MANISTEE — Veterans were treated to a hero’s welcome Saturday morning after returning to shore from an annual fishing event held on Lake Michigan.
Despite rainy and foggy conditions on Lake Michigan, military veterans on a fleet of fishing boats were treated to a pleasant morning to fish for king salmon, trout and other denizens of the Great Lake for the ninth Annual Tight Lines for Troops.
Tight Lines is a yearly event that provides a fishing tournament for Michigan veterans free of charge.
The fishing began bright and early. Veterans, their families and volunteers gathered at various docks along Manistee’s eponymous river and lake at 5 a.m. before heading out onto Lake Michigan.
Although a forecasted storm drenched the area and blanketed it in fog, participants’ spirits were not dampened, with some reporting that the weather actually improved fishing conditions.
At 12:30 p.m., Coast Guard vessels sailed out onto Lake Michigan and signaled the conclusion of the day’s fishing, but the day’s festivities were far from over.
More than 50 charter and privately-owned fishing boats lined up outside Manistee’s breakwaters and were escorted up the Manistee River where the flag-lined channel and hundreds of people welcomed their return and gave thanks for the veterans’ service.
The veterans, family members and volunteers disembarked and were brought to Douglas Park, located on Lake Michigan, where they were served dinner while their catch was weighed, cut and packaged. The veterans each received an equal portion of the day’s catch to bring home with them.
Shaun Smith, a Cadillac resident who served in the Army during the Iraq War, fished in the shore division of the contest and earned special recognition for catching the most amount of fish in that division — 7.05 pounds — which he tied with another participant.
“This is actually perfect weather for certain fishing,‘ he said.
Smith, who’s attended the event for four years, said he wants to return next year as a volunteer.
“I’m going to take guys out on the boat to explore some spots that are very productive,‘ he said. “I just want to help my brothers and sisters out.‘
Ralph Garbe, another Cadillac resident and an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said this was his first time attending Tight Lines.
“I loved it. It’s a tremendous tribute to the veterans of all levels. There are guys who are nearly 100 years old and guys who have just been out for a few years. (The volunteers) put in a lot of work for very little (for themselves),‘ he said. “I’ll do it again if I can.‘
This was the most well-attended event so far, said Bonnie Livingston, secretary of the Tight Lines for Troops board of directors.
Around 300 veterans attended this year’s event, which she said could not have been done without the support of volunteers, donors and sponsors.
The event was sponsored by Fishing Boats from Manistee and Northern Michigan Area, Little River Casino Resort, The City of Manistee, Seng’s Marina, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 876, Meijer, Seng Crane and Excavating and many more.