Big kings will be the target for those hoping to win the $15,000 top prize in this year's Salmon-A-Rama.
Big kings will be the target for those hoping to win the $15,000 top prize in this year’s Salmon-A-Rama.

Michigan anglers for the first time will have a shot at winning the $15,000 top prize in the 38th Annual Salmon-A-Rama nine-day derby that starts next month.

Salmon derbies have been a part of the Great Lakes fishing scene for decades, but lately, Michigan anglers have been left out of the fun. That will change this year, as the venerable Salmon-A-Rama contest, slated for July 13-21, will for the first time offer a weigh-in station on the east side of Lake Michigan at Tackle Haven in Benton Harbor.

Derbies differ from tournaments in that to participate, all an angler needs to do is buy a derby ticket before the contest starts, then weigh in the biggest fish he or she catches during the derby period. Salmon-A-Rama has run each year since 1975 out of Racine, Wisconsin. There used to be derbies in the Wolverine State, but they fizzled out of existence decades ago.

Basically, you pay your $30 entry fee online or buy your ticket at Tackle Haven or one of the other official weigh-in stations, and when you catch a big trout or salmon during the contest period, get it officially weighed. You’ll know right away how your fish ranks—all five weigh-in stations (three in Wisconsin and one in Illinois) will be linked via the Internet and will have real-time standings on display.

Of course everyone would like to win the $15,000 Grand Prize for the biggest fish weighed during the tournament, but there are lots of ways to win and several divisions:

  • 50 Boat Division prizes. If you have one of the top 10 kings, cohos, lakers, brown trout, or steelhead and caught it from a boat, you’ll get a cash prize.
  • 10 Shore Division prizes. Pier and surf anglers who weigh in a top 10 fish of any of the five eligible species will get a cash prize.
  • Master Angler Prize. Scoring here is based on the largest fish of the five qualifying species. Catch a big king salmon one day, weight it in. Catch a brown the next, weigh it in. Add a lake trout, a coho, and a steelhead and you’ll be in the running for the Master Angler Prize. Anglers in the boat and shore divisions are automatically entered in the Master Angler category.
  • Five Kayak Division prizes. The biggest fish caught from a kayak will win a new kayak. Other gear will be awarded for the other four top fish.
  • 10 Youth Division prizes.
  • Perch Division prize. The angler who weighs in the longest five perch will win $400.

When I worked at Great Lakes Angler Magazine in Chicago, I participated in several Salmon-A-Ramas over the years. Although I only had one fish briefly on the leader board—a 24-pound king salmon that was soon outweighed by a bunch of other fish—it was always a fun time.

And this year’s contest, judging by the size of kings already caught this season in Lake Michigan, should feature a really big fish taking top prize. Several anglers along the Michigan coast of the big lake have caught kings that tipped the scales at more than 25 pounds, indicating lots of big fish are out there. A king weighing just 22.37 pounds took the grand prize of $10,000 in last year’s contest. Fish caught anywhere in Lake Michigan will qualify for the contest as long as it’s weighed in at an official station. Along with Tackle Haven, located at 741 Riverview Drive in Benton Harbor, these include:

It’s going to be great to have the opportunity to compete next month on the Michigan side of the big lake, and I personally hope more derbies spring up for Michigan anglers. Check out www.salmon-a-rama.com to learn more and sign up.

Visit our Pure Michigan page for more Michigan articles!

For more information on Michigan fishing go to michigan.orgClick here to purchase a Michigan fishing license online.

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Image by Dave Mull