Zack Blain reeled in a 29-pound 10-ounce king salmon during the final weekend of the 10th annual Lake Ontario Counties Summer Trout and Salmon Derby. His catch earned an $11,000 check — although it didn’t come without a price.
On the last Saturday of the derby, July 27, the Honeoye angler was traveling with Cory Hetzel to fish out of Point Breeze in Orleans County. As they drove on the Lake Ontario Parkway west of Rochester, Blain and Hetzel hit a deer.
That didn’t stop them from their quest to catch a big fish in the derby.
They finally launched Where’s the Wheel, their 18-foot Alumacraft boat, their focus was about 4 miles west of Point Breeze. They started to troll with an A-Tom-Mik Pro-Am fly behind a black 2-face spin doctor, placing it 75 feet below the surface.
At 6:15 a.m. they hit a double: two fish on the line at once, one on the rigger and one on a wire diver off to the side. The wire diver was the one that took off like a freight train as the reel screamed.
The duo decided that the wire diver would have the priority when it came to fighting and netting the fish. When Hetzel finally brought the fish to the back of the boat, it was much smaller than they realized. Blain picked up the other rod, hoping the other fish remained hooked.
As he started to reel, the weight of the salmon let him know that he was still there. Within 10-15 minutes the Chinook came to the back of the boat, and when Blain saw the fish he shouted, “Grab the net. This is a good one. Don’t miss it.”
They drove the chunky fish into the Captain’s Cove weigh station at Point Breeze and had to wait until it opened at 9 a.m. When they threw it on the scale, it read 29 pounds, 10 ounces, just 1 ounce heavier than the salmon caught by Doug Parker of Lockport while fishing the Niagara Bar earlier in the week.
When asked what he was going to do with the money, Blain said he was going to repair the deer damage to his truck and put a new roof on his house. Hetzel needed a new trolling motor.
Parker’s fish was caught with Matt Dunn of Newfane and his father, Marc Dunn of Pendleton (another sub-theme in the derby). They were fishing the Niagara Bar July 22, using 10 colors of lead-core line and a standard Michigan Stinger green-and-silver spoon on the drop-off in 100 feet of water. During the fight, they almost lost the fish twice, the last time as they were getting ready to net it. As Parker pulled the fish into the net, the elder Dunn scooped the fish … just as the line broke.
It’s not the first time that the team fishing out Streaker, Dunn’s 27-foot Tiara, came close to the grand prize. They tied for the top prize in the 2014 Spring Derby but lost out on a tiebreaker. They captured the grand prize in the 2016 Spring Derby, as well as winning the Amateur Division in this year’s Niagara Pro-Am.
Charter captain Chris Mandell of Spencerport, who was fishing with Gregg Izzo of Rochester, reeled in a 29-pound, 6-ouncer that took second place in the Salmon Division. They were trolling off Braddocks Bay, near Rosie’s Marsh, in 80-90 feet of water when they got boxed in by some other boats. They turned in and their depth became 75 feet.
Two rods started screaming: a wire diver out 225 feet and a 300-foot copper line. With only two anglers on Reel Serious, a 29-foot Baha Cruiser, they too had to prioritize, and the diver was the one that got the nod initially. The copper went into the rod holder.
When they realized that the salmon was in the low 20s in terms of poundage, Mandell grabbed the copper again.
“I like to fish old-school, and I was using a Dreamweaver squid twinkie rig behind a Pro-Troll e-chip flasher,” Mandell relayed. “Ten minutes later, the fish was at the back of the boat, but Gregg missed the fish with his first swipe. He finally got it on the second attempt.”
Melbourne, Fla. angler Joshua Dexter won the Youth Salmon Division with a 26-pound king. He was fishing aboard Stephs Thrill out of Davenport’s in Sodus Bay.
Ten-year-old Nina Fritz of Webster boated the No. 1 fish in the Youth Lake Trout Division, an 18-pound, 3-ounce trophy while fishing with her father Eric, grandfather Robert and 5-year-old brother Anthony. Fishing aboard Fly-n-Fish, the family’s 24-foot Osprey, they were trolling in 100 feet of water east of Irondequoit, using a hammerhead cowbell setup on the bottom. The fish was not only the biggest she’s ever caught, it was bigger than anything dad had ever caught too.
