May 16, 2015

South Haven has a few things in abudance. First, we have sand. We have a lot of sand, on the beaches, of course. We also have a lot of ice cream. Seriously, you can't walk around the block without finding a place to get a cone of fresh scooped goodness. Some of it's even made just down the street. Something else we have enough to go around of, fish! More specifically, Steelheads, which is a name given to Great Lakes-dwelling rainbow trout.

Since 1970, the Michigan Steelheader's South Haven Chapter has hosted a fishing tournament right here in South Haven, even though it has seen some organizational change. It began as a way to raise awareness of the new fishery that was developing in Lake Michigan. Now, the Steelheaders 'South Haven Pro-Am' draws fishermen and -women from all over the Midwest to a three day long tournament that cares strongly about fishing and water quality. On top of hosting a top-notch fishing tournament, the Steelheaders also regularly support causes such as the lighthouse renovation, Al-Van Humane Society, Hospice, Special Olympics, and more!

The big day for the tournament is almost always Saturday. The boats head out early in the morning to stake their claim to a patch of deep blue water. After the radio signal to start is given, lines are cast, beers are cracked, and feet are propped up. For the next 7 hours, the only thing on the mind of these fisherpeople are catching as much fish as possible and having the best time doing it.

For those of us not on a boat, catching tons of fish, the main event happens when the boats start coming back in for weigh in. The weigh station, set up on the deck of the Southside Municipal Marina, becomes a constant buzz of activity. Fishermen and their observers lug baskets full of fish in from the boats to be weighed, while the weighmaster and his assistant keep track of weights and records for the awards that will be given out later.

While a few boats come in early for weigh-in, most of the anglers will stay out to the last possible minute, to ensure the best possible catch. However, once the time is up, the boats have to be lined up for weigh-in. The channel fills with boats of all sizes.

As the fish are weighed and recorded, the trailer designated as a holding area starts to fill up. By the end of the weekend, around 4,600 lbs of fish will have been caught. After it's all been counted, the fish are taken to the Yacht Club for a giant fish boil. After all, what point is spending the day fishing without unwinding with a cold brew and some freshly caught Lake Michigan Steelhead.