Last Minute Angling Heroics Ring True in Fall LOC Derby … Again
By Bill Hilts, Jr.
Time and time again, we hear the same stories about unusual fishing circumstances that books could be written about. It wasn’t any different for the 2015 version of the Lake Ontario Counties Fall Trout and Salmon Derby held August 21-September 7. Every single one of the 7,000-plus anglers were looking to catch the Grand Prize fish worth $25,000 and when you think about it, the odds are pretty darn good. Just ask Ken Ruszklewicz of Mexico, NY … who was fishing in his first derby on Lake Ontario. He caught a 31 pound 11 ounce king salmon to take over the lead and never look back.
The retired construction worker was motoring out on Sunday morning, Sept. 6, with veteran derby friends Roy Hunsberger of Mexico Point and Pete Tenerowicz of Little Salmon River aboard Pete’s 29-foot Luhrs aptly named “Ontario Fisherman.” Fishing out of the Little Salmon River, the trio went to a favorite spot first thing in the morning and put down a homemade glow fly that Pete had tied, using a Pro-Troll glow flasher that Ken had dreamed about the night before – decorated with white, yellow and green tape. Fishing started at 6:30 am. At 6:35 am the fish hit 105 down on the bottom and it took Ruszklewicz 30 minutes to bring in the prize catch. His dream came true.
“The hooks came out right when we were netting it,” said Ruszklewicz at the awards ceremony at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point on Labor Day. “We were lucky.” When asked about plans for the money, he quickly replied that there will be some put away for his son Kenneth SunMoon. They also had another prize on the way – his wife Nuan Chan was expecting a little girl soon. Things happen for a reason. The excited fishing team also earned an extra $250 from the Eastern Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Association for catching a leading fish as members of the fishing club.
Glenn Bird of Barker was leading the Derby for over a week with a 30 pound, 11 ounce salmon that he caught west of Wilson. When the lake rolled over from a northeast wind over Labor Day weekend, he thought he had the Grand Prize. That’s when fate stepped in and allowed Ruszklewicz to reel in the top king and push the Angry Bird into first place in the salmon division. Yes, his 21-foot Offshore Sylvan is named “Angry Bird.” He was fishing with Chuck Keenan of Hamlin. Bird had a feeling, too. Instead of heading east toward Olcott, he chose west. Trolling a wire dipsy 135 feet back on a 3.5 setting, he placed a flasher-fly out to entice a fish to hit. It turned out to be the first place salmon. He wasn’t just using any flasher. He was using a flasher that he won as a daily draw prize at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott where he weighed in the angry salmon. He still ended up with a check for $5500, plus $500 from the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby and $700 from the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association for the largest salmon caught by a LOTSA member in the Odyssey (and witnessed by a LOTSA member) – so it wasn’t too bad.
Second place salmon also came from Niagara County, a 30 pound, 8 ounce fish caught by Chris Veitch of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania while fishing the Niagara Bar. His catch weighed in at 30 pounds, 8 ounces. He was fishing with Cal Cushey of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania out of their 25-foot Boston Whaler named “Hooked Up.” They were in 200 feet of water when they started to head south into the famed Bar ledge. Trolling a Chartreuse Spin Doctor with an A-Tom-Mik Pro-Am fly in green and blue behind a dipsy diver set back 180 feet on a No. 3 setting, the fish hit in 90 feet of water around 4 pm. The fish screamed off so much line that the reel was beginning to show backing. They needed to turn and run the fish down. A half hour later, they were netting Veitch’s personal best salmon and a $2,500 winner. He didn’t win fish of the day because it was the same day that Bird caught his fish!
First place in the Rainbow/Steelhead division was also reeled in off the shores of Niagara County, an 18 pound, 15 ounce fish caught by James Nowakowski of East Aurora while fishing off Olcott with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown. James was fishing with his now-adult son, James II of South Wales, NY, who was fishing the lake for the first time in his life. The son also caught a 13th place fish the same day, a 13 pound, 14 ounce steelhead. For the elder James, he had returned to the water after a 25 year absence – raising a family – and the reason for his return was the birthday gift of a fishing charter from his son. There were extra gifts all the way around. They were trolling Dreamweaver and Stinger spoons in green and glow 50 feet down over 450 feet of water 8 miles off Olcott first thing in the morning, using slide divers 150 and 120 feet back on a No. 3.5 setting respectively. Yablonsky’s 21 foot Starcraft named “Wet Net” did it again. It was caught the final Sunday of the derby … just like the Grand Prize catch. “We almost lost the first place fish, too,” said Yablonsky. “James accidentally hit the free spool while fighting the fish and we had a bird’s nest. He worked through that to bring the winning fish in.”
