ALPENA - When 31 pairs of top fishermen from all over the state hit the water today for walleye, their goal will be to bring 'em back alive.
Unlike the Brown Trout walleye extravaganza, the 2013 Michigan Walleye Tour State Championship is catch and release, organizers said Wednesday. Starting at 7 a.m. today, teams will have until 3 p.m. to get their five largest walleye to the harbor for weigh in, Dave Birmingham, vice president of the Thunder Bay Walleye Club, said. The local club and the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club are hosting the event for the second year in a row, because of the size of the fish found here.
The tournament runs through Saturday, when a dinner will be held to announce the winners of more than $10,000 in prize money, he said.
Among this year's qualifying teams is Wayne VanDyke of Hubbard Lake, whose team won last year.
Last week, he and partner Erich Carlson nabbed second place in the Brown Trout's walleye competition.
The two also qualified at three other Michigan walleye events in order to make it to state.
This week's three-day competition is a challenge.
"This event is catch and release and you get penalized for a fish that doesn't survive," Carlson said. "If it's really hot, it's hard to do."
The pair will be using VanDyke's boat, a 2013 Lund 208 class Pro V fiberglass craft with a 300 horsepower Mercury Verado. It is specially equipped with two aerated live wells full of fresh water to keep fish thriving.
Each of them will be allowed to handle three lines, VanDyke said.
"The competition makes us step up our game and you take things seriously," Carlson said. "People think you should have an advantage on your home water, but it boils down to the fact that you have to be at the right spot at the right time."
Headquarters for the competition will be at the Alpena Small Boat Harbor boat launch. The leaderboard will be set up there, with most of the action taking place during the weigh in.
When the two are done with that event, they will head to Sault St. Marie for Cabela's Master's Walleye Circuit/National Team Championship, where 200 boats have been entered.
"I've been on the water for the last 16 days out of 17," VanDyke said. "My wife is wonderful. I'm gone a lot. That is the tough part of tournament fishing. She's very supportive."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.