Thank yous all around during Tight Lines for Troops

MANISTEE — Hoots and hollers, along with “thank yous” echoed throughout the Manistee River Channel on Saturday during the ninth annual Tight Lines for Troops.

People lined the shores of the Manistee River as hundreds of veterans returned around noon from a morning of fishing on Lake Michigan. A parade of boats traveled through the channel to Seng’s Marina where they were then taken back to the event area at First Street Beach for fish weigh-in and lunch.

Max Wernette, of Rockford and Golden Valley, Ariz., fished on the Bandit, a boat from Ludington.

“It was a real good time; it was a fantastic thing. We really appreciate them putting this on; this is something,” he said.

Wernette served in the Army, from 1966-68 in Vietnam with 1st and 35th Fourth Division. He is now 100 percent disabled, but he said organizers of the tournament were very accommodating.

“They get you on the boat and make sure you’re comfortable and get you on the right seats where you can sit,” he said. “I caught the fish and stayed right in my seat and reeled it in from there.”

Fish were weighed in at First Street Beach in Manistee following a morning of about 300 veterans fishing on Lake Michigan during Tight Lines for Troops. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

Fish were weighed in at First Street Beach in Manistee following a morning of about 300 veterans fishing on Lake Michigan during Tight Lines for Troops. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

He caught two fish throughout the day. Wernette said there were three other veterans on the boat with him; one of them was a 92-year-old man who also caught fish.

“Everybody on the boat caught a fish or two,” he said. “They treated us really good; they were super, super good guys. Everybody on our boat was really happy.”

Wernette said he heard about the event through a friend, Joe Wojciechowski, who participated last year.

“Joe told me how good it was last year, and I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It’s as good as everybody says it was; it was fantastic. They put on a really nice fishing tournament here.”

Nearly 550 veterans registered for the event this year, said Bonnie Livingston, secretary of the Tight Lines for Troops board of directors, and about 300 veterans actually took part in the event on Saturday. About 50 boats from along the coast, mostly from Manistee and Ludington, took veterans out on Lake Michigan.

“They donate their time, their gas, the boat,” said Livingston. “The captains don’t get paid for anything — their expertise on how to catch fish; equipment. It’s a big deal. Without them we couldn’t do this either.”

Wernette said even though it rained early in the morning, then sprinkled most of the day, it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Livingston agreed.

“Things went really, really well despite the weather,” Livingston said. “A lot of fish were caught. The veterans seemed to really enjoy themselves. They seemed to work up a hunger, because they’re back here ready to eat.”

Following the morning on the lake, fish were weighed, and cleaned and cut up for distribution while veterans were able to enjoy a pork roast and pig roast.

A participant in the ninth annual Tight Lines for Troops shows off his catch as the boats travel back up the Manistee River Channel on Saturday. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

A participant in the ninth annual Tight Lines for Troops shows off his catch as the boats travel back up the Manistee River Channel on Saturday. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

City of Manistee mayor pro-tem Roger Zielinski welcomed the crowd prior to the meal.

“On behalf of the City of Manistee, we thank you for the organizations that sponsor the Tight Lines for Troops and the many volunteers — without the volunteers this would not happen — who make this possible,” he said. “Of course, the greatest thank you goes to the veterans, those participating, and also to all veterans who have sacrificed to keep us free.”

Livingston also expressed appreciation for the volunteers.

“We had a good amount of volunteers, and we’d really like to thank our sponsors and volunteers,” she said. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to do this for the veterans.”

Members of Brownie Troop No. 4734 and two leaders also helped during the event, serving food and cleaning up on Friday and Saturday.

Gary DiPiazza, a member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians tribal council, also said a few words.

“It’s my honor to be here among all these veterans. On behalf of the Little River Band, it’s our honor to host and participate in this along with the casino,” he said. “I hope everyone had a really good time out there fishing.”

Members of the tribe performed two songs on the drums, one was a welcome song and the other a flag song for the veterans.

“I hope you enjoyed your day,” DiPiazza said. “Miigwech, which means thank you in Odawa. Enjoy yourselves.”

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Posted by Michelle Graves

Michelle is the managing editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3106 or mgraves@pioneergroup.com.

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