Out to catch serious salmon: Duluth, Minn., man makes long trip nearly every weekend to fishALGOMA, Wis. — At 3:30 a.m., Andy Klatzky’s 28-foot Grady-White joins a procession of fishing boats idling out of the Algoma, Wis., marina toward Lake Michigan.
By: Sam Cook, The Dickinson Press
ALGOMA, Wis. — At 3:30 a.m., Andy Klatzky’s 28-foot Grady-White joins a procession of fishing boats idling out of the Algoma, Wis., marina toward Lake Michigan.
“Look behind you,” said Howard Klatzky, Andy’s dad. “It’s like a train.”
In the blackness well before dawn, a string of red, green and white running lights bobs and dances in the night. They stretch back as far as one can see. Big boats. Small boats.
Andy Klatzky isn’t sure how many boats leave the Algoma marina on a weekend morning.
“A hundred? Two hundred? Lots,” he said.
All of them were bound for the open water of Lake Michigan in pursuit of the same quarry.
Klatzky, 34, Duluth, Minn., brought his boat down the third weekend of June and won’t bring it home until Labor Day weekend. He fishes here nearly every weekend, making the 5 1/2-hour drive down on Friday afternoons. He knows he has a decent chance, every trip, to catch a lot of Chinook salmon, steelhead and coho salmon. Some of those salmon run 20 pounds or more.
Already this summer, Klatzky has had 50-, 55- and 60-fish weekends. He has fished Lake Superior plenty in the past few years, but the salmon on Lake Superior run smaller and are not nearly so numerous. He’s committed to Lake Michigan.
“People say, ‘Why would you drive 5 1/2 hours every weekend to fish down there?’” Klatzky says. “People just don’t understand until they’ve been down here.”
Lake Michigan’s salmon fishery has come back from the tough years after the alewife population crashed in the 1990s, and anglers have come back too. Marinas are choked from Sheboygan, Wis., to Manitowoc, Wis., to Two Rivers, Wis., to Kewaunee, Wis., to Algoma and beyond.
The night before, anglers aboard Klatzky’s boat, the “Reel Tight,” hauled in four fish in about three hours. The first one was a bright silver 18-pounder, reeled in ferociously for 20 minutes by 9-year-old Leo Zalaznik of Green Bay, Wis. His dad, also named Leo Zalaznik, is a friend of Klatzky.
“That was fun,” little Leo proclaimed afterward.
He’s right, of course. That’s the kick of catching Lake Michigan salmon. When one hits and you pluck the rod from a rod holder, the fish might rip off line for 30 seconds before the fight even begins. By then, the silver streak could be two football fields behind the boat.
Someone’s going to be busy for a while.
While one angler plays a fish, it isn’t uncommon for another rod to start singing, and maybe another, and soon a mild case of pandemonium erupts on the boat.
“One Sunday morning, we had four people with fish on at one time,” Klatzky said.
That’s why he makes the drive.
The tough part of salmon fishing for weekenders like us is the schedule. Salmon feed most actively during the low light of dawn and dusk. We must fish the edges of the day, and this time of year that allows just four hours of sleep a night. We leave the marina at 3:30 every morning and again at 5:30 each evening. By the second day, the 3 a.m. wake-up call seems a little intrusive.
Our last morning, the wind has dropped and the air is thick and moist. A waning moon reclines in the northeast as we leave the marina. Jupiter rides just above the moon, and Venus hangs just below.
When we find 110 feet of water, Klatzky begins parlaying lines. Copper lines. Lead-core lines. Lines on Dipsy Divers. Lines on trolling boards. Lines on downriggers.
Klatzky hasn’t been trolling for too many years, but he’s a quick study. He and his boat of anglers won a trout and salmon contest in Bayfield in June with a 20-pound lake trout (caught by Andy’s significant other, Mandy) and a 14-pound king salmon.
The action starts at precisely 4:17 a.m., when we bring in a modest king. At 4:28, Strom locks onto a salmon who heads for the mainland with purpose. Strom clutches the rod with both hands, leans back and watches line peel off the reel. Fifteen seconds pass, then half a minute.
“He’s still going,” Strom mutters.
The battle lasts 16 minutes, but Strom prevails and an 11-pound king is in the box. In a span of an hour and 15 minutes, we land nine fish. The largest is a 15-pound king, but there’s a big steelhead in the mix too. We finish with 12 fish for the morning and 30 for the two-day trip.
“I just love to hear ’em bite,” Klatzky said. “I love to hear that ‘z-z-z-z.’ To me, it’s the chase, that I was able to find the fish. It’s kind of a challenge with myself and the other boats. I want to be better, and to be better than myself the day before.”