It surprises me how many residents of the area spend a good portion of their lives along the shores of Lake Superior and never get out on the water. Many of these people simply don't have the desire to do so. For many younger residents, though, it's a matter of not having the opportunity.
In an effort to provide that opportunity to the latter group, two local organizations teamed up recently and offered a day on the lake to more than two dozen youngsters.
The event was the third annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Fishing Tournament sponsored by the South Shore Fishing Association.
Joel Betts, 11, left, and Colin Sirois, 10, hold up one of the nice lake trout their team caught aboard the fishing boat Top Secret during last weekend’s Big Brothers-Big Sisters fishing tournament on Lake Superior. The outing, which included more than two dozen little brothers and little sisters, was sponsored by the South Shore Fishing Association. (Journal photo by Dave Schneider)
"It started out with eight kids the first year, went to 12 kids the second year and 27 this year ... and everybody caught fish," said tournament organizer Bill Flanigan of the SSFA.
Flanigan, who is also involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marquette County, said the outing was started as a way to offer little brothers and little sisters a nice day on Lake Superior with their bigs, and "it's just exploded. We had to turn kids away this year."
While the two organizations coordinate the event, Flanigan is quick to say that it wouldn't be possible without the boat owners - who donate their time, fishing boats and gas - and many businesses and individuals in the community.
"We turned it into a fundraiser this year (for BBBS) and raised about $3,000 through donations," Flanigan said. "We're looking for a corporate sponsor for next year."
In all there were 27 littles and their bigs, 21 boats with a captain and mate and several shore helpers. After a morning of trolling the big lake for lake trout and salmon, everybody enjoyed a lunch provided by the Border Grill.
Then came the weigh-in of all fish caught, including some real monsters and some not so big, but all the kids were excited as their turn came to haul their fish up to be weighed. The top three fishing teams received plaques and every kid received a tackle box stuffed with fishing gear provided by the fishing association.
Most kids said it was the first time out fishing and many said they were already looking forward to their next trip.
And while the boat captains deserve a big thanks for making the event possible, they had a personal reason as well - doing a little scouting of where the big fish are in preparation for next week's more serious fishing tourney. The event is the Marquette Bay Classic sponsored by the fishing association, which last year drew nearly 60 teams angling for upwards of $30,000 in prize money.
This year's tournament is set for Sept. 11 and follows the same basic format as previous years.
There will be teams of three or four anglers per boat fishing for cash in four categories: catch-and-release trout, catch-and-keep trout, catch-and-release salmon and catch-and-keep salmon. Last year, each category paid out $1,000 for first place, $600 for second and $350 for third.
The cost to enter is $125 per team. Fishing starts at 6 a.m. sharp - boats can't pass the end of the Lower Harbor breakwater until a signal flare is fired - and ends at 3 p.m. sharp.
Boats must launch from the Cinder Pond or Presque Isle marinas, the Fish Dock or Marquette Dock Association dock.
Fishing waters include the area of Lake Superior from approximately Big Bay on the west, Laughing Whitefish Point on the east and latitude 46 degrees, 40 minutes on the north. Any money that is left over after the derby goes toward SSFA projects, which focus on improving fishing along the south-central shore of Lake Superior.
Kicking off the tournament is a mandatory captains' meeting at 7 p.m. next Friday at Marquette Mountain, with final registration held from 6:30 to 7 p.m. in the chalet.
The meeting includes a short presentation on rules and other specifics of the classic, as well as refreshments, raffles for fishing equipment and other items and a whole lot of talk about fishing.
For more information about the classic, call SSFA President Jim Kelly at 250-9606.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.