Keely Pinkelman is getting married on Saturday. It will be a glorious wedding, a terrific reception, and a phenomenal time with family and friends.
That’s what it will take to top the informal, unofficial, and highly unconventional bachelorette party that took place on Lake Ontario about a month ago.
The big day was coming soon. There were flowers to order, music to decide on, and the cake, the dress, the caterer, the vows, etc. ... but Keely went fishing. She was chasing king salmon, steelhead, and brown trout in the deep, cool waters of the smallest Great Lake.
Her dad Bob, brother Rob, and family friend Bob Schira went along. Schira and the elder Pinkelman had been making the pilgrimage to upstate New York for nearly two decades, first fishing the fall salmon run on the Niagara River, then switching to the lake where Chinook salmon, also known as kings, are the primary quarry.
“It was a guys’ weekend kind of thing,” Schira said, “but I think Keely just wanted to fish with her dad one last time before her name changed.”
She and Rob had grown up fishing Lake Erie with their father, and Keely had been on one previous trip to Lake Ontario, but this one would be different. It would provide the most memorable event of 2013 for this Toledo family, until it gets upstaged by the wedding.
Fishing out of Wilson harbor, north of Buffalo and east of St. Catharines, Ontario, with the same charter captain they have used for years, the group cleaned up on kings and steelhead on the first day while working the deeper water further from shore.
As a matter of course, Bob Pinkelman and Schira had entered the Lake Ontario Counties Derby most years, competing with legions of other anglers for more than a hundred grand in prize money. There were hefty cash awards for the biggest king, steelhead, and brown.
With plenty of salmon already on ice, they chose to step up the challenge on the second day and pursue brown trout. There were six or seven rods out as they worked the near-shore area, fishing in about 65 feet of water, dragging spoons off down-riggers, Dipsy Divers, or copper-core line.
When one of the reels started to sing, it was Keely’s turn to battle the fish.
“The captain kept saying it was probably a king, because of the way it was fighting,” Keely said. “It took a while to get it close enough to where we could see the fish. We were going to throw it back if it was a king because we had enough already, but once I got it up next to us, the first mate yelled, ‘It’s a brown, get it in the boat.’ ”
Added Bob Pinkelman: “We knew she had a special fish. We were all excited about it.”
The captain wagered that the big brown might be something more than special, so right away he headed for the harbor and got the fish officially weighed in for the derby at 17 pounds, 8 ounces.
“I was in first place, on top of the leaderboard,” the 27-year-old said. “I know I’ve made by dad proud on numerous other occasions, but something like this was different. Most people I talk to say I don’t look like a fisherman, but it’s something I love to do because he taught me how.”
The Central Catholic and BGSU grad continued to lead the competition for a few days before a Pennsylvania angler caught a brown just five ounces heavier.
A week after landing the big brown, Keely had her official bachelorette party at Put-in-Bay with her mom, her girlfriends, and her soon-to-be inlaws. She then returned to New York in early September with her dad and fiancée Landon Schuster to attend the derby awards ceremony.
“This fishing trip was kind of a ‘last hurrah’ thing, since she’s getting married and all,” Keely’s dad said. “But now she says she wants to go again next year.”
So when Bob Pinkelman gives his daughter away on Saturday, he’ll smile, fight back the tears, and shake Landon’s hand, but first there will be an understanding that come next August, Keely will be going fishing again with her dad.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.