By BILL HILTS
Niagara Gazette — 1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
Out in Lake Ontario, Pat Comerford of East Aurora is still leading the charge in the summer LOC Derby with a 36-pound, 5-ounce king salmon. He had a bit of scare when a 35-plus pound king salmon was weighed in this week out east, taking over the salmon division. His wife, Carol Comerford, is still leading the rainbow-steelhead division with a 15-pound, 9-ounce fish out of Wilson and Ed Klejdys of North Tonawanda is tops in the lake trout category with a 32-pound, 4-ounce Niagara Bar fish. Current first place brown trout is an 18-pound fish reeled in by Bill Kopek of Manlius. The derby continues through July 28. Check out www.loc.org for a complete leaderboard.
In the meantime, fishing action has been steady according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott. Mature kings are coming from 150 to 250 feet of water in from of Olcott, with fish coming from 80 to 120 foot depths on flasher-fly and spoons. Out deep, it’s been more of a numbers game from 450 to 550 foot depths, fishing 50 feet down and deeper for a mix of steelies, kings and cohos. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reminds fishermen that Olcott has a weekly fishing contest for salmon and trout and to stop in every week to register your boat at their Olcott location.
2. Lower Niagara River
Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston reports that some walleye are finally starting to cooperate along the Stella and Artpark drifts in 50 feet of water on worm harnesses or a K9 Kwikfish tipped with a piece of nightcrawler. Jacob Joseph reeled in a 9-pound walleye from the Coast Guard drift last week. Bass fishing is still improving, with some nice fish being caught in the 30 foot range on live bait. The Niagara River Anglers Assn. will be holding their Lower River and Lake Ontario smallmouth bass classic on Saturday, July 27. For more information visit www.niagarariveranglers.com or call 807-6111.
Instead of a fish fry this year, the Niagara Sausage Company will be on hand to show off their tasty links at the NRAA Nature Preserve on Balmer Road following the weigh in for the contest (which will take place at Lewiston Landing from 1-2 p.m.). Top bass catcher wins $1,000!
3. Upper Niagara River-Erie Canal
The 23rd Annual Erie Canal Fishing Derby ended last Sunday and the leader board is posted on the website at www.eriecanalderby.com. But there is still one more step in the process – who will win the Grand Prize boat, motor and trailer package? On Sunday, July 21, first place division anglers will be placed into a hat to determine who will win the big prize. These fishermen will all be meeting at 3 p.m. at the Gasport Fire Hall to determine their fate: George Frombgen of Gasport with a 4 pound bass; Janet Wright of North Tonawanda with a 7 and a half pound walleye; Mike Boncore of Tonawanda with a 5.6 pound pike; Richard Blackburn of Lockport with a one and a half pound bullhead; Codie Thomas of Grand Island with a 10-pound catfish; Joshua Staley of Virginia with a 24-plus pound carp; and Todd Wells of Medina with a 10.3-pound sheepshead. There were also four tagged fish caught in the popular canal contest. In the upper river, bass action has been good at the head of the river, the west bank of Grand Island and the areas around Strawberry and Motor islands on live bait like crabs or tube jigs. A few musky are being caught on large 8-10 inch tubes on the outside edges of the weeds.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
Capt. Frank Campbell is reporting good to very good bass fishing on live bait like crayfish and shiners in 20 to 40 feet of water around structure. Tube jigs will also produce fish, as will a drop shot rig. Capt. Terry Jones has been seeing some success on jerk baits, too. Walleye fishing continues to be crazy out there. Capt. Steve Drabczyk has been enjoying his best success between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. straight out from the south gap in 49 feet of water to the Canadian line. Worm harnesses are the way to go. Bass have been hitting golden shiners and crayfish for him in 35-40 feet of water along Seneca Shoal.
5. Chautauqua Lake
Bill Joseph of Youngstown sends word that he’s been fishing the eastern shoreline of the lake north of Long Point for walleye and picking up some nice fish. At least, his son Jacob has been reeling in some big ones. They’ve been catching some nice fish up to 9 pounds, which is big for Chautauqua. They’ve been using a three-way rig tipped with a leach to take their fish, drifting with the wind or using a trolling motor to move them slowly along in 15 feet of water just outside the weeds. They have also picked up some bass up to five pounds and a gar pike up to 10 pounds, in addition to some perch and sunfish.
6. Finger Lakes-Inland Waters
Cayuga Lake – Lower Cayuga Inlet was treated for weeds this week, but the inlet and boat launch is back open again for fishing. Trollers are still working 60 to 90 feet down over 80 to 120 feet of water with flasher-fly or spoons. Jiggers are picking up lake trout in 80 to 100 feet of water. Atlantic salmon have been hitting spoons in the top 50 feet of water over 60 to 125 foot depths. Green has been a hot color. In the north end, bass and a variety of panfish has been dominating catches. The area adjacent to the gates at the Mud Locks is now closed to fishing.Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at billhiltsjr@ gmail.com.