We'd trolled the plating off our Finn Spoons, dragged crankbaits, flashers, dodgers, dipsies, downriggers and surface lines to Gull Rock, Manitou Island and back without a bite.
"I deserve an award for the cleanest lures in the tournament," smiled Captain Fred Funkey, Fred's Charters (289-4849), gracefully accepting rejection, a trait I share from lo, these many years of experience.
It doesn't happen to everybody, just a rare, select few. But it happens hard. Others have done it, yet it's quite the accomplishment in the annals of skunkdom, enough to bring a tear to a glass eye.
"What's a girl to do?" WW&W meteorologist and Longest Day namesake Summer Solstice asked empathetically, "when he hadn't had a bite all day, I bit him."
Summer took over the reins from WW&W spring correspondent Verna Equinox at precisely 1:16 p.m. EDT Tuesday. So far her reign has left Yoopers cold and wet.
Captain Fred, Jim and Ann Weiler, Mike McMahon, Verna, Summer and I shivered as we shoved the Equinox off into a cold, windy dawn. A dramatic, spawn-orange slice of sunrise lit up the Copper Harbor lighthouse as we idled up the harbor, weaving our way between shadowy boats already casting their lines upon the 47-degree water, all hoping to catch that $600 first place splake, or even the second place one worth $450, without even venturing out onto the big lake.
What has become of our Yooper work ethic? And who can one blame, if not the splake themselves and their willingness to bite?
While several anglers got skunked, immediate gratification prevailed for darling 1-year old Madeline Mae Meilahn, whom at that age, knows no other kind. Fishing in not her first, but second Longest Day with her parents, John and Donica Meilahn of Copper Harbor, she won the Grand Prize 16-foot Sea Ray Laguna boat, 60 horsepower Mercury, and trailer, fair and square, in a dramatic third drawing. The winner must be present to claim the grand prize, and the first two weren't.
The 19th Annual Longest Day Tournament lured 185 anglers to the tippa the Keweenaw on June 18, but the biggest winner was the littlest entrant of all, smaller than the biggest fish. Masters of Ceremony Don & Peg Kauppi, awarded more than $3,000 in cash, trophies and prizes during the festive awards ceremony at the Mariner North.
Doug Kuru caught a 35-1/2-inch, 20.4-pound lake trout to win the Biggest Fish award. Biggest splake, 26 inches, 6.6 pounds, went to Mitchell Hendrickson; Biggest walleye, 30 inches, 8.8 pounds, Ian Leonard; Biggest salmon, 30-1/2 inches, 10.2 pounds, Chico Simons; Biggest smallmouth bass, 20 inches, 4.9 pounds, Dan Johnson; Biggest perch, 11-3/4 inches, .75 pounds, Dan Dube. Tourney results appear adjacent.
Everybody knows Copper Harbor is famous for having something fishy going on, but it's no one-trick town. I like strolling the waterfront, trolling the side streets and shops, sticking my camera into their nooks and crannies and saunas.
The whole town is only five blocks wide and about a mile long, so take your sweet time and stop to smell the roses, bakery and coffee. You'll also see and smell apple blossoms and the mountainous lilac bushes that adorn and perfume the village.
Anybody can hang out and chill, but I take it to the next level, lingering and lolly-gagging until they think I'm loitering. That includes wettin' a line with Ed Wetelainen, catching brookies where the air smells like lilacs and chokecherry blossoms.
We start up at Lake Manganese and fish our way downhill to Lake Fanny Hooe. Summer and I went our separate ways on Manganese Crick; she went upstream and I went down, before regrouping at the falls. Both lakes are still pretty nippy, but they're tailor-made for kayaking, canoeing or float-tubing, fannyhooe.com.
Flowing from Lake Fanny Hooe, the world's shortest crick by the same name empties into Copper Harbor with the lighthouse and Lake Superior straight ahead. Isle Royale and Thunder Bay, Ont., a whole 'nother country, lie just beyond the horizon, outa sight, but not outa mind, just itchin' for adventurous, enterprising Keweenaw fishermen to smuggle their cheap Canadian meds to Copper Harbor by boat.
If you're into professional-grade lingering, with aspirations to loitering, book a day-trip cruise to the island aboard the Isle Royale Queen IV, 289-4437, isleroyale.com, and be back in time for dinner, or enjoy a romantic sleep-over you won't forget at Rock Harbor Lodge, 337-4993, rockharborlodge.com.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.