MASSENA — Thunder boomed in the distance as the boats rolled in with their catch for the 11th annual St. Lawrence River Walleye Challenge Team Tournament.
Black clouds drove 21 teams back to the launch at the Massena Intake, where the tournament began at 6 a.m. Saturday.
Despite the threat of a storm in the afternoon, good weather held for most of the day.
“It was rough this morning, but it smoothed out later on,” said Mandie P. Merrill. But when the storm started rolling in from Canada about 2:30 p.m., it was time to call it a day.
“You don’t mind fishing in the rain, but it’s the lightning that will kill you,” said Lee J. Matthews, Potsdam.
Each team could bring in a maximum of three walleye, with cash prizes for the four teams whose catch had the highest combined weight. There also were prizes for the largest individual fish.
“It was a decent day, I think, for everybody,” said Michael J. Gagner, St. Lawrence River Walleye Association president. It’s been a mediocre season for fishing overall, he said, so he was pleased that so many people had good catches today.
“It hasn’t been good so far this summer,” Mr. Gagner said. “It’s been very sporadic.”
Unpredictable wind threw off the scale and made weighing fish more difficult. Finally, Melissa S. Eddy, whose apron proclaimed her the “Scale Goddess,” moved inside to determine the winner.
Robert J. Compo brought in a 27.5-inch fish weighing 7.77 pounds, the largest walleye of the day, to bring his team to victory. He said he knew the fish would be hard to beat when he brought it in.
“I don’t really think of it too much,” Mr. Compo said. “I catch a lot of fish.”
Although walleye were the objective, the biggest catch of the day was Paul Cascanette’s 61-inch sturgeon. Keeping sturgeon is illegal, so all Mr. Cascanette has to remember his catch by is a photo on his cellphone. Still, the Potsdam native said the catch was the most thrilling moment of the day.
“It was probably the biggest fish I’ll ever catch in the St. Lawrence,” Mr. Cascanette said.
Not everyone’s luck was so good.
“We just go out and have fun and have a good time and kill some worms,” said Chris C. Hutchinson, Massena. He and his partner, Dale J. Dalton, Massena, brought in only one small walleye — not that they minded.
“A bad day out on the fishing boat is better than a good day at work,” Mr. Dalton said.
Mr. Gagner said he was inspired to start the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association because of a lack of tournaments in the area. The group has five major events a year. The next will be the Fall Classic in Waddington.