Beginner’s Luck Wins Again!

Summer Lake Ontario Fish Derby Shares Big Cash

beginnersluckFor Chad Fenstermaker of Warren, Ohio, this was a maiden voyage on Lake Ontario out of Olcott, fishing with Capt. Mitch Shipman of Signature Charters. Little did he realize he was about to make derby history by setting the pace in the 7th Annual Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Summer Derby held July 1-31, 2016 – winning the $10,000 Grand Prize by reeling in a 31 pound, 7 ounce Chinook salmon the final weekend of the contest. They also won the $1,000 weekly salmon prize.

It started Friday morning, July 29. Weather was a bit rough but they decided to head out in Shipman’s 21-foot 2010 Ranger 620 named Signature Charters about 10 am. At around 12:30 pm, pulling a Raspberry Shadow Moonshine spoon 90 feet back on a Dipsey-Diver set on No. 2 over 205 feet of water somewhere north of Wilson off Niagara County, the big fish hit.

“It took out over 500 feet of line when we hooked the winner,” said Fenstermaker, reeling in his first and biggest salmon ever. He told the crowd at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point that he will split the Grand Prize with Captain Mitch. Fenstermaker is a signal maintenance employee for Norfolk Southern Railroad and is also in the Air Force Reserves. His share of the money will probably go for a honeymoon. He was married to his wife Rachel last November and they’ve not had that special celebratory trip yet. Remember Chad, Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital – a perfect place after your Niagara USA king!

First place in the Salmon Division was Larry Wills of Lewiston, NY with a 30 pound, 15 ounce king salmon reeled in on July 8. The fish held up in the race for Grand Prize for three weeks before the last weekend heroics. Fishing with his brother-in-law Don Stephenson and Timothy Wills aboard Wills’ 24-foot Penn Yan “Reel Therapy,” they made a last minute decision to take off from work late in the day and meet at the Wilson launch ramp. “You need a pass in the derby if you want to get on the boat,” said Wills at the awards gathering. “It was my biggest salmon ever and it took about 40 minutes to bring to the net.” They were fishing straight out from Wilson 40 feet down over 400 feet of water with a purple colored Warrior spoon off the downrigger, hooking the fish at 6:30 pm. They won $1,000 for first place plus $1,000 for the weekly salmon prize.

Second place salmon winner was Doug French of Webster, NY with a 30 pound, 3 ounce king salmon he caught aboard the 31 foot Baha named “Missdemeanor.” He was fishing with his brother Matt; his father, Bob; and friend Tom Lombardozzi in the Salmon Creek Shootout on July 23. They were fishing west of Sandy Creek in 200 feet of water, using a meat rig that was composed of a Minon Twinkie in Mirage color and cut bait behind a wire dipsy. It was also big fish for the Shootout. French won $400 for second place in the LOC Salmon Division plus $1,000 for the weekly salmon prize.

Top Youth salmon catcher was Nicolas Curtiss of Overland Park, Kansas with a 28 pound, 5 ounce fish reeled in off Olcott while fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni and Thrillseeker on a spin doctor and A-Tom-Mik fly. He placed 13th overall in the division. John Powell of Niagara Falls, NY weighed in the largest salmon by a Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association member to win an extra $500 in addition to his 11th place winnings. The fish checked in at 28 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught out of Wilson. It was interesting to note that the 20th place salmon weighed in at 27 pounds, 7 ounces.

In the Brown Trout Division, Guy Witkiewitz of Ontario, NY set the pace by reeling in a personal best 18 pound, 14 ounce brownie to win the $1,000 first place prize and the $250 weekly prize. “We were fishing east of Irondequoit Bay on July 28 at 10:30 am when the fish hit,” said Witkiewitz. He was fishing with Capt. Andy Sykut aboard Andy’s 31-foot Tiara aptly named “Candy” for his Andy’s Candy business. Trolling an Oscar Moonshine spoon behind a dipsy diver back 200 feet over 80 feet of water, the duo teamed to net the fish successfully and get it to Mitchel’s Bait and Tackle right away. They have been fishing derbies since 1975.

