by Mark Walters
Going for it on board The SeeNile Too!
Back in February of 2014, I am driving home from a hardcore and successful winter camping and ice fishing trip when I receive a call from Tom Pietila, who is an engineer for Verizon and is interested in starting a KAMO Chapter (Kids And Mentors Outdoors) in the Racine area.
Tom is the past chairman of Salmon-A-Rama and past president of the Racine Chapter of Salmon Unlimited.
Tom and I met at a KAMO meeting once after that but the Racine KAMO Chapter did not happen.
A month ago, I thought that I would send Tom a message to see if perhaps we could work something out. Tom has an idea and says that we should fish together and talk. We make plans to spend some time on his 29-foot Tiara “open” and we would fish in the Salmon-A-Rama tournament.
Space limitations make the rest of this very interesting story choppy but that’s life!
Wednesday, July 15th
High 82, low 56
I would meet Tom, his father, Rick and the two other members of their team, George Kropidlowski and Mike Westphal at Quarter Deck in Sturgeon Bay. Quarter Deck is a marina and these guys arrived here last night at midnight with the 29-foot boat in tow which was pulled by a 2000 Chevy (1 ton) launched it and found their slip.
It is Wednesday, they have been living on the boat since Friday, the whole group is from Racine and that is where they have been fishing until today, they made the 170-mile drive to find bigger salmon.
The tournament is ten days, open to anyone holding a ticket that is fishing on Lake Michigan and everyone on the boat must possess a ticket, there are about 2,000 people in Salmon-A-Rama.
To show how well I know these guys, I passed by Tom on the dock as I was walking to his boat and neither of us recognized each other.
Classic rock, hearty handshakes and tasty malt beverages greet me as I meet everyone.
These guys had never fished Sturgeon Bay, did not start until 8:30 this morning and caught 15 salmon and trout, their biggest is 15-pounds, not the “tank” that they are looking for but a heck of a start.
I am soon told that I am an observer; these boys are serious. I have no problem with that as we idle out of the shipping channel and towards big water.
I learn within minutes that Tom Pietila is the boss and a perfectionist and damn good at both. We (they) are catching salmon, lots of them, can’t crack 16-pounds!
I learn just how serious that they are when I am told how they won The Hoosier City Coho Classic in Michigan City, Indiana at the start of this season and took 2nd to 10th in several others.
Rick and George are life long buddies, George would turn 60 on this trip and there is always a tasty “liquid” treat being served.
Most importantly I watched this perfectly honed team constantly working together, setting lines, netting fish, changing up rigs and coming up with a strategy in order to hopefully find big salmon or trout.
The following morning, after the 11th “king” has been caught and like almost every other one it is between 12 and 15 pounds a large decision is made. The crew of “The SeeNile Too” is trailoring their home on the water, driving back to Racine and fishing for big lake trout. In this tournament it can be a laker, brown, king, rainbow or coho to qualify, but the reality is you need numbers of fish in the 20-plus pound range.
I am sent home with a generous supply of salmon fillets and a healthy respect for my new buddies!
Love my job! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank