Icy lake bad for psyche, fishing derby

We had to drive about 450 miles south last week, but finally the temperature rose into the 80s and the lake we were on was ice free. The body of water happened to be Cass Lake, Oakland County’s largest at 1,280 acres and deepest with a maximum depth of 123 feet. This lake is surrounded by the Detroit metro area, which isn’t my favorite habitat, but it was a real pleasure to be cruising around on my brother-in-law’s party barge enjoying the warm, sunny afternoon and a cool beverage.

Of course we didn’t have to drive all the way to Oakland County to find open water, with Lake Michigan’s ice-free, choppy surface greeting us along U.S. 2.

This little sojourn my wife and I took last week was certainly welcomed after a long, cold winter and spring – although we were jolted back to reality upon our return to the Lake Superior shore Sunday afternoon.

There it was, that huge mass of ice covering the big lake for as far as the eye could see. It surges in and out a little as the wind shifts, but its presence is always felt, both visually and by the effect it has on the temperature.

For example, as we crossed the Seney Stretch on M-28 our vehicle’s temperature gauge read 71 degrees. A short distance past Shingleton the temperature dipped to the low 60s, then into the low 50s by Wetmore and down to 41 degrees as we rounded the corner in Munising.

Add to that the white sheet covering the far reaches of Munising Bay and beyond and the previous week of pleasant downstate weather quickly faded from our memory.

While the lingering ice and cold has had a profound impact on my psyche this spring, it’s having a much more down to earth impact on a large group of Upper Peninsula residents – Lake Superior anglers.

A few smaller boats have been sneaking out when the ice mass blows out and some fishermen have been having success off of shore when conditions allow, but for those who enjoy trolling the big lake the spring has been a bust.

Adding insult to injury, unless the conditions on Lake Superior out of Marquette change drastically in the next week, the Spring Shootout fishing tournament will most likely be canceled.

The annual early season derby has become a tradition for a group of anglers who enjoy a little competition while they are trolling the depths of Lake Superior for trout and salmon.

Sponsored by the South Shore Fishing Association, the Spring Shootout is scheduled for May 24, a date that in recent years has been fine for fishing on Superior.

In an email sent out this week, SSFA President Mylan Koski said the association board has developed three possible scenarios with the degree of probability for each.

Included are:

– All ice is gone, tournament goes on as planned – least likely scenario.

– Marinas and lake are ice locked, tournament canceled – likely scenario.

– Marinas are open but there are scattered icebergs, mandatory delayed start time until it’s light enough to safely navigate, extend tourney later into the afternoon – possible scenario.

In case the tourney is canceled, the SSFA board is taking a poll to see if anglers would like to have the Spring Shootout rescheduled to three weeks later, on June 14. The event would be bumped three weeks because of tournaments in Munising and Baraga/L’Anse on the two weekends in between.

Votes on the change can be made at the association’s forum spot on the upangler.com web site, which can be found at upangler.com/forums/index.php?topic=7991.0.

In addition, Koski welcomes emails with anglers’ comments on the issue, which can be sent to mkoski@trimediaee.com.

The SSFA board meets next Thursday, and Koski said a decision on canceling/postponing the Spring Shootout will probably be made before then so anglers can adjust their schedules.

I’ll pass the decision on as soon as it’s made, and it will be posted on the upangler.com/forums page, as well.

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