Second place Brown Trout went to Thomas Gies of Ann Arbor, Michigan with a 17 pound, 6 ounce. He caught the fish on July 3 and it held up almost the entire derby. Fishing with Capt. Dan Evans of Lone Wolf Fishing Charters out of Wilson, they were trolling over 220 feet of water – an unusual place for a big brown – especially since they had been catching salmon. Gies’ personal-best brown bit an Ice Shadow Moonshine spoon 45 feet down. They were fishing out of Evans’ 32 foot Luhrs that sports the name “Lone Wolf.”

Top Youth Brown also came in through some unique circumstances. Adam Flachbart of Fairview Park, Ohio was casting off the pier in Olcott with his dad when a 14 pound, 5 ounce trout grabbed hold of his Yo-Zuri crankbait – “a color they don’t make any more.” While the fish didn’t make the Top 20, he still received a nice trophy for his efforts.

In the Lake Trout Division, the winning catch this time around came from Henderson Harbor as the east and the west continue to have a slug-fest from derby to derby. Ephraim Burt of Watertown was fishing with angling buddies Chuck Trump and Joe Sabadish took the lead on July 16 and never looked back when they weighed in a 24 pound, 3 ounce laker. They caught the fish in 130 feet of water right on the bottom, using a downrigger to get the green spin-n-glow into the fish zone. They caught the fish at 7:30 am out of a 25-foot Chapparal named “Ramblin’ Rose.” The fishing team also connected with 4th place when Trump reeled in a 20 pound, 9 ounce fish; and 6th place when Sabadish weighed in a 19 pound, 13 ounce lake trout.

Second place laker went to the Western Basin when Bob Turton of Sanborn registered a 23 pound, 7 ounce fork-tail, a fish he caught with his father (Roger) on July 3 for the early lead. Fishing from their 19-foot Crestliner named “RT and Son,” they were trolling the Niagara Bar with a green Kwikfish lure in 80 feet of water. They caught the fish at 10:30 am and it took them about 15 minutes to reel the fish to the net. “Dad” also managed to place a fish on the board, a 19 pound – 1 ounce Lake Trout that finished in 12th.

Top Youth laker taker was Owen Herholtz of Fulton, NY with a 19 pound, 13 ounce Henderson Harbor fish caught on a flasher and fly on July 20. The fish placed 5th in the competition.

The Rainbow-Steelhead Division saw a tight battle for first. Wade Winch of North Tonawanda was crowned the overall champ by virtue of his 17 pound, 10 ounce personal best trout. He caught the winning fish with Pete Baio while fishing out of a 21 foot Cruisers named “S & K.” They were trolling off Wilson in 180 feet of water using a purple Dreamweaver spoon behind a slide diver set back 185 feet on a No. 2.5 setting. It hit their offering at 8 am. This was the first time the two anglers fished together.

Just two ounces back for second place was Alfonse Gouker of N. Versailles, Pennsylvania. He caught the personal best steelie out of Olcott while fishing with Dave Pasquale (Captain Dave) and John Cyprowski aboard Captain Dave’s 24 foot Imperial boat named “Way-In.” They were fishing straight out from Olcott in 230 feet of water using a spin doctor and green A-Tom-Mik fly behind a dipsy diver set on No. 3 and pulled behind 220 feet of line. They caught the fish at 9 am. Gouker was driving the boat when he jumped up to grab the rod.

Top Youth division catch was a 16 pound, three ounce fish winched in by Francis Holly IV of Wilson. It ended up in 4th place overall. Fishing straight out of Wilson with his father, Francis Holly III, they were in 90 feet of water, using downriggers 40 feet down with green Stinger spoons when they hit a double – a salmon and a steelhead. They boated both with a lot of luck. Francis III also placed 15th in the Steelhead Division with a 12 pound, 5 ounce fish. They were fishing out of their 21-foot Sea Nymph named “Blue.”

Next up on the derby calendar is the “Return of the King” Fall LOC Trout and Salmon contest slated for August 19 through Sept. 5. Over $66,000 in cash will be up for grabs including a $25,000 check for the largest salmon; daily prizes for largest salmon ($500), brown trout ($200) and steelhead ($200). For more information or to find a list of weigh stations and registration outlets, go to the derby website at