver, J-plug, spoon, needlespoon, crankbait and temptation known to man.
In the women-only Powderpuff Tourney, the ladies employed even more seduction skills than the men, some boldly wearing lipstick forbidden to fundamentalist critics. Fourteen teams of 28 women competed in the event, brazenly wiggling their Rapalas, RJs and Reef Runners until they caught enough fish to feed the masses at the traditional Friday night fish fry at the Shamrock.
First place and largest lake trout, 10.10 pounds, awards went to Renee Jacobson and Jane Nordine. Jennifer Raymond and Kathy Plutchak caught the largest salmon, 5.7 pounds, both of which went into the sinfully-delicious fish fry and kala mojakka.
Mike Applekamp and John Niskanen took first place in the Classic, weighing in 49.93 pounds, including the largest lake trout, 17.57 pounds, 37 inches, caught by Niskanen.
Everybody likes staying at nice B & Bs, but the DD BB&B goes you one B better, as in Jarv Jarvi's Dry Dock Bar, Bed & Breakfast, home of the WW&W Onto media bureau, right next door to Syl's downtown, base camp for your intrepid reporters who covered the events both onshore and off, gamely surviving two full days of serious fishing on Lake Superior and the hottest surf and turf action on the Yooper tournament trail.
In other outdoor news, don't miss the gala Keweenaw ATV Trail Dedication with Mike McMahon and Don Kauppi at Vansville, Saturday at 1 p.m.; live music by Boody Creek and our own Singin' Sheriff, Ron Lahti. If they're playing requests, I wanna hear "Muskrat Ramble." For info, call Judy, 337-0529.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.