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July 21, 2019

Jacob friede/lakeland times

Pictured is Josh Klopatek, 14, of Mercer, in front of the new Hobie kayak he won by winning the 5th annual CanYak fishing tournament for the second year in a row.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Pictured is Josh Klopatek, 14, of Mercer, in front of the new Hobie kayak he won by winning the 5th annual CanYak fishing tournament for the second year in a row.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Fourteen-year-old Josh Klopatek, left, and Tommy Hohner, 13, both of Mercer, were the first place winning team in the fifth annual CanYak Fishing Tournament held last weekend on Mercer area lakes.
Jacob friede/lakeland times

Fourteen-year-old Josh Klopatek, left, and Tommy Hohner, 13, both of Mercer, were the first place winning team in the fifth annual CanYak Fishing Tournament held last weekend on Mercer area lakes.
7/6/2019 7:30:00 AM
Natural Reaction
Can-Yak fishing tournament a test of strength and skill
Jacob Friede
Of The Lakeland Times

There are a lot of fishing tournaments throughout the summer in the Northwoods and at most, in addition to some skilled anglers, you're going see some big boats with some big motors used to get to prime fishing spots real quick.

This past weekend, however, I encountered a unique kind of fishing tournament for a unique kind of angler. It was every bit as competitive as a traditional tourney, with some equally impressive anglers and watercraft, only there were no motors involved whatsoever. The anglers were propelled by only arms, legs, and their passion for fishing.

The fifth annual Can-Yak Fishing Tournament, put on by the Mercer Area Chamber of Commerce, was held June 29-30 and it featured a field of competitors willing to work their body to find a hot bite.

The Can-Yak, held out of Beaver's Resort on Lake of the Falls outside of Mercer, was a canoe and kayak tournament. Whether by paddle or peddle, all anglers' boats had to be self-propelled, which meant competitors had to put some muscle into every bit of water they covered.

The two-day tournament featured Mercer area lakes and was open to any public accessible water in Iron County south of Highway G. Forty-six competitors entered the tournament, which featured a brand new Hobie pedal kayak, worth $1,500, as the top prize.

But to get the Hobie, you had to be versatile and target a variety of species of fish. Angers were allowed to score 13 fish, four game fish and nine pan fish. A point was scored for each quarter inch of fish. An angler's final score for the tournament was the combined score from day one and day two. It was a catch, photo, release tournament so all fish were scored from photos on a bump board.

There was also an extra $100 prize for a full fish limit, which means a daily catch that included all four species of game fish, including musky, northern, bass, and walleye, plus nine pan fish.

Sean Palmeter pulled off this impressive feat, but getting to the panfish was tricky, he said, and may not have been possible without a kayak.

"Getting into those shallow bays today where I was at for the panfish would've been really difficult I think with a boat," Palmeter said. "Just in general you would have been constantly getting your prop all gummed up with stuff and I could just get in there no problem with a kayak."

But for as quiet as a kayak is, even it caused enough disturbance to spook some fish.

"I could see the bluegill or the crappie, I could see the swirls, I could even see the weeds parting as they were going away from me," Palmeter said. "You've got to be so stealthy, especially when it's calm like this, because they can see you coming and they'll run off."

Palmeter was able to get enough in the boat, though, to take fourth place overall in the Can-Yak, with 1,063 total points.

Josh Klopatek won the tournament for the second year in a row. The 14-year-old from Mercer scored 642 points on day one and 718 points on day two for a total of 1,360 points to take the brand new Hobie.

Saturday and Sunday were drastically different days though, with Saturday being clear, calm, and hot, and Sunday being cloud covered, windy, and rainy.

On day one, by throwing Mepps spinners over the weeds, Klopatek concentrated on getting his northern before anything else.

"It went really good. We stayed on the weeds fishing for northern so we could get the length for inches," he said.

But even though he had great success on day one, due to conditions on day two he had to switch lakes.

"We had to fish a little smaller lake with less wind so we could stay closer to the spots we needed to fish," Klopatek said.

Not only did he win the individual title, Klopatek was also on the first-place team with Tommy Hohner, 13, also of Mercer.

Klopatek may have dominated the tournament there, but there were plenty of tough competitors.

"We had, I would say, over half the field come in both days with their full 13," tournament judge and local fishing guide Dale Anderson said.

That's a lot of skilled anglers, and they came from all over, which is fantastic for the Mercer area according to Mercer chamber of commerce director Melissa Biszak.

"It is very good promotion," Biszak said. "It definitely brings in different people from all over within the state and different states around, but it's definitely a great way of promoting the different businesses as well as our lakes that we have to offer."

All proceeds from the Can-Yak go back into growing it for the next year. That's because the tournament, like the watercraft involved, is self-propelled.

"It helps keep the tournament going," said Biszak, who has seen continuous growth in Can-Yak participation. "It is in it's fifth year and it's definitely grown every single year."

Which is good news for a great fishing tournament where the size of the craft does not matter as much as the strength and skill of the captain.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.







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