The 35th Annual Skip Hartman Memorial Niagara County Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament was held May 31 and June 1 out of the ports of Wilson and Olcott. The weather was near perfect, the fishing was very good, and it all came down to the wire in determining who the winners were when all the salmon and trout were weighed in at Krull Park in Olcott. After the final basket was put on the scales, it was a pair of anglers named Matt that won the first-place prizes.
Oh Baby/Irish Knots, a team lead by Matt LeClair of Plattsburgh, took top honors in the Professional Division with a score of 514.09 points for two days of fishing (based on 10 points per fish and a point per pound). They won a check for $11,000. Meanwhile, it was the Streaker team led by Matt Dunn of Newfane setting the pace in the Amateur Class with 265.56 points and earning a check for $2,000.
LeClair and company fished deep off the Niagara Bar for both days of the tournament. Day one they had a good spoon bite with a mixture of Yeck and Warrior lures taking most of the fish. However, they did pick up 4 big kings on Big Weenie meat rigs and Familiar Bite cut bait. On day two, they knew they had to improve their box to make up some ground, so they went with a combination of meat and flies, trying to capitalize on the morning bite with those bigger Kings … and it paid off. They were never able to get more than 4 rods in the water until they already had 10 fish in the cooler. The Amateur Division winner was Streaker (led by Matt Dunn of Newfane) and they focused their attention on the waters off Olcott. Again, the salmon came from down deep. They used downriggers and divers to get their baits down as deep as 140 feet below the surface over 300 to 350 feet of water. Spoons and N & D cut bait were the two items that worked best for their presentations. The divers were set 350 feet back on No. 1 setting. Everything wasn’t deep though. Some of the bigger kings came on free-floating sliders off the riggers. John Van Hoff, not fishing the tournament, also did very well on the Niagara Bar, but closer to the ledge. Cut bait off the riggers 100 to 120 feet down over 120 to 180 feet of water was the best. On the divers, they were set at No. 1 and were 270 feet back. Spoons or flasher/fly worked best. They caught over 50 kings, including many 20-pound class fish, over the course of 2 days. If you are launching a boat at Fort Niagara or Wilson-Tuscarora state parks, make sure you bring your boots. You won’t need them if you are launching out of the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott…yet.
In the lower Niagara River, smallmouth bass have been everywhere according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle. Tube jigs and swim baits are the way to go. Rage Swimmer and the 4-inch KVD Swim-N-Shiner have been the hot baits for smallmouth bass for Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters. Walleye are still being caught at Lewiston Landing at night, but action is slowing down according to Drabczyk. If you want to give it a try, use jigs, ribbed plastics and live bait. Some steelhead are still in Devil’s Hole. Use live bait if fishing from a boat. Shore casters are using beads, spinners, spoons and sacs if you can find some dry land to cast from. Bass is the top target in the upper river, too. Some walleyes are being caught off Broderick Park.
Here’s a few kids fishing contests coming up:
- The 24th Annual City of Tonawanda Kids Free Fishing Derby will be taking place on June 15 in Niawanda Park from 9 a.m. to noon. Registration starts at 8 a.m. at the Bandshell in the park. Grab bags will be handed out to the first 200 kids registered. For more info call John White at 692-6306.
- 33rd Annual Niagara County Youth Fishing Derby is June 15 being hosted by the Wilson Conservation Club, 2934 Wilson-Cambria Road (Route 425), Wilson from 8 a.m. to noon. This contest, for kids ages 3 to 14, is based on length. No trout and salmon will be judged. Youngsters may fish any Niagara County waters. Awards presentation is at 1 p.m. For more information call Mike at 585-205-1353.
- There will be a Catch and Release Kids Fishing Derby at Wide Waters Marina, Lockport on June 16 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. for fishing; lunch and awards will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is being hosted by Moose Lodge 617, 204 Monroe Street, Lockport.