By Bill Hilts Jr.
Niagara Gazette — 1. Lake Ontario and tributaries
It was a battle of two Ultimate Fishing Town ports for the Orleans County Rotary Derby. Point Breeze, the Ultimate Fishing Town for 2013, came out the overall winner for the Grand Prize catch when Foster Miller of Holley weighed in a 34-pound, 13-ounce king salmon. Not far behind and leader of the Salmon Division was Jim Mazur of Varysburg with a 32-pound, 13-ounce Olcott fish.
Top brown trout went to Olcott, with a 15-pound, 9-ounce fish reeled in by Charles Davis from Pennsylvania. It beat out the previous leader from Point Breeze by just one ounce. The reverse happened in the Steelhead Division when Gary Tubach of Pennsylvania hauled in a 13-pound, 13-ounce Point Breeze fish to beat out Dean Kapolka’s Olcott catch by three ounces.
The lake trout winner was Hunter Westcott of Hamlin with an 18-pound, 4-ounce fish weighed in at Point Breeze.
The competition continues with the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby going on until 1 p.m. Sunday. If you’d like to check out the leaderboard, visit www.fishodyssey.net. It’s been a great week of fishing so far with more to come. Just check out some of the incredible fish that have come to the scales so far, like Paul Devlin of Niagara Falls with his 12-pound, 14-ounce walleye from the Niagara Bar; 14-year-old Mike Creighton of Buffalo with a 6-pound smallmouth bass; Carl Hubler of Niagara Falls with a 28-pound carp; Bob Turton of Sanborn with a 24-pound, 13-ounce lake trout; Larry Goehring of Pennsylvania with a 17-pound, 13-ounce brown trout; and Sandra Brown of Pennsylvania with a 35-pound, 3-ounce salmon.
A big part of the Fish Odyssey is that a special Junior Division is available for kids 15 and under for FREE! Every kid in the county should be registered for it. Sign up online at the same website. Every registered kid that shows up at the Awards Ceremony at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Newfane Community Center will be given a ticket for a drawing for a new bike courtesy Charlie the Chimp and the Primate Sanctuary. You don’t even need to catch a fish! The kids that are catching fish, though, have been impressing the adults – like Jacob Velesko of Middleport with a 29-pound, 7-ounce salmon, or Peter Campbell of Niagara Falls with a 12-pound, 12-ounce steelhead. It’s not too late!
Lake action has been good-to-very-good for a mix of fish. You can pick up mature kings first thing in the morning as close as 75 feet of water in front of Wilson and Olcott. On the Niagara Bar, kings are also available at the drop off and beyond. Fish have been scattered from the 26-line to the 32-line out in front of Olcott, with flasher-fly, spoon or meat your top baits. Target the top 60 feet of water for trout and down a little deeper to 90-100 feet for kings.
In the battle for the $25,000 LOC Derby king salmon, 36 1/2 pounds is leading the way right now. Twentieth place is 31-plus pounds. Three steelies are tied for first at 14 pounds, four ounces and Larry Goehring’s big brown is the current leader. The LOC continues through Labor Day. Tip of the week goes to Chris Zaganiaczyk of the Buffalo area who chartered with Capt. Bob Cinelli of Olcott this week. After being warned about the derbies going on, they opted not to enter into the contests. The result was a massive steelhead that tipped the scales at better than 18 pounds.
2. Lower Niagara River
No reports of the first king salmon off the fishing platform yet, but it won’t be long. The big news this week is the hot walleye bite that’s going on in the river – just in time for the Lower Niagara River Walleye Tournament sponsored by the Niagara River Anglers Association. Register at www.niagarariveranglers.com or at Creek Road Bait and Tackle. You can also register at the Lewiston launch first thing in the morning.
Capt. Steve Drabczyk sends word that good catches are being reported in the river, especially from the Stella Drift in 32 feet of water on worm harnesses fished off three-way rigs. The Niagara Bar seems to be producing the bigger fish, but you do have to work for them. Harnesses with larger blades seem to be attracting the big boys like Devlin’s from the Fish Odyssey. Green has been a good color to use.
Bass fishing has been spotty, but some nice fish have been reported from Devil’s Hole to the Bar. Live bait like crayfish or shiners will work for you, as will tube jigs or drop shot rigs. Shore fishermen are doing okay on bass with twistertails up in the gorge.
3. Upper Niagara River
The Bird Island Pier is back up for shore fishing action and that area is a good bet for bass on the river side of the pier. Bass are also being caught at the Ontario Street launch area. Boat fishermen are picking up bass on the east side of Motor and Strawberry islands, in the west river on the west side of Grand Island and at the head of the river. Target 10-20 feet of water with crayfish for best success. Two fish on the Fish Odyssey leaderboard were caught in the upper river.
4. Lake Erie and tributaries
Bass fishing has been fair to good off Buffalo and toward Myers Reef. Seneca Shoal has been a hot spot, too. Capt. Jeff Draper of Grand Island showed customers some nice fish there last weekend – before the derby – in 35 feet of water on a “Crawl Fish.” Their biggest was a 22-inch six-pounder. Two fish on the Fish Odyssey leaderboard were caught from Lake Erie.
The walleye bite has slowed and you have to work for them. The big school continues to move west and out to deeper waters. Off Cattaraugus Creek, look in 70-85 feet of water; off Dunkirk head out to 80-plus feet of water. Worm harnesses are the way to go, but stickbaits will also catch fish. That’s not to say that there aren’t walleye around the near shore reef areas. Try casting a weight-forward spinner tipped with a worm or a worm harness bounced along the bottom. Yellow perch action has been spotty. Smaller schools have been scattered from 50-70 feet of water off Cattaraugus Creek.
5. Chautauqua Lake
Not too much changed from last week. Weed edges are still key, no matter what kind of fish you want to try and target – from panfish and bass to musky. Use minnows, crayfish or plastics for bass; worms for panfish on the bottom. Musky can be picked up trolling or casting large bucktail spinners, large body baits or large tubes.
6. Finger Lakes-Inland Waters
• Keuka Lake – Vertical jigging is the way to go for lake trout. Use plastics in 65-100 feet of water off the Bluff. Cut bait fished on the bottom will also work for you. Trolling will also catch you fish with spoons or flasher-fly 65-75 feet down over 100-165 feet of water.
Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.