"Ya hey you betcha by golly ya hey!" whooped WW&W senior fishing correspondent Ed Wetelainen, who was wettin' a line at the moutha the Falls River on the downtown L'Anse Vegas waterfront. "I'm stayin' pretty busy, too," he grinned, nodding toward the brace of steelhead he was keeping fresh on a stringer, passively finning in the shallows as if they didn't know they were caught. "Vun more, den vee go have a cold vun," he added confidently.
Ed is a fishin' magician whom I swear can wish or will a fish to bite, usually some of both, and sure enough, as if on cue, he deftly wrist-set the hook and his rod tip bent deep to the water, vibrating with the weight of a good fish. In a couple of hours, he'd gone three for three with fresh Lake Superior steelhead finning in his ice chest in the backa the pickup.
We ducked in outa the cold at the Canteen, conveniently located a block from the river backa Indian Country Sports. I bought the first round, hoping to make Ed favorably predisposed to trading me one of those fish, or at least invite me over for supper and I'd do the cooking and bring a 6-pack to boot.
By 8 p.m., the fish were fileted and released to the charcoal in my snowbank Weber while the heads and remains of the day were simmering off the bone in the booyaw pot for a nice kala mojakka (gulla moy-akka), a slow-cooked, flavorful Finnish fish stew. When you wet a line with Ed Wetelainen, it's a zero-waste operation; brains, eyeballs and especially the cheeks, a delicacy in themselves, go into the pot; Finnish frugality at its finest.
The sweetest meat is closest to the bone, and the same goes for fish. A lotta fishermen filet a fish and feed the carcass to the seagulls. Call it the frugal Finn in me, but there's enough left on those bones to brew up one mighty tasty potta booyaw with carrots, celery, redskin potatoes, onions, a little garlic, you know the drill, let everything simmer in its own juices. The Mariner North in downtown Copper Harbor is famous for their thick, creamy lake trout chowder version, which I heartily recommend.
Steelhead, Oncorhynchus mykiss, are migratory lake-run (anadromous) rainbow trout whose natal streams are the north-flowing rivers of the U.P. emptying into Lake Superior. Baraga County has its share and somebody else's with the Falls, Silver, Slate, Ravine and Big Huron, which freeze over and become deer runways during winter, except for the Falls where the warm-water discharge from the power plant keeps the water flowing and seduces steelhead to come in outa the cold 32-degree lake water into the balmy 35-degree flow of the river, where their steel blue backs and quicksilver sides develop a red to magenta blush on gillplates, cheeks and lateral line, hence the name rainbow.
These hard-fighting exotics were transplanted into the Great Lakes from hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest, for which Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota hatcheries traded northern and walleye eggs. Lake Superior fish run 3-8 pounds, and give you a darn good run for your money when hooked; world record 42 pounds, 2 ounces. Fly fishermen use bright attractor patterns, orange, pink or red with flashabou or tinsel. Spincasters pitch small flash spoons, pink or orange Mepps and Panther Martin spinners, and drift yarnflies, eggs and spawnsacks.
In other sporting news, Denver fans were bummed when Tim Tebow's prayers and theirs went unanswered with no divine intervention in sight, and the Broncos were beaten by the New England Patriots whom I was pulling for because Tom Brady played his college ball at Michigan. It's rumored that Tim is developing a new prayer stance/dance called the Tebow Tango, which reportedly has a good beat, natural rhythm and is easy to dance to.
"Not for us," said WW&W fundamentalist correspondent Al Postolic, whose church strictly forbids dancing. "It's tough living in the world but not being of the world," he mumbled, looking dejectedly at his shoes, "curse these dogma-shackled, rhythm-less feet of clay."
A recent WW&W political dynamics poll indicates Michigan residents think Mitt Romney's first name is short for Mitten, as in the shape of the lower peninsula. His dad, George Romney, was governor of Michigan when I was a kid.
"You gotta admit, it's tough to nail Mitt down on what he stands for," Al continued, he's nowhere near conservative enough for me, but at least we know what his nickname stands for."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.