By Bill Hilts, Jr.
It was some last-minute heroics for several of the big winners in this year’s Fall Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby held August 19-September 5, starting with the Grand Prize winner in the Salmon Division. Drew Kersic of Philadephia, Pennsylvania had his own story to tell as he caught the biggest Chinook overall to win the $25,000 check – his first salmon ever on his first fishing trip ever on Lake Ontario! Call it fate, chance or just being in the right place at the right time, Kersic was excited at the awards ceremony held Labor Day at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point when he presented his 34 pound, 9 ounce king for photos.
On Saturday, September 4, he was fishing with Capt. Chad Gehrig of Oswego aboard the “Son of a Gun,” a 40 foot Jersey operating out of Oswego. On board were first mate Mike Ariola of Oswego; Kevin Trainor of Philadelphia; Rob Shaak of Philadephia; Pete Shaak of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania; Matt Stellabotte of Philadelphia; and Nick Norton of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. They were trolling in 75 feet of water in front of the power plant and had seen a few short hits when the eventual winner grabbed hold of a cut bait rig around 9:30 am. Kersic was up and he didn’t disappoint. At 9:55 am they were taking a picture of the fish that would be the eventual winner.
“We were trolling with a dipsy diver in 75 feet of water, 210 feet back on a No. 3 setting using a gold and chrome Golden Boy attractor and a charteuse Jon King cutbait head loaded with cut bait,” said Gehrig at the awards gathering. “The cut bait was Dreamweaver Ballyhoo that was colored with Pautzke blue brine. When we put the fish on the Boga scale on the boat, it wasn’t reading right so I contacted Capt. Tom Burke with Cold Steel nearby and he floated me over his scale. It bounced between 34 and 36. When we saw that, we headed right in to the official scales.”
Kersic, who works ground maintenance at the Philadelphia airport, was hoping to use some money on his kids and to help start up a new landscaping business. He will split some up among the other anglers, thankful they had invited him along. However, his winning catch was almost beat out the last day!
Lynn Thomson, Jr. of Syracuse was fishing with Paul Powers of Oswego and Matt Riebenfeld of Oswego on Labor Day when they hit a big fish around 10:15 am right in front of Oswego Harbor. Some 15 minutes later, they were holding up a big king that was jumping around 34 to 35 pounds on the hand-held scale and decided to run in for a quick weigh in, not taking any chances. They had been using a custom-taped Pro Troller flasher with chrome and green UV tape in front of an A-Tom-Mik meat rig, 60 feet down over 65 feet of water on a downrigger. They were fishing out of Powers’ 27 foot Sportcraft named “Ruka.”
When they hit the scales at K & G Lodge, they knew it was going to be close. The final weight was 34 pounds, six ounce – just three ounces shy of the overall winner. The trio still won $5,000 for first place in the Salmon Division. As far as what the money was going to be used for, Thomson declined to say. “It’s a secret for now … but I will let you know,” he said at Sodus Point.
Second place in the Salmon Division was Richard Clark of Tyler Hill, Pennsylvania with a 33 pound, 13 ounce king caught off the Salmon River on the second day of the derby, August 20. It led the contest for nearly 16 days. He was fishing with Dave Trachte of Sandgate, Vermont; Doug Bell of Stanhope, New Jersey; and Myrna Loy of Rock Hill, South Carolina aboard his 25-foot Carolina Classic named “Sinbad the Sinner.” They caught the fish at 8:30 am trolling a green Pro Troll flasher and a Big Weenie Pole Dancer fly 130 feet down over 140 feet of water. The fish was a personal best for Clark and he’s been fishing the derbies for 25 years. He won $2,000.
First place brown trout was caught by Earl “Skip” Foster of Wilson, fishing with his son, Scott from North Tonawanda on August 30. The two second year anglers found a “secret” brown trout spot between Wilson and Olcott that produced not only the winning fish at 17 pounds, 4 ounces but also produced the third place fish at 15 pounds, 13 ounces. “We were fishing in 50 feet of water with our dipsy diver set back 120 feet on a No. 3.5 setting when the big brown hit,” said Foster. “The lure was called ‘My Secret’ from Bay Rat lures, a lime green and yellow stickbait.” It was his biggest brown trout ever. They were fishing out of Scott’s 22-foot Boston Whaler, quick to give credit to Capt. Roger Young with Papa Smurf Charters who gave them fishing advice prior to them going out. The Fosters won $2,500.
Ironically, the second place brown trout came from virtually the same area between Wilson and Olcott, but a little bit deeper. Dennis Stabler of Lockport was fishing with Scott Rohe of Cheektowaga aboard his 18.5 foot Fisher/Tracker named Ame-less on August 23, trolling a white and green spin doctor and A-Tom-Mik green hammer fly – targeting kings. At 9:30 am, a fish hit and they thought it was a small king, taken from 80 feet of water with a copper set-up that stretched back 300 feet. It turned out to be a 17 pound brown trout! “It’s the first time I’ve ever caught a brown on a fly and it turned out to be my biggest ever,” said Stabler. He earned $1,000 for his catch, not counting the $200 for fish of the day. He also won $750 in the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey for the trophy fish.
In the Steelhead Division, it was David Cole of Brooktondale, NY setting the pace for 17 days with a 14 pound fish he caught August 19, the first day of the derby. It was the first fish weighed in, too. But it was not meant to be. Enter John Jankowski of Sloan, fishing with his wife Laurie on Sept. 4 in the afternoon out of Olcott.
“We had been trolling just west of Olcott near Wilson, 65 feet down over 490 feet of water,” said Jankowski to the awards attendees. “My wife was actually taking a little nap and I decided it was time to head in around 3:30 pm in the afternoon. As I was reeling in some of my other lines, the 65 foot rigger went off, hitting my silver and black Dreamweaver spoon that I doctored up with a pink ladderback.” The fish turned out to be a personal best, a 15 pound, 15 ounce steelie, winning the $2,500 check for the Division. However, it was not the personal best for the 23 foot Sylvan named Triple J. His son boated a 21 pounder off it 10 years ago.
Back to Cole, who had been fishing with Dave Baublitz of Gillett, Pennsylvania and Faith Reimers of Gillett, Pennsylvania out of Wayne County. They had been fishing out to 220 feet of water when they made a turn south. They had one rod that was trailing 600 feet of copper and that was the lure the trout decided to hit – a Twinkie rig behind an ITO two-face flasher. Baublitz and Reimers immediately pointed to Cole to grab the rod. “It’s your 600 feet of copper!” The fish turned out to be worth $1,000. It wasn’t his biggest steelie ever. His biggest was a 15 pound, 3 ounce fish … and he wasn’t in the derby. He’s fished in every one since then! It has certainly paid off for him in the long run.