Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic winners
Choppy conditions on Lake Superior this past Friday to Sunday didn’t deter those that competed in the 20th Annual Aspirus Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic. This popular fishing tournament is an annual event that takes place on Lake Superior and is a fundraiser for Ontonagon County Cancer Association.
The tourney started on Friday with the women competing in the Powder Puff Tourney. Winning the $500 first place was Connie Schatz and Melissa Preiss.
Schatz commented on the waves on Gitchee Gumee, “It was bad! We almost didn’t even put (the boat) in. We got out there and they (teammates) were waiting for me to say whether I want to drop in or get out.”
Schatz and Preiss decided to stay out and fish. They dropped their lines in 45 to 47 foot depth. Waves were at 5 feet and as the day went on, Schatz said the waves got even bigger.
The lake trout were not getting bigger for this team, but when added together they accumulated enough to edge the second place team of Kim Johnson, Marlee Schmaus and Sara Hirvela.
Third place went to Abby Butina, Ontonagon Village Clerk, Kori Weisinger and Jenny Brandt.
Saturday and Sunday competitors from all over the UP, Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin braved the changing lake conditions. A member of the championship team, Bill Lundberg, stated that early Sunday the lake was calm.
“Until an hour to hour and a half to weigh-in time, we had 5 to 6 foot waves coming out of the Northeast,” Lundberg said. “On Saturday, they pulled in 14 fish, lake trout and two coho. On Sunday, we only had one bite until the very end. It was a 22-pound fish. When we were reeling in, we caught another fish. We were really lucky!”
The Lundberg team consisted of Ben, Bill, Justin and Fred Lundberg. They had a total of 51.4 pounds. That was over 10 pounds more than the second place team of Kevin Patana, Mike Morris and Josh Harjo. They weighed in 41.2 pounds. The third place team of Mike Hegewald, Chrissy Hegewald, Jesse Demeyer and Kelly Kennedy pulled in 40.6 pounds.
Chrissy Hegewald and Kelly Kennedy had the biggest catch for the women at 15.12 pounds.
As surprising as it may seem, Bill Lundberg gave his strategy: “We’ve been fishing out of here (Ontonagon) for several decades now. We watch the weather, and we usually like too set ourselves up to fish with the waves if the weather is coming.”
They went fishing Sunday, returning to the location where they had their success Saturday.
“The first couple hours we had no action so we tried a couple of our other spots that we usually go,” Lundberg said. “No action. We ended up with that one that truly was just a rogue. That was that 22-pound lake trout.”
Schatz was surprised to win the Powder Puff Tourney as she stated that none of the fish was that big, but big enough to weigh the most.
“The last one I reeled in, I reeled in on my knees,” Schatz said.
This was the fifth time that Schatz was in the Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic.
“It was a lot of fun, but preferably a little calmer conditions would have been nice,” Schatz said.
As to the success of the tournament and how much the Lake Trout Classic brings to the Ontonagon community, Lundberg commented, “Larry Grieg has brought so much to Ontonagon. I can’t even describe it. He has the community in mind, above his own interests.”
Bill Lundberg was the first Lake Trout Classic champion when Larry and his now-late wife, Diane, started the tourney in 2003. Since then, this tournament has raised over $100,000 for Ontonagon County Cancer Association.
In addition to the Fishing Tournament, the weekend consisted of the fishermen donating their fish back for the popular Saturday Night Fish Fry at the Ontonagon VFW. Over a dozen volunteers fried the fish and made the potato salad and dessert. The fish fry is coordinated by Bob and Lynn Majurin.