MICHIGAN CITY | Michigan City kicks off its Lake Michigan fishing season this weekend with a salmon competition attended by anglers from throughout the region.
The 39th annual Hoosier Coho Club Classic is Saturday and Sunday.
More than 70 boats, each occupied by as many as five or six fishermen, are expected to compete for a $10,000 first prize and $40,000 in other prize money.
"There's still a lot of people in the area that don't realize there's world class fishing just a few miles away," said Mike McKee, vice president of the Hoosier Coho Club.
Contestants will launch at 7 a.m. each day at Washington Park and return by 1 p.m. for an official weigh in of their catch.
McKee said the judging is done by both the number and weight of the catch.
"You need big fish to win," McKee said.
McKee said many of the contestants have historically made the drive from Michigan in areas like St. Joseph and Ludington.
The remainder of the participants come from throughout northwest Indiana and Illinois.
LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau president Jack Arnett said the tournament doesn't attract many onlookers like the annual Great Lakes Grand Prix and other major events during the season.
However, he said, the competition is vital for marketing Michigan City as a major fishing destination.
"It all ties in with our marketing of the marina and the fishing fruits on Lake Michigan," Arnett said.
McKee said Hoosier Coho Club has more than 100 members and its mission is to promote sport fishing in the lake especially among youth along with preservation.
This year's tournament will again be featured as the opening episode in the 13-part Salmon Showdown television series which airs nationwide in January.
"We hope we get a couple of days of flat water and no rain," Arnett said.