Fishing derby ready to roll
Written by Ironwood Daily Globe   
Friday, 02 September 2005 03:20
Lake Superior fishermen will be up before dawn Friday, taking to the waters of Lake Superior for the annual Black River Harbor Fishing Derby sponsored by the Black River Harbor Boating Club.

"We're going to start fishing each morning at approximately 5:30, Friday through Monday," said club member Bart Domin, an avid lake fisherman.

It's a simple event. You try to catch the biggest fish.

"Areas of competition include a salmon division, lake trout division and brown and steelhead trout are grouped together. It's about an equal pay-out for all species," said Domin.

Fish are judged by a combination of length and weight.

"The weather is going to be great," said Brian Ruotsala, who fishes with his dad, Ken. Ruotsala said he planned to bring the family boat from Little Girl's Point to the Harbor today.

"Fishermen may work both Michigan and Wisconsin waters, but must leave and return from Black River Harbor each day," said Domin. "The boats will be coming in around 6 o'clock each day. On Labor Day, we'll be finishing up the contest at noon. There will be fish on display all weekend.

"The evening weigh-in period is a nice time to come out."

Ruotsala said it will take a 40-incher to win the lake trout division.

"Around a 40-inch lake trout wins," agreed charter operator Dan McManman, who also plans to compete. "Sometimes one 36 inches long will win it. A lot of that depends on the weather, so you may not have a chance to get out deep.

"It's amazing what a half an inch, or a tenth of an inch, will do as far as winning and not winning."

Fishing action promises to be good.

"Fishing is great right now," Domin said Wednesday. "I've caught king salmon, at least one or two, on my last five trips in a row. That's the first time I've done that in years.

"Last night in two and a half hours we caught two kings, two native lake trout and a brown trout. The kings are running up to about 15 pounds. The lake trout, in shallower water where the salmon are are running, are from two to six pounds."

"It's been pretty decent for lake trout," said Bud Johnson, a charter boat operator who, like McManman, operates a 38-foot ChrisCraft based at Black River.

"I've been getting catches of 15 to 20 fish a day," said Johnson. "I've been getting some pretty fair fish in the 34-inch, 16-pound class. I've had one 39 inches, and 20 pounds. I got that on the Fourth of July."

Several boats will be trailered to the harbor for the event.

"You don't necessarily have to have a big boat to win. There's been a few years where a smaller boat has won," said McManman, adding his boat is "about as big as charter boats get on the Great Lakes. The purpose is for people to have enough room to move around.

"The people that trailer in usually have a 16 or 17-foot boat. They're pretty hardy people, and hardy fishermen, too."

This year's event will honor the late Gust Kuismi, whose technological developments helped revive the sport fishery here.

"What we're going to do as part of the closing ceremony is to have a talk about what Gust was like, and what he did for fishermen out of Black River Harbor, and what he did for fishermen on the south shore," said McManman. "He was the inventor of ski fishing and the Finn spoons. The way we fish here on the south shore is kind of unique to Lake Superior, in fact the whole Great Lakes.

"The fishermen used to have to go to the Apostle Islands to get fish. With his style of fishing, you could get suspended lake trout, rather than those that are right on the bottom. You don't have to go as far."

Two factors had virtually exhausted the sport fishery.

"The lamprey and all the commercial fishing had just about eliminated the lake trout," said McManman. "They were overharvesting. After that had happened, the fishermen from Black River Harbor and Saxon and Ontonagon had to go to the shoals at the Apostle Islands to get lake trout. It would take them almost all day to get there."

Kuismi's inventions allowed fishermen to make fine catches closer to home.

"He was really a neat guy," said McManman.

The fishing tournament is also a sort of homecoming.

"One thing I've noticed is a lot of the old-timers show up. It's kind of an end-of-the-year get together," said McManman.

In addition to restroom and picnic facilities, the harbor has other amenities that help to facilitate the contest.

"There is a concession stand open at the harbor. There's boat gas out there," said Domin.

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