Classic derby was one of the best

The morning started out about as beautiful as it could have for a day on Lake Superior. The water was calm with no wind, the temperature was warm and the coolers were full of food, beverages and ice, lots of ice for cooling down any fish we caught.

Then the signal went off at 6 a.m. sharp and the 2013 version of the Marquette Bay Classic was under way. It didn’t take long for the 54 teams of anglers to fan out in their boats from Marquette’s Upper and Lower harbors.

A short time later boats starting racing back to the dock to get their early catches tallied for the catch-and-release trout and salmon categories.

Seeing those boats fly back into the harbor raised the hopes of the crew on Reel Mission, the team I was on. Our heightened anticipation was soothed soon after a beautiful sunrise when a salmon hit and was boated, then another followed suit.

Those two were weighed in and released alive back into Lake Superior, and we were on the board. Alas, the action slowed for us with only a couple small lakers landed, but the day was a rousing success nonetheless.

That seemed to be the way it was for all the teams in the classic, especially those that pulled in some nice trout and salmon and fished their way into the prize money.

A fine example of this is team Searcher, captained by Burt Harris with his wife Barb, John Granato and his son Michael Granato rounding out the team.

The team was having an average day on the water until near the end of the tournament, when the younger Granato hauled in what proved to be the biggest fish of the classic – the 27.26 pound lake trout shown in the photo accompanying this column.

That’s a dandy laker for the near-shore waters off of Marquette, and turned out to be worth $1,000 for team Searcher seeing it was the biggest lake trout registered. In addition, the large fish pushed Harris and his crew into third place in the catch-and-keep trout category, bringing in another $250 for the team.

Sponsored by the South Shore Fishing Association, the tournament committee made some changes this year that were well received by participants.

Included was a change from the $2,500 “wild card” prize, which included combining a team’s largest salmon with its largest trout for a single prize, to separate categories for the largest trout and largest salmon with each paying out $1,000.

There were also five places in each of the four main categories, as opposed to having only the top three places win cash as in the past.

Ironically, there were only four teams that entered the catch-and-release trout category, so the fifth place went unclaimed. This was a little frustrating to our team, seeing that we caught a couple lake trout not far out from Marquette and didn’t bother entering them in either trout category because we figured there were so many other teams entering lake trout. We won’t make that mistake next year.

Another shift this year was going to separate weigh-in locations for live-release and catch-and-keep categories, which kept the boat traffic flowing better. Tournament officials also waited to weigh fish in the catch-and-keep category so all the boat crews would have time to make it over to the fish dock and watch as all the fish-laden coolers were hauled up for the final weigh-ins.

All-in-all it was a beautiful day on Lake Superior with a good crew and an upbeat atmosphere surrounding the activities.

We didn’t even care that much that Reel Mission didn’t get into the prize money, especially the member of the crew who won a canoe in the raffle held at the captain’s meeting the night before the classic.

Editor’s note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.