ONTONAGON?- Last year, Jimmy Johnson's Jolly Roger Fishing Team won its first Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic after eight years of trying. This year they became the first anglers to repeat the performance.
"Must be that clean Black River Harbor living," Johnson grinned, sipping a celebratory NA and plugging his home port. "Winning it back-to-back is twice as nice," he added excitedly as he and Denny Forslund, Ron Mahoney and Don Maki weighed in their 44.92 pound catch to capture first place and $1,200 in the 9th Annual Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic, bettering last year's weight by 4.1 pounds.
The Jolly Roger Fishing Team didn't keep the cash long enough to roll in it, they did something that felt even better; as in past years, they gave it all to the Ontonagon County Cancer Association.
Mike Applekamp and John Niskanen show off the hefty 18.31-pounder that won Biggest Lake Trout award in the Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic. (Jim Junttila photo)
The Jolly Roger Fishing Team, Jim Johnson, Denny Forslund, Ron Mahoney and Don Maki, hoist their winning catch good for a second straight first place finish. (Jim Junttila photo)
The Washdup Fishing Team, Lena Wascher, Liz Bruett and Susie Milly, weighs in their winning lake trout and celebrates first place in the Ladies Powder Puff Derby. (Jim Junttila photo)
The Classic kicks off the Yooper fishing tournament season, and a festive weekend of hot fishin' and cookin' action in Ontonagon. The tournament has evolved into quite the shindig, a 3-day event with the Women's Powder Puff Derby and a bonus pre-tournament on Friday, the captain's meeting fish fry at the Shamrock Friday evening, and the BBQ for Life Cookoff and dinner Saturday. All proceeds go to the Ontonagon County Cancer Association.
Just a few miles west along the coast in Silver City, the mouth of the Iron River was iced in, as was Black River Harbor. The Saxon Harbor Tournament was postponed because of late ice.
A field of 45 boats and 180 fishermen fished the Classic, with 13 teams competing in the women-only Powder Puff Derby, won by the Washdup Fishing Team of Lena Wascher, Liz Bruett and Susie Milly. The girls caught more than 100 fish which they donate to the Captains Meeting fish fry at the Shamrock. Moonshine Lures sponsors the Ladies Powder Puff Derby.
Ladies Powder Puff Derby
1. Lena Wascher, Liz Bruett, Susie Milly, 8.6 pounds
2. Lisa Kaarto, Trisha Haapala, 8.32
3. Pam & Cayla Karttunen, 8.09
2014 Aspirus Ontonagon Lake Trout Classic
1. Jimmy Johnson, Denny Forslund, Ron Mahoney, Don Maki, 44.92 pounds, $1200
2. Mike Applekamp, Toni Applekamp, John Niskanen, 39.25, $600
3. Dan, Bob & Tyler Labine, 35.27, $400
4. Bryan & Tom Hamilton, Carl Peterburs, 34.44
5. John Myllylahti, Shane Stites, Kevin Majurin, Bryan Kin, 34.07
6. Billy Marks & Jerry Gravely, 30.70
7. Bob Madigan, Bill Tromley, Mike Schalow, 29.56
8. Steve Harbinski & Dale Kenttunen, 28.38
Biggest Fish Category pays $200 each species. Sponsors are Ontonagon County Telephone Company, Shamrock Bar, Coca-Cola of Hancock, U.P .Sports Fishermen Association, Peterson's Chalet & Cottages, and Ontonagon Valley Sportsmen's Club.
Largest Lake Trout
1. Mike Applekamp, 18.31 pounds
2. Bryan Hamilton, 16.01
Ladies Largest Lake Trout
1. Kelli Callahan, 9.62
2. Pam Coey, 6.94
Largest Brown Trout
1. Larry Dishaw, 7.47
2. Doug Anderson, 7.05
Largest King (Chinook) Salmon
1. Billy Marks, 7.13
2. Larry Dishaw, 5.93
Largest Coho Salmon
1. Dean Wascher, 4.32
2. Ralph Tinkey, 4.20
1. George Monville, 4.73
2. Bob Majurin, 4.3
"Ontonagon oughta be proud of the many fishermen, fishing enthusiasts, BBQ aficionados and volunteers who make it happen," tournament director Larry Greig said, "I get complimentary email and calls on how hot the hospitality, fishing and BBQ action are, and what a fun event it is."
For photos, information and fishing reports, visit greigstackleshop.com, 884-2770.
"It's a good time that pulls the community together for a good cause," said Yooper Michigan NRC commissioner and tournament regular J.R. Richardson. "The event has grown steadily for nine years, thanks to Aspirus, local sponsors and anglers," he added, "more and more out-of-town anglers come back for the hot fishin', food and fun."
I've covered the tournament as a media observer and BBQ judge for several years, but this was my first time as a cancer survivor. Since 2003, the event has raised tens of thousands for the Ontonagon County Cancer Association.
Asked about the secret to his success with the Jolly Roger repeat, Jimmy Johnson said "We found a patch of warm 46-47 degree surface water off 14 Mile Point; we caught most of our fish trolling No. 1 gold Finn Spoons at 1-1/2 to 2 mph a fathom or two deep, and staggered at 30-50 feet," he added, "and if you believe that, I can make you a heckuva good deal on the suspension bridge over Black River Harbor."
To book a charter aboard the classic 42-foot Chris Craft Jolly Roger, call 932-5196.