ESCANABA - A sure sign that spring is around the corner are the spring banquets put on by various conservation organizations. There are three slated to take place in the next six weeks but last week marked the "opener". (Sorry I got carried away.)
The Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sports Fishermen opened the doors to their Annual Fundraising Banquet Saturday evening. Although they've only held a banquet for five years, the club itself has been incorporated since September of 1989, and what they've accomplished since then is tremendous.
Little Bay de Noc has grown in recognition as one of several bodies of water vying for branding as the walleye capital of the world. They have sponsored national tournaments while working diligently to protect the fishery from broad exploitation. Their efforts have seen countless dollars come back into the communities they serve.
For those tournaments that have fish which could not be put back into the water, the club has utilized the stock to supply local nursing homes so residents can have a taste of home.
In all events, workers try their utmost to keep any fish mortality at a minimum.
With newer and bigger issues facing them, fish conservationists figured they'd need to bolster their financial resources and settled into the typical Yooper mode of holding a banquet.
The first three were chaired by current club Secretary and co-founder Dave Westerberg. Dave has since retired and heads south for the winter away from the cold.
Pro-fisherwomen and Board Member Carol Chenier took over the "charter" from Dave. (Sorry I got carried away again.) She teamed up with her husband and fishing partner Glenn, and the duo put on a heckuva show.
A great array of prizes were provided and several independent raffles were held throughout the night. What was most unique about this banquet is how the club went outside the lines of normal and paid tribute to some key people, including the Cheniers, for their continued effort.
The peak of the evening was a presentation made by current club President Kelly King.
In March of 2009, an investigation headed by Michigan Department of Natural Resources/Law Enforcement Division Conservation Officer Corporal Shannon Van Patten culminated with the find of over 1,200 feet of illegal fish nets in Little Bay de Noc that were loaded with fish.
Van Patten had been reviewing sales records of commercial fishing operations and found discrepancies in volume sold versus volume purchased. The find of the nets, with scores of rotting fish abandoned by poachers, tied the ring together and arrests were made. Later that same year, officers located illegal nets full of whitefish on Big Bay de Noc.
The team of conservation officers from the southern U.P. worked tirelessly in following up information to put together their case. It was done with little fanfare, but the BDN/GLSF wanted them to know it was appreciated and well noticed.
The evening of the banquet, and along with conservation officers Cpl. Van Patten, Sgt. Darryl Shann, Cpl. Terry Short, Reed Roeske and John Wensel were all recognized with a special award for their service and commitment to the fisheries, the sport and the people of the State of Michigan.
The individual presentations were made by King and each recipient was given a wall plaque marking the event.
For the first time, in a long time, a club took the initiative to say thank you and invite the CO's to join in the fellowship of a local banquet and it was great to see happen.
The BDN/GLSF also announced their annual event calendar at the banquet. There is quite a bit more going on this year and members are needed to help work at some of the events and part of that list and information contacts follows:
* On April 30, the club will host its 3rd Annual Outdoor Equipment Flea Market from 9 a.m., to 5 p.m. It will be held during the Outdoor Expo at the U.P. State Fairgrounds. Cost is $20 per table and $5 per item too large for a table including boats, ice shacks, four-wheelers, snowmobiles, motorcycles, etc. For more information contact Bill Myers (906)396-4001 or Jeff Iverson (906)786-9171.
* May 1, General Membership meeting - Great Lakes Sports and Recreation Club 2 p.m.
* May 7, Perch Derby. Contact Tournament Director Chris Wahl (786-1488).
* May 21, AYA Tournament. Contact Tournament Director Kevin LeBeouf (906-399-6152).
* May 22, Early Bird Tournament. Contact Tournament Director Neil Armatti (906-250-4752).
* June 11, Kid's Fishing Day at Camp 7 Lake. Contact Event Director Dave Westerberg (786-3950).
* June 25, Bass Tournament 2011. Contact Tournament Director Tom Polkey (474-6351).
* July 4, Fishing Pond (after the Gladstone Parade). Contact Event Director Larry Johnson (906-420-4420).
There are other events scheduled that will be posted throughout the spring and summer.
Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.