Curt Johnson: Lake Superior offers plenty of good fishing
By Curt Johnson
REPRINT OF AN ARTICLE IN The Forum - 06/29/2003,   Fargo ND

John Reitmeier, Host of John Reitmeier's Cool Site-Pick of the Day, holds up the 2nd largest Lake Trout he landed
at the Lake Superior Media Challenge, June 16, 2003.  Later in the day he brought in a 31 3/4 beauty which won him
TOP HONORS for the day!

Curt's Article - comments about John at the bottom of the story.

Just looking at the water from the balcony of my room at the Inn on Lake Superior caused me to think of all the stories I have heard about the largest freshwater lake in the world.

Waves as large as 31 feet have been recorded, and Lake Superior is the grave of more than 325 ships and stretches 380 miles long and 160 miles across at its widest. The big lake has 2,900 miles of shoreline, 31,820 square miles of surface and a maximum depth of 1,333 feet. There is enough water in Lake Superior to fill all the other Great Lakes and have some left over.

But I wasn’t shivering on the shore recently for a geology lesson. I was ready to join the Great Lake Superior Media Fishing Challenge that was being hosted by the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau. Barb Oswell of the bureau had worked for weeks lining up media from Texas to Canada and charter boat captains to show off this great fishery in Lake Superior.

And now it’s time.

Five a.m. found everyone at the inner harbor, hot black coffee in hand, where the charter boats had assembled to board their anxious guests and head into the yellow-gold sunrise over Lake Superior. These captains know Lake Superior.

They need to, because once you have motored (twin Chrysler 318s cranking the screws on our White Water Charter cruiser) a half-hour or more onto the “big pond,” everything looks the same. When the engines wind down, Captain Barry Leblanc descends from the flying-bridge to start rigging lines.

Planer boards, dipsy divers, straight trolling lines and down riggers enter the frigid waters. Captain Barry and his first mate Dave scan the line tips of 14 rods (two lines per license are permitted) whose lines are soon “singing” in the water under the tension of the troll.

Conversation on the boat is excited. Captain and first mate relate stories of their adventures on the big water. Anglers quiz the pair about what to expect, what kind of fish are they likely to catch and … “by the way, is there a bathroom on-board” ... yes, there is.

As the anglers sip another cup of steaming coffee and a devour an early morning muffin in the cabin of the vessel, the captain and first mate relentlessly scan the lines and stare at the GPS screen and depth finders and water temperature gauges to keep the boat along the route they have chosen.

By the way, if you have only a Minnesota fishing license on Lake Superior you can fish only Minnesota waters on the lake. Now, when you are in the middle of an inland sea as huge as Superior, it is difficult for the novice boater or angler to know when they have “crossed the line.”

I guess the guy who used to get up early and paint the line on the water each morning was on vacation. But, charter boat captains on Superior, thanks to modern electronics, know where that imaginary line is … and they will keep you legal.

And then the first awaited shout erupted … “Fish on.”

A line on the port (that’s the left side for you land-lubbers), the planer-board had snapped. The first mate grabbed the rod and handed it to a media guest.

“Keep the line taught, reel slowly and I will net the fish when you get it to the stern,” instructed First Mate Dave. The net dipped into the water and a splashing, wriggling

7-pound lake trout was revealed as the net emerged into the morning sun.

Smiles and cheers and “atta-boys” were passed around to everyone on board. The first fish was in the hold.

This routine went on for five hours. Each time there was a fish on, another guest was handed the rod and the fight played out. It was great.

It was sad when the captain shouted from the bridge, “lines in, we have to make port.” This was an experience you never wanted to end.

As the engines whined, the chatter amongst the guests got louder. Happy talk. Talk about when they were going to return again to pull up another fighting treasure from the depths of Lake Superior and (you saw this coming) which of the media anglers on board really had the biggest catch.

There was a biggest fish in the Lake Superior Media Challenge. It was caught by John Reitmeier of KCNN radio in East Grand Forks, Minn. John hauled in a 31-inch lake trout for top honors.   (webmaster note: KCNN is one of the stations that his weekday radio program is heard on.  John was on the "A Lucky Star Charter" Boat)

But even before the media reluctantly departed Duluth for their points of origin, John’s fabulous catch had grown by several pounds and numerous inches. If the rate of growth continued with each telling of the story, I’m quite sure John had to rent a trailer to get his catch back to East Grand forks.

Atta-boy, John.

Even the ride back to the Duluth Harbor held an unexpected treat. We passed a 1,000-foot “Salty” (ocean-going vessel ) that was bearing down on Duluth’s international port.

If you haven’t tried Charter Boat Fishing on Lake Superior, think about it. It’s a family experience.

Johnson, who works with the Minnesota Office of Tourism in St. Paul, can be reached at (651) 297-3488 or via e-mail at curt.johnson@state.mn.us