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Summer’s swan song quite the shindig/Woods, water & worse

September 23, 2011
By Jim Junttila , The Daily Mining Gazette

"Now that I'm back in town and Summer's on her way out, we've got a lot to celebrate!" announced WW&W Fall Correspondent Autumn Equinox at the gala media celebration honoring her arrival and Summer's departure in Copper Harbor.

Michigan's northernmost coastal village at the tippa the Keweenaw Peninsula has hosted the annual changing of the seasons celebration since Autumn's grandmother handed her title down to Autumn's mother, who in turn passed it along making her the third generation Equinox to preside over the ancient meteorological event.

Today is the point on the celestial sphere where the sun is located on the autumnal equinox at ecliptical longitude 180 degrees and at right ascension 12h, guiding Lake Superior mariners to Copper Harbor.

"What's the difference between a canoe and a Canadian?" the bartender at Zik's asked over Equinox cocktails.

"Canoes tip," he smiled.

Copper Harbor was filled with boats flying the distinctive red maple leaf flag as Canadian boaters and fishermen from Thunder Bay added a festive international flair to the first day of fall. Soon boaters from Duluth to the Soo occupied every marina slip and dock space, every motel room in Copper Harbor, every campsite at Fort Wilkins State Park, and every cabin and room at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge for Autumn's debut and Summer's swan song.

Autumn was once again booked into her official headquarters aboard her namesake boat, Captain Fred Funkey's 42-foot Chris Craft Roamer, the Equinox, tied up at the Isle Royale Queen dock.

"The annual Tippa the Keweenaw Fall Festival goes on day and night for 48 hours from the Mountain Lodge to Copper Harbor," she explained.

"It's part of the awesome natural ebb and flow of life itself," Summer waxed philosophical while enjoying her final massage of the season before flying her seaplane south where warm weather lingers longer.

Right on schedule, the swans sang and trumpeted their swan song to Summer. As if on cue, the Splake migrated onto their natal reefs, looking like big brookies all dolled up in their Fall spawning colors, taunting fishermen by refusing even the most provocatively presented crankbaits, spinners and spoons, then turning their noses up at their favorite crawlers, cutbait and even a juicy hunka smelt marinating on the bottom.

Outside the harbor, lake trout and king salmon are putting on quite a bite for near-shore trollers fishing Finn Spoons and Bay de Noc Laker Takers on downriggers at 120-140 feet. Captain Larry Smith, FishOn II Charters of Lac la Belle (289-4481), reported 18 lakers between 3 and 10 pounds in two trips, all on downriggers between Copper Harbor and Keweenaw Point.

Autumn's arrival also intensified the feeding of inland lake fish, with Gratiot Lake serving up a hot walleye bite on bottom bouncers with Northland gold spinner blades and a two-hook crawler harness on a 3-foot leader. Inland lake water temps are running 65-68 degrees, just slightly warmer than Lake Superior.

"Autumn Equinox also casts her fall feeding spell on Lac la Belle, Portage and Torch Lakes, arousing the appetites of smallmouth, northern and perch," said WW&W minnow expert Johnny Darter, indicating these increasingly active feeders are in the mood for bigger meals.

"Where dace, bluenose and fatheads were turning predators on during summer, their tastes have evolved to bigger crick chubs and sucker minnows," Darter specified.

With the green of Summer giving way to Autumn's color, ferns are turning brown along brookie cricks heading into the home stretch, season ends September 30.

Did I ever mention that I have a 12-year old Boston fern in my office? It didn't come from Boston, nor even Boston Pond. It came from Woodtick Crick, where you wade through a waist-deep fern fen. Twelve years ago, I took along a big tub and a spade, dug up a big, healthy Yooper fern by the root wad, took it home and transplanted it in a big clay pot with coffee grounds mixed into the potting soil. Twelve years later, it's still fit as a fiddle, get it, fiddler fern? And its fronds are now longer than five feet, stretching from its perch on the top shelf of a bookcase near the ceiling almost to the floor.

When the leaves change into their fall colors, then start falling, it's nice prolonging the summer with a house fulla green plants.

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at



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