Second place steelhead was an 18 pound, six ounce fish caught out of Oswego. The lucky fisherman was Chris Salvas of Mexico, NY and he was fishing out of his 23-foot Sunbird Neptune named “Dirty Work” with Chris Schroer of Syracuse and Dylan Schroer of Earlville. The funny thing was it should have been young Dylan’s fish. As they were reeling in another fish when the steelhead hit, Dylan stepped on a treble hook that went into his foot, so Chris grabbed the steelhead rod. He didn’t reel in the fish right away. After setting the hook, he put the fish in the rod holder to attend to Dylan. After cutting off his shoe, they removed the hook and then went back to catching what ended up to be the second place steelie. It was still there! They, too, were using a dipsy rod set on No. 2, 180 feet back with cut bait (herring strips) that had been scented with Pautzke Fire Brine. The fish attacked at 7 am. It wasn’t all bad news for the younger Schroer. They went back out into the lake that same day and Dylan reeled in a 30 pound, five ounce salmon to place 4th overall and win the Youth Award. He caught the fish within 100 yards of where they caught the winning steelhead.
Speaking of Youth Award winners, Ben Foster of Buffalo was the top youngster reeling in a steelhead when he hauled in a 13 pound, 8 ounce fish while fishing out of Wilson.
In the brown trout division, there was a complete change of the top three places the final two days of the derby, leaving previous leaders Karen Cinelli of Newfane and Thomas Wallace of Ohio in 4th and 5th place respectively after combining to lead for over two weeks. The winner of the $2,700 check was Dave Maliszesky of West Henrietta with a 15 pound, 4 ounce fish caught … the final Sunday off Hamlin Beach – coming through with his biggest brown trout ever. He was fishing with Gary Cregan of Rochester and on Saturday Cregan caught a 13 pound, 8 ounce brown that ended up placing 11th in the division. When they left Mitchels Bait and Tackle in Rochester that Saturday, Maliszesky shouted “see you tomorrow” in jest. He was prophetic because 24 hours later he had his winning catch, meeting up with the same weighmaster. Dave caught the fish on a Froggie Glow Moonshine spoon while trolling 15 feet down over 30 feet of water out of Sandy Creek near Hamlin Beach. They were fishing out of Dave’s 18-1/2 foot Lund “Ho-Bo,” named after a cat of Dave’s. “Thanks to my heart surgeon Dr. Peter Knight,” said Maliszesky. “I had open heart surgery in January and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here.”
Second place catch went to Darrin LaChance of Ontario, NY. The captain was fishing out of his home port with his first mate (wife) Michelle; his first mate (fishing) Shaun Curry and his wife Shannon and the “team” decided to target browns on the final day of the derby. Also on board was LaChance’s 10 year old Labrador “Slider.” They were targeting browns for the first time during the derby and hooked into a nice fish 40 feet down over 50 feet of water right out in front of Sodus Bay at 7 am. They were using a glow Moonshine spoon, fishing out of LaChance’s 32 foot Luhrs named “Flatout.”They actually lost one brown that was bigger. Not bad for Labor Day morning – a check for $1,000.
Top Youth in the Brown Trout Division was a 14 pound fish hauled in by Nicholas Perry of Newfane. The 15 year old was fishing in front of Olcott, 60 feet down over 120 feet of water when the fish hit. He was fishing with Capt. Bob Cinelli aboard the White Mule. As luck would have it, that same fish earned the Grand Prize in the Greater Niagara Fish Odyssey Derby held August 22-30 in a drawing of six fish species category winners. It was his biggest brown trout ever.
For a complete leaderboard, check out www.loc.org. The dates are set for the 2016 LOC Derby contests: Spring – May 6-15; Summer – July 1-31; Fall – August 19-Sept. 5. For more information, call (888) REEL-2-IN. The Fall Derby handed out more than $65,000 in cash and over $6,500 in merchandise prizes