Special Report: Setting Sail with Superior Pursuits

For Captain Parker Bambenek, it took a tragedy to realize what he wanted as a summer career

DULUTH, Minn. – Every year thousands of people, whether local or visiting, love to fish in the Northland.

However, adventure seekers are now taking to the big lake more than ever before, boosting the local economy.

One Captain we caught up with says it’s not always easy for charter fishing companies to make a go of it in a competitive tourist market.

For Northland native Parker Bambenek, when the alarm clock dings, he answers by heading to the dock.

“Nothing better than being out on the water! Tourism in Canal Park is screaming,” said Bambenek.

Coffee is created before another big day of fishing for a living.

“I started fishing with Lake Superior Fishing back in 2015,” said Bambenek.

Three years later, Captain Parker is trolling toward new depths, taking guests on charter fishing trips.

“It was a blast with Lake Superior Fishing, being a Captain and being out on the water every day with clients,” said Bambenek.

Now, this Captain calls the shots at his own business aboard the Elixir.

“I decided to go out on my own, get my own boat and go with it,” said Bambenek.

Bobbing for new business in a market densely consumed with charter competition.

“Decided just to go for things and not take anything for granted,” said Bambenek.

Captain Parker’s path hasn’t always been smooth. A bad accident a few years ago changed his perspective on life.

In 2012, tragedy took over. Captain Parker was run over by a snowmobiler, breaking both of his legs.

“Breaking both my legs kind of gave me a whole new outlook on life. The snowmobiler came by, ended up running one of my tip ups over, and I was miles from anywhere, there’s no reason for him to be around,” said Bambenek.

To make a point, Parker pushed for an answer as to why the man would do what he did.

“I waved my arms at him like what the heck? He ended up turning his snowmobile around and running me over,” said Bambenek.

It took a whole year before Parker would be back on the water doing what he loves.

“I was actually steelhead fishing that spring using a cane on the river,” said Bambenek.

One year later, the snowmobile driver’s girlfriend decided to come forth, opening up about the accident. The man ended up receiving 18 months
behind bars while Parker, prevailed.

“Since the accident, I’ve been able to book a fair number of my own trips, and business has been good!”

“He and I have known each other since kindergarten,” said Cory Sundeen, a friend of Captain Parker.

For Sundeen, friendship is easy when fish are on the hook.

“We’ve been fishing the big lake since, I think we started going out in high school. It’s kind of like being on the ocean except, not,” said Sundeen.

A similar situation, attracting thousands to the Gitchi Gummi every summer.

“Being out on the big lake and being able to catch a salmon is pretty cool to have right here in Duluth,” said Sundeen.

Right now, Captain Parker says the Coho and Lake Trout bite is on. Later this summer, Lake Trout will be the primary catch.

“You get the full amenities, the bigger boat so we can fish into a little bit rougher weather,” said Bambenek. “It’s bringing a lot more tourism to Duluth.”

Thousands of dollars helping stimulate the local economy. For Captain Parker, charter fishing comes at a cost which often results in priceless memories.

“My favorite part is when I can have a kid catch a fish that you know, maybe doesn’t get out fishing that often. The expression on their face is so genuine,” said Bambenek.

Commercial fishing is believed to have started around 1820. From then on it grew nearly 20 percent every year until the 1880s. That’s when some species started to decline.

“It goes by word of mouth if you haven’t been out in a while, other than that you just have to chase where the Coho are in the beginning of the year,” said Sundeen.

Talking to those who now troll the waters of Lake Superior day in and day out.

“Usually Coho fishing is pretty good right before the smelt run. There’s till a lot of salmon fishing to be had after that,” said Sundeen.

Setting sail every summer along the shores of Lake Superior.

Charter fishing continues, bringing in buckets of fresh fish and new waves of wealth for the Twin Ports.

“Any day out here is better than being on land I think,” said Sundeen.

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