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Charter captain ready to roll for summer on Superior

Jun 03, 2018 07:58AM ● By Editor
Greg Clusiau of Keewatin, Minn., holds up a nice lake trout caught on Lake Superior on a recent warm day. Clusiau was fishing with friend Lorin LeMire, who operates Fish of the Gitch charter service in Duluth.   Photo:  John Myers / Forum News Service

DULUTH — For his day job, Lorin LeMire drives a massive iron ore haul truck at Hibbing Taconite, a two-story behemoth that can carry 240 tons of rock.

But that's his easy job, Lemier says. It's this side gig on Lake Superior that causes him concern.

"This is my stressful job, the one i do on my days off,'' LeMire said as he piloted his 28-foot Grady White boat out of Duluth's harbor and onto Lake Superior. "It can be a little nerve-wracking when people pay you to catch fish."

The weather can be an issue, with stiff east winds making it miserable or impossible to fish this part of Lake Superior. Last year, Lemier lost an entire week to bad weather to start the charter season.

Then there's the issue of knowing where the big lake's fish are — deep or near the surface; near shore or 20 miles out?

Of course, you also have to figure out how to get them to bite — spoons or plugs, fast or slow, blue and silver or orange and pink?

LeMire, 48, of Saginaw, Minn., has been fishing Lake Superior for about 15 years. Four years ago, he started chartering fishing trips. This year, he has a new-to-him boat, bigger and broader-beamed, faster and roomier. And on a recent warm May morning, he took a few anglers out on Gitche Gumee for a test run to work any bugs out.

LeMire calls his charter operation "Fish of the Gitch," and he'll make about 30 paid trips this summer. He's starting out of Lakehead Boat Basin on Park Point, but he'll move up the North Shore as summer wears on and the fish move. He and his customers have been taking full advantage of the now long-standing resurgence of lake trout in the big lake that seems to show no sign of slowing.

"I just love this fishery. I love this kind of fishing,'' LeMire said. "So I figured I'd see how it went introducing other people to the big lake."

Just right

So far, it's gone well. And while LeMire is a veritable rookie compared to some of Duluth's longer-serving charter captains who have decades on the job, he seems to have learned the ropes quickly.

On a unusually warm late-May morning LeMire was looking for the "mud lines" that separate the three colors of water — and water temperature — often found at Lake Superior's western end. He pulled out his smartphone and called up the most recent satellite image for western Lake Superior that clearly showed where the muddiest water was the day before.

The "chocolate milk'' water — often runoff from tributaries like the Nemadji River — is the warmest, but has nearly zero visibility.

"Some guys love it but I've never caught fish in that stuff,'' LeMire noted.

On the other spectrum is the gin-clear water Lake Superior is famous for, but which, early it he year, is too cold for fish to frequent. On this day, the clear-water temperatures were in the upper 30s. The chocolate milk water was already over 60 degrees.

In between is where Lemier makes hay — in tea-colored water that joins the clear and cloudy. Here, Lemier found water stained, but not cloudy, and around mid-50 degrees — warm enough for fish to favor after a winter of near-freezing water temperatures.

In late May and early June, the lake trout are nearer to the surface, so the boat's four electric downriggers weren't needed. Instead, with four of us in the boat, he had seven surface lines strung out on planer boards and one lure down about 25 feet on a Dipsy Diver.

LeMire was using mostly small, deep-ding crankbaits in a variety of colors.

"Fish on!'' LeMire yelled about an hour into the trip. Longtime friend Greg Clusiau of Keewatin, Minn., jumped into action and reeled-in the small coho salmon for the first keeper of the day.

The two met a few years ago on a fishing website and hit it off. LeMire heads to Clusiau's favorite ice fishing lakes in winter and Clusiau gets to ride on Lake Superior in summer.

"We have similar interests,'' Clusiau said. "Fishing and more fishing."

The fishing wasn't fast on this day, but LeMire was always changing lures or depths or location. And any slow time between fish was filled with Clusiau's nonstop fishing and guiding stories. (It turns out neither has lost a client while guiding, although Clusiau has come closest. But that's another story.)

"You keep trying until something works out," LeMire said. "On a good day, you'll catch 15 fish, and 12 of them will come in a two-hour period. So you never know when it's going to get hot."

It wasn't long after LeMier moved to warmer water when a 9-pound laker hit a pink Storm UV Thunderstick plug trolled 125 feet behind the boat.

"That's a nice fish on any day,'' LeMire said as Clusiau battled the laker. A few minutes later, the laker was in the cooler and destined for the smoker.

LeMire started fishing the big lake in a 16-foot walleye boat. Now, he has his dream offshore rig.

"I kept upgrading until I got here,'' he said. "And my wife liked the idea of me making some money while I'm out here playing around."

Not long later, another small but bright silver coho hit. And then we landed a second "keeper'' lake trout of about 7 pounds for our fourth and final fish of the day.

Not a banner day by Lake Superior standards, but not bad, under a bright, nearly cloudless sky and on a nearly flat calm lake.

With school out soon, Lemier will be joined on several trips this summer by his 12-year-old son, Joe.

"He likes it. And he likes making a little money. And I share my tips with him,'' LeMire said. "He's a good first mate."

By mid-afternoon, the sun was getting warm and Canal Park was bustling with people as we made our way back under the Aerial Lift Bridge and into the Duluth harbor. The lake was so calm that two stand-up paddle boarders were playing outside the ship canal.

"Any day you come back with fish'' in the cooler is a good day, LeMire said. "But it's a bonus when it's this nice in May."

For more information, go to or call LeMire at 218-260-6404.

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