Wild Things: It’s a King Thing

Anglers focus on Chinooks during 41st ‘K/D’

by KEVIN NAZE, [email protected], Peninsula Pulse contributor

Chinook salmon will take center stage next weekend when two of the biggest fishing tournaments on the Great Lakes get underway. 

The 41st annual Kewaunee/Door County Salmon Tournament (the “K/D”) runs from 12:01 am on Friday, July 14, until 12 pm on Sunday, July 23, with more than $50,000 in cash and prizes on the line.

There are still a few days left to get in on the chance to win one of eight $100 shopping sprees to be awarded among those who purchase tickets prior to July 11. Tickets – $30 for all 10 days, or $20 for a one-day shot – are available at B&K Bait and Tackle at Mann’s Mercantile on Washington Island; Baileys 57 in Baileys Harbor; JP Express north of Carlsville; Howie’s Tackle and Greystone Castle in Sturgeon Bay; Algoma BP and JP Express in Algoma; and Center Court BP and Yacht Works in Kewaunee.

All tickets also include a chance to win a 9.9-horsepower Yamaha outboard motor from Shipyard Island Marina. One winner will be drawn from the tickets after the tournament’s conclusion. Learn more at

Beginning right after the K/D’s start, the lakewide Salmon-A-Rama runs July 15-23. Although much of the fishing is in the southern part of the lake (the tournament’s headquarters is at Racine), entrants may fish Kewaunee/Door waters and weigh trophy catches at B&K on Washington Island, Howie’s in Sturgeon Bay and Yacht Works in Kewaunee. Tickets are $50. Learn more at

The results are in from the 48th annual Northeastern Wisconsin Great Lakes Sport Fishermen Salmon Derby at Manitowoc last weekend. The top 10 Chinooks ranged from 21.66 to 27.25 pounds. The 10 heaviest cohos went from 5.42 to 8.02 pounds; the top five brown trout from 17.30 to 22.00 pounds; the top five lake trout from 18.90 to 20.94 pounds; and the top 10 rainbow trout from 9.38 to 12.76 pounds.

Another Cheater Caught

A pair of walleye-tournament pros with a string of wins weren’t the only ones caught stuffing lead into fish to get heavier weights.

Earlier this year, an angler at Omer Suckerfest – a community festival in Omer, Michigan, near the shore of Lake Huron at Saginaw Bay – was busted for putting lead into his fish.

The 10-day Suckerfest event hosts anglers from all across Michigan, all of whom hope to hook the heaviest sucker. Businesses donate thousands of dollars, and anglers line a local river in hopes of being one of five who’ll cash in. The top prize is $1,000, and although that may not be alluring to some, it was apparently enough that one angler couldn’t resist the temptation to win.

Another participant weighing in his catch noticed that the fish entered just before him weighed more than it looked like it should. He told the tournament organizer, who decided to dissect the fish. Though there was nothing found in the stomach, he found lead sinkers stuffed into the flesh of the sucker’s head, directly behind the gills.

The man was banned from the tournament, but the organizer declined to press charges, saying that the fact that he had been caught and called out was shame enough.

That wasn’t the case for Ohio pro Jacob Runyan, 43, and Pennsylvania pro Chase Cominsky, 36. The two men pleaded guilty for cheating in a Lake Erie fishing tournament.

They forfeited a boat used in the tournament, but some felt they got off the hook too easily. The men were sentenced to 10 days in jail and one and a half years of probation. Felony charges of attempted grand theft were dropped. Both were ordered to pay a $2,500 fine, which could be reduced if they made a donation to a charitable organization focused on fishing and children. Their fishing licenses were suspended for a maximum of three years.

The men had had what an assistant county prosecutor said was a “curious run of success” – a nice way of saying that they had been suspected of cheating before.

Although some anglers believe they were not punished enough, the seemingly endless public humiliation may be the worst fine of all.

Locally, fish caught during the K/D Salmon Tournament are checked with metal detectors, and anglers who purchase tickets are subject to lie-detector tests. 

In 2013 – the first year when the K/D scanned fish – an angler in Sturgeon Bay was caught with a fish that had a pound weight in its stomach. He was successfully prosecuted for attempted theft by fraud in Door County Circuit Court. Five years later, the State Court of Appeals rejected an appeal and affirmed the decision.

If big water isn’t your thing, you can target panfish such as bluegills, pumpkinseeds, rock bass and yellow perch in the area’s inland lakes, the Ahnapee River and the waters of Green Bay. If you want to keep some to eat, carry a small cooler with ice to help preserve your catch until you get to the filleting. Photo by Kevin Naze.

Weekly Water Levels

Lake Michigan water levels are down five inches since last July – part of a 29-inch drop since the all-time high set three years ago. Water levels are still about five inches above the long-term average, and 37 inches higher than the record low from 1964.