"By the time you read this, I'll be in Copper Harbor wettin' a line with Ed Wetelainen," said WW&W Spring correspondent Verna Equinox, who only hangs around until her fellow fashion model and climatological colleague Summer Solstice gets here. She flew her seaplane in under the radar this morning for the Longest Day festivities.
"Copper Harbor was loose float ice and b-b-b-barely liquid when I arrived on March 21," Verna shivered, "since the first day of Spring it's warmed all the way up to 50 degrees; the splake, lakers and salmon should be snapping."
While Summer doesn't actually Solstice until June 21, she always arrives a few days early to pre-fish, strategize and tie up loose ends with tournament organizer Don Kauppi, 289-4637, copperharbor.org
"Without Summer Solstice, we'd have no Longest Day," Kauppi copped. "She jump-starts our season and gives good economic impact; Last year's event lured about 80 boats and 235 anglers, and we're anticipating another good turn-out."
Verna, Summer and I cover the event as non-fishing media observers with Captain Fred Funkey, Fred's Charters, 289-4849, aboard the Equinox, a cozy, classic 41-foot Chris Craft Roamer named after Verna. Once again, we'll be casting off in the dawn's early light and doing whatever Captain Fred tells us to do until we get back to the dock. Then we shoot the official weigh-ins at the Gas Lite General Store til 5 p.m., and we're on our own recognizance til the 8 p.m. awards ceremony and pay-out at the Mariner North, followed by music and dancing with Wolfgang.
Sponsored by the Copper Harbor Improvement Association and McCabe Distributing, the 19th Annual Copper Harbor Labatt Blue Longest Day Fishing Tournament runs from 6 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, but the festivities kick off at 6 p.m. today with the official registration, fishermen's fish fry and beer social; kala mojakka and olut to you homies.
All registered anglers qualify to win the grand prize 16-foot Sea Ray Laguna fishing boat and 60-horsepower Mercury with trailer, Bimini Canopy Console, trolling motor and electronics.
Anglers fish Lake Superior, Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, Lac la Belle and Lake Fanny Hooe in everything from kayaks to cruisers, employing planer boards, dipsies, downriggers, bottom-bouncers and gebbus. Walleye category is catch-and-release with live weigh-ins at Lac la Belle Lodge gas dock since the marina is under construction.
"While most tournaments target either walleye or trout, we do both," Kauppi continued, "and not just both ways, but all ways."
Lake trout and walleye categories pay $500 first, $300, $150, $75 and $50, plus $100 total weight. Splake pays $600, $450, $200, $75, $50; Biggest salmon, smallmouth and perch earn $50 each.
"It's what makes the Longest Day the most diverse, challenging tournament around," Summer said proudly, "beautiful uncrowded waters, hot multi-species action, cold beer and friendly Copper Harbor hospitality."
"A lotta fish haven't even seen a lure yet this season and are waiting for you with baited breath, drooling over the thought of their first juicy crawler or fat minnow," she added, "or their first cruel hoax in the form of a treacherous RJ, Rapala or Reef Runner."
"Wait til they see the flutter of my spoons," said J.D Neiswender, owner of Finn Spoons, Marquette, in town for the tournament. His legendary Yooper-made lures are irresistable to lake trout and salmon, and are favorites among trollers, charter captains and guides, locally and throughout the Great Lakes.
"Our gleaming gold, silver and copper-plated spoons have seduced Lake Superior fish and fishermen since 1954," he added, "and our new Glow Finn Spoons enhance the attraction."
Speaking of which, anglers will be puckered to learn that the Summer Solstice bikini kissing booth is back by popular demand, with all proceeds going toward the cause. "It's not just money, it's ceremoney," Summer demured philanthropic. "The girls are always willing to flirt and flaunt it for the greater good, especially when it benefits Keweenaw sportfishing."
"The Longest Day promotes sportfishing and tourism for Copper Harbor and the Keweenaw," Kauppi emphasized. "Funds raised go to area stream and lake improvement, and proceeds not used as prize money are earmarked for continued splake plants to support this important sportfishery."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.