High waters don’t deter big fish

Photos by Tom Rivers: This group from Port Austin, Michigan is pictured with the grand prize winning salmon in the Lake Ontario Counties Fishing Derby, which concluded today with an awards program at the Bald Eagle Marina in Kendall. The 27-pound, 8-ounce salmon won the $15,000 grand prize. The group includes, from left: Paul Nienaltowski, Kenny Rutz, Chris McConnell and Alex Nienaltowski.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 May 2017 at 7:50 pm

LOC Derby ends with celebration in Kendall

KENDAL — The fish are still biting in Lake Ontario, despite all the media reports of doom on the lake. The high waters and erosion don’t bother the fish, sports fishing promotion officials said today during an awards presentation at Bald Eagle Marina in Kendall.

“The lake isn’t off limits,” said Bill Hiltz Jr., a long-time sportsfishing promoter in Niagara County. “Once you get on the lake, the fishing is still good.”

Hilts was in Kendall today as emcee for the Spring Lake Ontario Counties Derby. About 4,500 people fished in the LOC Derby, where $44,350 in prize money was up for grabs. There are also summer and fall LOC fishing derbies. The awards ceremonies are typically at Captain Jack’s, a tavern in Sodus Point. But a road to that site was blocked off due to flooding.

LOC organizers decided to have the awards show in Kendall at the Bald Eagle Marina, which is a new weigh station for the derby. The Bald Eagle Marina has floating docks that move up or down, depending on the lake levels. It’s boat launch remains open.

Other marinas with stationary docks are struggling due to the high lake levels, or their boat launches aren’t open.

Dave Chilson, owner and director of the LOC Derby, said fishermen and the sports fishing industry remains concerned about access at some marinas. Chilson also worries the extensive media coverage of the high lake waters, erosion and flooding may scare off fishermen and customers for the marinas and lakeside businesses.

“All of the publicity has made it worse,” Chilson said about the impact on businesses by the lake.

A group from Port Austin, Michigan made their second annual trip to Lake Ontario. They stayed in Wilson and caught the biggest fish, a 27-pound, 8-ounce salmon. They caught it off the Niagara bar, near the mouth of the Niagara River. The group brought its own boat from Michigan and tried to launch it in St. Catharines, Canada, but those marinas were off limits due to the high lake and flooding.

They were directed to Wilson, where they were able to get their boat in the water.

Pul Nienaltowski reeled in the fish on May 9. He said Lake Huron has few salmon. He and his brother and their friends like the Chinook salmon. They put up a fight when they are caught, Nienaltowski said.

Chilson moved the awards program to the Bald Eagle Marina, which is opening a restaurant, Lures, next month, and is making other improvements.

“We wanted to highlight it because it’s obviously a great facility,” Chilson said.

Other first place winners include:

• Chinook salmon, 25 pounds, 5 ounces – Lee Beaton of Clifton Springs, NY

• Brown trout, 16 pounds, 12 ounces – David Rafle of Edinboro, Pa.

• Lake trout, 22 pounds, 10 ounces – Brian Marketich of Beaver Falls, Pa.

• Walleye, 13 pounds, 1 ounce – Mitch Franz of Henderson Harbor, NY

David Rafle of Edinboro, Pa. talks about his first-place winning brown trout. All of the first place winners won $1,000. David Chilson, center, is the LOC president and director. Bill Hilts, Jr., left, served as emcee for the event.