Dealing with large, mature Lake Ontario Chinook salmon is never an easy proposition when it comes to the fall – when these fish have reached a peak weight in a short life cycle. Just ask Daniel Clinger of Jersey Shore, Pa. who was fishing out of Sodus Point in Wayne County as part of the Fall Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby held Aug. 18 through Sept. 4. Clinger weighed in a 39-pound, 3-ounce king salmon to take the top prize – a check for $25,000. He also took big fish on the day it was caught for an extra $500.
“Finally, after 20 years of trying, I caught the grand prize,” said Clinger. He was quick to admit that he didn’t do it alone. “I was fishing with my wife Ramona and my friend Rich Raidline (of Pen Argyl, Pa.) in a little over 200 feet of water on Aug. 29 at 10:30 a.m. We were trolling with a Dreamweaver spin doctor and an A-Tom-Mik stud meat rig that was hand-tied by Raidline’s son, Ryan.”
The offering was 382-feet back on a wire diver set-up, positioned on a No. 2.5 setting …and then the fish hit.
“On the first run, it screamed out 600 feet of line like it was nothing,” Clinger told the crowd at Marlin’s Restaurant at Sodus Point on Labor Day. “In fact, I yelled at my wife to turn the boat around (Clinger’s 24-foot Thompson named Why Knot) because I couldn’t get the rod out of the rod holder, the fish was pulling that hard.”
After several more runs and a struggle to get the fish into the net, the trio finally hauled the fish into the boat 40 minutes later. This was a big fish! The crew immediately ran into Davenport’s Boat Livery in North Rose to weigh the lunker and it turned out to be a personal record for Clinger.
“My biggest salmon previously was a 36-pound king,” said the Erie Building Materials worker. He also runs Clinger’s Bait and Tackle out of Jersey Shore. “We’ll be splitting the money up. One of the things I would like to buy is a new shed that I will be able to park my boat in.”
He will also be getting his fish mounted at Clingerman Taxidermy in North Rose to help commemorate the special feat.
First place in the Salmon Division was a 34-pound, 11-ounce salmon reeled in by Robert Reynolds of Auburn. He was fishing with Nick Netti of Auburn and Scott Opiela of Scotia in the latter’s 30-foot Sportcraft named Finatic. They were also competing in the Fair Haven Challenge out of Cayuga County on Aug. 26. Trolling 140 feet down off their rigger over 225 feet of water with a Hulk DW spin doctor and a yellow Rhys Davis head and cut bait, they hit the big king at 12:30 p.m.
“It was the biggest salmon I’ve ever caught,” said Reynolds. The fish earned $5,000 plus $500 for big fish of the day, not a bad payday for a day of fishing. They also won big fish in the Fair Haven Challenge.
In the Steelhead Division, Steve Gardinsky of Mantua, Ohio, won the category with a 16-pound, 9-ounce steelhead caught out of Point Breeze in Orleans County. The most interesting thing about this winning catch is that it was caught during the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
“We were trolling in 240 feet of water around 1:30 p.m. straight out of the point,” Gardinasky said. His boat mates were Jake Huth, Tom Huth and John Burke, all from Mogadore, Ohio – fishing out of Jake’s 21-foot Ranger 621 Fisherman named Lines Down.
“We were running six divers at the same time and the steelhead hit an Atomic Neon Moonshine spoon on a wire diver set back 185 feet on a No. 1 setting. We thought it was a king the way it hit and we had just caught five kings at the same time just prior to catching the winning trout. It took about 25 minutes to bring in the biggest steelhead of his life. He will be getting it mounted at Jeff’s Fish in North Royalton, Ohio, with his $2,500 first-place prize and $250 daily prize.
Second-place steelie was a 14-pound, 5-ouncer out-battled by Rebecca Frye of Ashville. Fishing with her husband Charles out of their 20.5-foot Seamaster boat named Main Line, they ran into a boat problem and had to be towed in at Olcott. Enter Jim Evarts and the Boat Doctor, working with Charles to install a new coupler while also running the shop due to some recent surgery involving his wife Karen. They were able to get the boat running that same day. Rebecca caught the prize fish the next day while pulling a Northern King blue dolphin spoon behind a diver back 96 feet on a No. 3 setting. They were fishing off the power plant east of Olcott in 134 feet of water.
“We’ve fished the derby the last 15 years, great family time for us,” said Frye. “Thanks to the Boat Doctors for going above and beyond.”
First place in the Brown Trout Division was Anthony DiGiovanni of Rochester, registering a 16-pound 15-ounce fish off Webster east of Rochester. Trolling in 20 to 30 feet of water using 10 colors of lead core line with a Stinger Monkeyshine spoon on the end, he hit the trophy trout at 4 p.m. in very cold water.
“The trout were stacked up in there after the lake flipped and we took advantage of it,” signed DiGiovanni to his wife Jo at the awards gathering. He was fishing with Capt. Larry Hammond of Rochester, but they were fishing out of DiGiovanni’s 21-foot Wellcraft named Bravo. It was the biggest brown of his life and he won $2,500 plus an extra $250 for big brown of the day. He will split the winnings with Larry, put $500 into a boat fund and also buy a new Fish Hawk unit for the boat … if he can get the check away from his wife.
John Nardone of Wayland was the second-place brown winner with a 15-pound, 5-ounce trout he caught while fishing with Ken Yanicky of Rochester (who also caught an eighth-place brown). They had been fishing out of Braddocks Bay all season due to the high water levels and decided to try fishing out of Irondequoit Bay when that launch opened back up. The result was the biggest brown of his life, caught on a Hulk Spin Doctor and an A-Tom-Mik stud fly behind 450 feet of copper over 85 feet of water.