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West Seneca angler wins $25,000 LOC Derby prize

Capt. Codey Allen of West Seneca is $25,500 richer after the Lake Ontario Counties Fall Salmon and Trout Derby came to a close on Labor Day. He can finally breathe a sigh of relief after waiting 17 days to see if his big salmon was going to earn the top prize.

The fish story started on August 16, the first day of the Fall LOC Derby. After working in the morning, he decided to head to Lake Ontario and fish the afternoon aboard the “Lake Affect,” a 22-foot Lund Baron Magnum. On board was his girlfriend, Kimberly Blake, and his grandparents, Donald and Susan Mullen, all from West Seneca.

“The lake had flipped over after a couple days of east wind,” Allen said. “We were just looking for some stable water and headed out 10 miles straight north of Olcott. We found 52 degree temperature 48 feet down over 510 feet of water and we stacked baits on either side of the thermal break. That was when we had three rods go off right around 6 p.m.”

The battle was on. Getting three mature salmon on at the same time is no easy task. They managed to bring in two of the fish, both 20-pound class salmon. Allen was fighting the big boy, a 33-pound, 8-ounce king that hit a Michigan Stinger spoon in green, black and white behind a dipsy diver set back 140 feet on a No. 2 setting.

The winning team for the Fall LOC Derby grand prize, from left to right, are Susan Mullen, Codey Allen, Kimberly Blake and Donald Mullen. The Mullens are Allen's grandparents. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

“We were lucky to get the fish in,” Allen said. “It screamed out line. I could have sworn at one point it was on the bottom with 500 feet of line out and straight under the boat. During the fight, it was tangled in a copper line we had out and it also wrapped around one of the downrigger cables when it got closer to the boat. We were able to weave the rod around and through to bring the fish to the boat. Just as we netted the fish, the line broke.” Lady luck was with them as they won the $25,000 grand prize and $500 for largest king of the day.

Then it was a waiting game. He constantly checked the leader board at the LOC Derby website (www.loc.org) and the closest call came on August 24, when two big king salmon were weighed in from the eastern basin of the lake – a 32-pound, 15-ounce fish weighed in by Dave Trachte of Sandgate, Vt., while fishing in Mexico Bay and a 32-pound, 12-ounce salmon reeled in by Steve Engle of Oswego while fishing out of Fairhaven. They were caught within a couple hours of one another, weighed in by derby organizer Dave Chilson at two different weigh stations.

Those fish placed first and second in the salmon division, with Trachte’s prize catch (and the biggest salmon he’s ever caught) earning a check for $5,500. Engle won $2,000.

Normally, the bigger fish are caught at the end of the 18-day derby, when the salmon reach a peak weight before Mother Nature calls to begin staging for a river or creek run. Not this year.

Nicholas Dougherty of Lockport holds up his winning steelhead, a 15-pound, 6-ounce fish he caught while fishing off Olcott with his brother Christopher, right. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

In the rainbow/steelhead division, another Olcott fish took top honors. Nicholas Dougherty of Lockport was fishing in the same general area as Allen on August 17 over 500-foot depths with his brother Christopher of Lockport and his father Thomas of Niagara Falls. They were enjoying a banner day out of their 22-foot Triumph Chaos named “Thor’s Hammer II” as they caught more than 20 fish and hooked up and lost over twice that many.

At 9:30 a.m., they had a fish hit that they thought was a salmon. When they finally netted it, they realized it was a 15-pound, 6-ounce steelhead. That lunker held on for the duration of the derby, earning a check for $2,750. The lucky lure was a Purple-Glow Moonshine spoon, fished behind a dipsy diver that was set 88 feet back on a 1.5 setting.

Runner-up in the division was another novice angler who had never before fished the lake. Keith Blanchfield of Auburn was fishing with Capt. Ryan Davids with Backlash Charters out of Sodus Bay, straight out of the chute in 250 feet of water. Using an A-Tom-Mik Pro-Am fly behind flasher, they were trolling a dipsy diver 190 feet back on a No. 2 setting. “It fought like a salmon,” Blanchfield said. “We lost another steelhead that was even bigger than what we had.” Not a bad first trip.

Bruce Raggi of Farmington caught this 15-pound, 13-ounce brown trout while fishing out of Wayne County. It was his first brown trout and his first derby. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

In the brown trout division, Bruce Raggi of Farmington was the leading brown buster with a 15-pound, 13-ounce fish. He was part of a fishing group that included Scott Libihoul of Clay, Rick Redsicker of Ontario and Don Swain of Canandaigua aboard the “Salmon-illa,” a 25-foot Pro Line. Raggi, who had been involved with some overseas contracting, was asked by the others to go fishing during his break from work. You see, he had never fished in a derby before. And, he had never caught a brown trout before. In addition to a personal-best fish, he reeled in a check for $2,750. Not bad.

The winning brown came from the waters between Peaville and Bear Creek off the shores of Wayne County. They were targeting 55 feet of water, picking up both browns and kings. This fish hit at 10 a.m. as they trolled a UV green-glow A-Tom-Mik fly behind a Pro-Troll 8-inch chartreuse flasher 150 behind the boat.

“We thought we had a small king on,” Raggi said. “As we were getting ready to net the fish, we realized it was a big brown trout and got really excited.” It took him about 15 minutes to reel in the prize catch.

In addition, Libihoul caught a 13-pound, 11-ounce brown trout that placed ninth in the division and 11-year old Connor Vogt of Ontario won the junior division with a 12-pound, 10-ounce brown caught while fishing with the Salmon-illa crew. All were caught in the same general area using “secret” Michigan Stinger spoons.

It was interesting to note that only 10 ounces separated first from fifth place. The second-place catch, a 15-pound, 9-ounce brown hauled in by Kyle Jezler of Endicott, was caught at 7:45 a.m. while fishing with Capt. Vic Minotti of Hotliner Charters out of Oswego on the final morning of the derby. It knocked out Kim Hubert-Bickel of Newfane and put her in third place with a 15-pound, 7-ounce Olcott fish. Richard Barber of Niagara Falls tied Bickel with a Niagara Bar brown, but hers was weighed in first (tiebreaker). Patrick Barber of Niagara Falls was fifth with a 15-pound, 3-ounce brown he caught on the Niagara Bar.

It was almost the derby trifecta for Niagara County. Capt. Vince Pierleoni on the Thrillseeker had a 10-year-old customer out-duel a 21-pound brown trout during the first week of the derby, but he had failed to enter the contest because it was a last-minute afternoon trip.

Check out this week’s catches gallery to see the fish. You must be in it to win it. Three of the top winners had never fished the lake before. Keep that in mind when 2020 rolls around.

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