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Salmon-A-Rama 2019

Mitch Costescu of Prospect Heights, Ill., packs equipment Saturday afternoon after trying his luck on the first day of the Salmon-A-Rama fishing contest. Costescu was fishing with son, Tyler, and nephew, Anthony, but reported little success. He plans to make the 45-mile drive back to Racine Sunday to try again.

Noah Caminata politely interrupted the caller after being contacted Saturday afternoon.

The 59-year-old Jackson man was about to be asked about the 31.82-pound he reeled in at about 7:45 a.m. Saturday on the first day of the annual Salmon-A-Rama fishing contest.

But wait. Caminata said he had already received word that he had been knocked out of the lead by someone from Algoma who had caught a 33-pounder.

That rumor turned out to be false. But based on the size of fish that were being registered Saturday, it appears likely Caminata will have a short stay at the top.

Andrew Westman registered a 31.41-pound chinook salmon. And Ben Konen of Port Washington was right behind with his 29.56-pound chinook.

In other words, the fish are there. And they’re biting.

“Fishing in Racine actually was pretty good,” Craig Bender of Salmon Unlimited said. “It was mostly coho salmon and lake trout today. A few nice kings got brought in here, but the bigger fish were being caught in Port Washington at Algoma.

“Fishing is pretty good — one hundred to two hundred feet of water are pretty much where anglers are going.”

That’s where Caminata was Saturday morning. Fishing off Port Washington in his 28½-foot Bayliner boat with fiance Janet Spitzer and her daughter, Maddy, Caminata used a meat rig on a board and ran some copper wire.

Exactly where he was, Caminata wasn’t saying. “I’m a nice guy, but I’m not stupid,” he said. What mattered is that less than eight hours into the contest, he caught a fish that was just a pound and a half lighter than the 33.46-pound chinook salmon Steve Wakefield registered to win the grand prize last year.

“The kings were in there about three weeks ago and they were in there real heavy for a couple of weeks,” Caminata said. “And then they were gone. I had an idea of where there might be some and we went there. Sure enough, there are some.

“We’ll be bringing some more in (Sunday).”

Caminata has a feeling there will be countless other fishermen who will be doing the same thing.”

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“They’re definitely on and they’re hungry,” he said of the fish. “With the right presentation on the right day and with the right fish, it’s a go.”

Bender feels the same way. And he has some advice.

“I would say go off shore in about 200 feet of water,” Bender said. “If you want salmon or if you want lake trout, they’re about 100 to 125 feet on the bottom.

“Lake trout fishing (Saturday) morning was very good. Almost every boat in the Super Sweepstakes brought in a limit of lake trout, which is four of the 10 fish they can bring in. And they were nice ones, too.”

SUPER SWEEPSTAKES: Shane Lemke struck it rich again Saturday.

Two years after his boat won the Super Sweepstakes, the 38-year-old Horlick High School graduate did it again. And it was with the same four customers, who have hired him four straight years.

Lemke, a Racine resident who owns and operates Salmon Chaser Charters out of Milwaukee, took those customers between Racine and Kenosha six to eight miles off shore on his 33-foot boat, “Salmon Chaser.” The fished from 5 a.m. until 11:20.

Using flasher flies as bait, Lemke and his group caught two chinook, four cohos and four lake trout weighing a total of about 120 pounds. With 220.10 points, Lemke’s group edged runner-up SCHOOL’S OUT (218.18 points).

Lemke has overseen four top-10 finishes in the last four years, including championships in 2017 and this year. What is his secret?

“Networking with friends and see what other people are doing and where they’re doing it at,” he said. “And I do this for a living, so I’m out fishing every day, pretty much. So I’m able to keep up with what the fish are doing, because they are potentially moving around.

“When we’re doing this as a charter business, we all work together to make sure we’re all catching fish. I’m not just doing it on my own. It does’t work that way.”

Lamke will split the prize money, which has yet to be determined, between himself and his four customers.

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