A day for the ladies

ALPENA – After weighing in 32 coolers of lake trout, steelhead and salmon, the winner of the Michigan Brown Trout Festival’s 23rd Annual Ladies Classic fishing tournament was all but official.

With 45.6 pounds of fish, Team Dare Devil’s Wendy Polk, Nancy Dunleavy and Cheri Hinkle celebrated, their cheers cutting through the noise of the crowd gathered around the scales. With a limit of three fish per species, the team pushed its score to the top of the tournament board with a 13.55-pound salmon. Dozens of fish were weighed, from a 1.5-pound salmon to a 19.1-pound lake trout brought in by Capt. Bernice Laird, Kelli Laird and Donna Shortt.

Team Dare Devil, complete with Capt. Bruce Miles, gathered to cheer their victory. They had suspected their catches would put them at the top, but seeing their names in first place was the moment of truth.

“It’s been a long and tough 2013,” Polk said. “This is what all of us needed. We love this tournament, and we love everyone involved, so it’s been great.”

Teammate Dunleavy agreed.

“It feels awesome, because we play fair, we’re girls, we have an awesome captain and a great boat. We got out on the water when the weather was nice, and got off when it got bad.”

Whether participants caught a monster fish or not, many enjoyed the camaraderie and the challenge of fishing on the big lake. Shortly after docking, Jane Aubrey, Tammy Veasy and Nicki Bloom talked about their experience on the Bounty Hunter. They all enjoyed fishing together, although the weather started from very calm in the morning to sizable waves by the time they returned.

“It was fun. It was a little rough but it made it exciting, it made it adventuresome,” Bloom said of her first time on Lake Huron.

Aubrey and Veasy have fished the tournament before, they said. They couldn’t show off their catch until after weigh-in, but said they did well.

“It’s a good time,” Aubrey said. “We had good friends, good fishing and good weather.”

All three agreed they enjoy having a tournament just for women. The rest of Brown Trout Festival tournament seems to be taken over by men, Veasy said. Aubrey agreed, and said there are lots of good lady anglers out there.

“Ladies need their own day,” Aubrey said.

Connie Hoppe, Becky Donakowski and Michelle Mindykowski enjoyed their time together, even though they let their catches go, they said. Donakowski drove from Rochester Hills to take part in the tournament, and to boost the local economy.

“It was fun that we got to spend a lot of time with each other and we got caught up on everything,” Hoppe said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.