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Derby fishing stories by the thousands (of dollars)


What a difference a year makes. In 2017, Lake Ontario was suffering through severe high-water conditions and many people believed that this Great Lake was closed for business. The reality was that fishing was as good as ever. In fact, when the results of a lake-wide creel census were tabulated, the salmon catch rate was the highest that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had ever seen.

Fast-forward to 2018 and the spring fishing seasons. The salmon fishing has been nothing short of incredible, continuing where things left off last fall. The spring salmon (and trout) fishing contests were all pushed back a week. The Spring Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby was held May 11-20 and the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament (WHI) went off May 19. The precursor to the WHI, also coinciding with the LOC contest, was the Salmon Slam and the $1K a Day events. It was a crazy 10 days of angling competitions that resulted in over $100,000 in cold, hard cash being up for grabs. Call it luck or call it skill, it’s probably more a combination of both. Sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time. One thing is for sure, you have to be in it to win it.

Brandon White of Spencerport caught the first-place fish in the salmon division while fishing out of Rochester, a 23-pound, 12-ounce king salmon. He earned a check for $2,000 for first place plus $500 for big fish of the day.

For Tom Allen of Oswego, Wilson has been a very good port for him to fish out of in May. Fishing the WHI tournament has been both exciting and memorable for the creator of A-Tom-Mik . Lightning struck twice in the same boat for the A-Tom-Mik fishing team when it won the competitive contest for a second straight year. This time the squad earned a check for $20,000 plus checks totaling $2,350 from the Salmon Slam, $1K a Day and the LOC Derby.

A different kind of strategy was needed for the one-day WHI. The best six salmon could be brought to the scales at the end of the day with scoring based on 10 points per fish and a point per pound. Allen’s team of Stephanie Brace of Oswego, Lynn Thomson, Jr. of Camillus and Walter Pieschu of Rochester worked its magic as it sorted through a large number of medium-sized king salmon.

“We couldn’t get all of our gear in the water for over an hour because the fishing was so fast and furious,”  Allen said.  They had started where they left off on Friday and where Brace had hit a 22-pound, 3-ounce king to win $1,000 and place 11th in the LOC Derby.

“It was the best fishing single day in my life,” Allen said. “We had to go with Plan B because all of the fish were between 8 and 13 pounds. We needed something bigger. We moved and searched the waters from 270 to 490 feet looking for the bigger fish and we had about a 14-pound average by 10:30 a.m.”

That was when they hit a 20-pound, 14-ounce king, the team’s big fish for the tournament. Staying in the same area, they hit another respectable king that would be able to replace one of the smaller fish. As fate would have it, they fought a 19-pounder to the boat and it became wrapped up in a rigger cable. They thought they were going to lose it. Instead, it came free and they were able to scoop it up with the net.

When the A-Tom-Mik team made it to the scales in Wilson, they didn’t quite know what to expect, especially with the fishing as good as what it had been. They ended up with a weight of 102.03 pounds for a 17-pound-per-fish average – darn good for the spring. When added with the 10 points per fish, the tournament score was 162.03.

Second place was On the Rocks led by Capt. Mike Johannes of Wilson with a score of 149.22 points. Third place was Fish Chopper led by Tom Boise with a six-fish total of 146.82 points, followed by Capt. Rob Taddeo and Hideout with 144.96 points, Vision Quest and Capt. Pete Alex with 144.96 points (lost a tiebreaker with biggest fish) and Breakaway with Capt. Jeff Parrish with 143.88 points to place sixth. They earned $10,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000 and $3,000 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby was dishing out another $44,350 in cash for a lake-wide big fish contest, including a $15,000 grand prize that would go to the angler catching the largest salmon in the 10-day battle.

“We had some great salmon fishing straight out of the harbor in Oswego,” said Daniel Manti of Cortland, who reeled in the winning fish on May 12. “Our ‘Thinkin’ BIG Fishing Team’ worked together to pull off the Grand Prize win.” The team was made up of Rodney Brown of Baldwinsville, Jerry Brown of Lafayette and John Emmons of Memphis, fishing out of Rodney and Jerry’s 29-foot Baha “Thinkin’ Big.” The boat name couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Daniel Manti of Cortland caught the $15,000 Grand Prize salmon in the LOC Derby while fishing out of Oswego. The fish weighed 28 pounds, 10 ounces.

“At 7:30 a.m. we were trolling in 60-feet of water using six colors of lead core line to get our Diehard Michigan Stinger spoon down about 25 feet,” he told the awards ceremony crowd at Bald Eagle Marina May 20. “At one point the king was wrapped around a downrigger cable and another line. Thanks to some quick work by the team, we were able to get the fish to the net. We knew it was a big fish, so we pulled the rods and ran in … an hour early. The weigh station didn’t open until 9 a.m.” It weighed 28 pounds, 10 ounces.

First place in the Salmon Division was Brandon White of Spencerport with a 23-pound, 12-ounce Rochester king. He was fishing with Capt. Kip Mammano of Rochester Sportfishing out of the Genesee River on May 13. They were fishing in 50 feet of water just west of the river using four colors of lead core line off a planer board and rigged with a Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow.

In the Brown Trout Division, first place went to Capt. Chris Vogt of Albion with an 18-pound, 1-ounce trout he caught out of his home base (Bald Eagle Marina, Kendall). It was the biggest brown he’s ever caught in the lake.

In the Lake Trout Division, Steve Klejdys of North Tonawanda did it again, adding another first-place trophy to his mantle. This time it was a 22-pound, 5-ounce laker that took the top prize of $1,000. He was fishing on the Niagara Bar using a spin-n-glow to work the bottom in 85 feet of water when the fish hit.

In the Walleye Division, it was Harry Crannell of Queensbury setting the pace with a 12-pound, 1-ounce Niagara Bar fish that took the top prize. Check out for the complete leaderboard.



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