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Will Elliott’s Outdoors: Early start pays for Derby winner

Entrants got up early, fished deep and brought in spectacular salmonids during late summer derby competitions in and around Lake Ontario.

Winners shared some stunning stories during the Fall Lake Ontario Counties Derby awards ceremony on Monday afternoon at Capt. Jack’s in Sodus Point.

Typically, a going-away lunker gets weighed in by an angler not entered in the competition. After the contest ended, the focus was nearly as much on the Salmon Division winner as the Grand Prize winning angler.

Glenn Bird of Barker hooked into the derby leader, a 30.11-pound king while trolling east of Wilson Harbor early in the contest. His entry held to the last weekend.

Bird fished daily after that early entry.

“I wasn’t sure if a 30-pounder would win, so I kept trying,” he said. His confidence was boosted a bit by the weekend forecast of northeast winds that should lower the odds for catches. It did and it didn’t.

Early Sunday, Roy Hunsburger of Mexico piloted his 29-foot Luhr craft, which he and partner Peter Tenerowicz of Hamlin had been doing since competition began on Aug. 21. Ken Ruszkiewicz of Mexico had fished earlier in his own boat but decided to fish with Hunsburger the last three days of competition.

“We were set up by 7 a.m. Sunday morning and as soon as we got lines in the water two had strikes. The second one was my turn and it took off,” Ruszkiewicz said of the 31.11-pound salmon that peeled off 150 feet of line while partners were taking the first fish out of the net. It took about 30 minutes the catch to bring to the landing net.

“(When) we went to net it, the hooks came out just as the net caught the fish,” he said, adding again that this catch was totally a group effort. For Ruskiewicz, this was his first year of Lake Ontario competition. Hunsburger and Tenerowicz have logged more than three decades in these contests.

James Nowakowski of East Aurora also took a winning fish on Sunday, an 18.15-pound trout that won the Rainbow/Steelhead Division. This contest was Nowakowski’s first trout and salmon competition in 25 years. “I was busy raising a family,” he told emcee Bill Hilts Jr. during the award presentation.

David Chilson, Lake Ontario Counties Derby president, noted that leading and winning entries alternated daily between the eastern and western end of Lake Ontario, and regional honors were at about a tie. To check out all the winners in all divisions, visit loc.org.

Entrants in the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey held Aug. 22-30 saw similar water and catch-response conditions. Bird’s 30.11-pound king took top honors in the Odyssey’s salmon division, but the grand-prize drawing resulted in Nick Perry, 15, of Newfane, emerging as recipient of $2,500. Perry fished with Capt. Bob Cinelli aboard White Mule out of Olcott Harbor to hook his winning 14-pound brown trout.   

Bird, whose boat is named Angry Bird, was all smiles despite the status setbacks in the Lake Ontario Counties and Odyssey derbies.

“I won so many daily and division prizes that it was nice, and I had a great time out there,” he said after the Lake Ontario Derby awards were presented. Odyssey results will be posted at fishodyssey.net.

Bill Hilts Jr. reminded winners and guests of the Fishing and Hunting Expo this coming weekend at the North Bailey Fire Hall in Amherst. Proceeds from this Expo will be donated to next year’s Fish Odyssey.

email: odrswill@gmail.com