Randy Snyder of Marion took top honors in the Brown Trout Division with a 22-pound, 14-ounce lunker that blew away the competition in that category; it bested the runner-up by 6 pounds. While the size of the brown trout was impressive to say the least, catching browns didn’t come by accident. In fact, Snyder was fishing with Dean Fisher of Marion, and they caught 232 brown trout in the derby until they landing the winner July 15.
Knowing it would be tough to beat, they switched over to a salmon program out of SlooooMotion, Snyder’s 22-foot Penn Yan, for the remainder of the contest.
“We had been fishing cold water, but the winds changed,” Snyder said, noting he had worked the night shift and decided to fish in the afternoon. “We were fishing east of Hughes Marina around Boller Point and found the temperature we were looking for in 90 feet of water. I put a Stinger green alewife spoon in stingray size down 85 feet on the rigger and caught three smaller browns before the bigger one hit.
“It was the biggest brown trout that I’ve ever caught.”
George Lusink of Rochester was second with a 16-pound, 14-ounce brown trout he caught off the lighthouse at Braddocks Bay. He was fishing with Marc Skirvin of Henrietta.
“We were trolling in Marc’s 21-foot Lund in 50 feet of water,” Lusink reported. “We were using one of his silver-and-copper Sutton spoons 40 feet down when the fish hit.”
Like Snyder, Lusink said it was his biggest brown ever.
Skirvin also made the leaderboard with a 14-pound, 15-ounce brown trout that placed eighth.
The top Youth brown trout of 13 pounds, 2 ounces was weighed in by Gracin Marsh of West Chazy, who was fishing out of Hughes Marina in Wayne County.
In the Rainbow/Steelhead Division, Steven Biernacki of Medina was fishing with his father, Michael, out of Point Breeze on the first day of the derby, June 29. The water was all messed up, and they just started trolling north in their 22-foot Crestliner to see what they could find. Along the way, he put out a Moonshine spoon in a Hulk pattern behind a diver. What made this a bit unusual was that it was a slide diver, and you can set up the lure as far as you want away from the actual diver.
Just to try something different, he put the lure 80 feet behind the diver before he secured it to the line, then put the line out another 100 feet on a No. 3 setting. At 11 a.m., he reeled in the biggest steelhead that he’s ever caught in a derby, a 14-pound, 8-ouncer.
“I just wanted it to hold up for the week for the weekly $500 prize,” Biernacki said. “I never expected it to last the entire derby.”
Tanner Niezgoda of Newfane was second in the Steelhead category with a 13-pound, 13-ounce trophy he caught while fishing with his father, Matt. They were fishing out in front of Olcott in 130 feet of water, using a green Gator Stinger spoon 25 feet down. It was the final voyage for Meals on Reels, their 19-foot Sportcraft, since they had just bought a new boat.
The fish was a personal best for Tanner.
The next LOC Derby, the fall “Return of the King” 18-day contest, begins Aug. 16 and continues through Sept. 2.
For more information, visit www.loc.org.
Summer wild turkey survey under way
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos is encouraging New Yorkers to participate in the state’s annual survey for wild turkeys.“The public’s observations help DEC biologists to monitor and manage this great game bird and sustain it for the future,” Seggos said.
Since 1996, DEC has conducted the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey to track wild turkey populations and estimate the number of wild turkey poults (young of the year) per hen statewide. Weather, predation and habitat conditions during breeding and brood-rearing seasons can significantly impact nest success and hen and poult survival. This index allows DEC to gauge reproductive success and predict fall harvest potential.
During August, survey participants record the sex and age composition of all flocks of wild turkeys observed during normal travel.
Those interested in participating can download a survey at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48732.html, along with instructions and the data sheet from the DEC website. Surveys also can be obtained by contacting regional DEC offices, calling (518) 402-8883, or emailing email@example.com (type “Turkey Survey” in the subject line).
Participants can submit observations online. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/ and click “Summer Wild Turkey Sighting On-line Report.”