2015 Derby Dates
Spring May 1st to 10th
Summer June 13th - July 26th
Fall August 21st - Sept 7th
Tustin Wins $15,000 Grand Prize
Spring LOC Derby Winners All Have Amazing Stories to Tell
By Bill Hilts, Jr.
The Spring Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby, held May 2-11, 2014, was filled with unique, humorous and inspiring stories this year when the awards ceremony was held on Mother’s Day at Captain Jack’s in Sodus Point. While most sane anglers were honoring their mothers during this special holiday, the LOC Derby winners were recapping their fishing adventures on Lake Ontario during an extremely unusual spring after one of the most severe winters on record.
The $15,000 Grand Prize fish – which must now be a salmon after new rules were enacted in 2013 to headline New York’s big money fish, the “king” – went to John Tustin of Canonsburg, Penn. Just one ounce separated the Grand Prize and second place in the Salmon Division – the closest cast for the cash in the history of the derby. Tustin told his story to the interested crowd.
“We were fishing the first weekend of the derby and I stopped in to talk to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott and ask where a good starting point would be,” said Tustin. “He told me to start in 40 feet of water between Wilson and Olcott in Niagara County. Before we could get set up, though, my 25-foot Fiberform named ‘Top Eye’ was having some problems so we had to pull it out of the water and take it to The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Jim Evarts there was great and managed to squeeze me in so that we could fish. We were back on the water in a couple of hours.”
Fishing with his nephew Sammy White of Washington, Penn., they threw on a blue and white Rapala stickbait 120 feet back behind a planer board. At 1:30 pm the fish hit – creating a big mess behind the boat. The king tangled all of their lines and also managed to wrap around the downrigger ball, but despite all of the mishaps, they managed to net the fish and head in to weigh their catch. It tipped the certified scales at 23 pounds, 12 ounces.
“We didn’t know if it would hold up but we did notice that a 23 pound 14 ounce fish won in 2003,” said Tustin, a salesman and a professional elk guide in Colorado. “Why can’t this one? It’s a great birthday present!” Tustin’s birthday was Monday (May 11), but his wife Dana and daughters Kaytlin and Alana threw him a surprise party on Saturday. “We want to put $5,000 into the kitty for future fishing contests and my nephew gets some of the winning cash, too. My family will share in the money glory, as well.”
First place in the Salmon Division went to Doug Parker II of Lockport, weighing in a king salmon that was identical in weight to the Grand Prize fish – 23 pounds, 12 ounces. However, he weighed in his fish a week later on May 10. Fishing with Matt Dunn of Newfane and Matt’s father Marc of Lockport, the trio were targeting salmon just west of the Niagara Bar aboard Matt’s 19.5 foot Sea Nymph appropriately named “Slammin’ Salmon.”
“We were just getting ready to throw in the towel around 1:45 pm and started to pull rods when the downrigger popped,” said Parker. “It turned out to be a 19 pound lake trout from 38-40 feet of water. As we continued to clear rods, the diver went off and I managed to grab the rod. The fish didn’t stop running until over 500 feet of line had screamed out. Twenty minutes later we had the fish in the boat and we were heading in. It was lucky that we were already pulling rods when the fish hit so it couldn’t tangle on anything.” They were trolling a Stinger NBK spoon set 85-feet back behind the dipsy set at 3.5. The fish was worth $2,100. The group also won the Amateur Division of the King of the Lake tournament a few weeks before. In keeping with a birthday theme, Dunn also placed sixth in the Lake Trout Division with a 22 pound, 13 ounce fish he caught on his birthday May 8 while fishing with his mentor Marty Polovick of Lockport – a previous LOC Grand Prize winner.
Second place in the Salmon Division was a completion of an outstanding week for a trio of anglers from Pennsylvania – Nick Downey of Edinboro; Justin Nekoloff of Waterford; and Anthony Campanella of Erie. They had caught a 20 pound, 8 ounce salmon that won some big cash in the Wilson $1,000 a Day event, a fish reeled in my Nekoloff (and placed 18th in the LOC). Downey was next with a 23 pound, 11 ounce fish that missed out on the Grand Prize LOC fish by two ounces – and also cash in on the Wilson event. It still earned $1,000 in the LOC. And then they topped it all off with winning the Wilson Harbor Invitational tournament on Saturday – all from Campanella’s new 27-foot Sport Craft bearing the name “Eyecrosser.”
“We had a little honey hole east of Olcott around the 30 Mile Point area,” said Downey. “We were pulling a black dot spin doctor and a Pro-Am fly behind a slide diver 60 feet back on monofilament line over 35 feet of water then the fish hit. We were trolling north on an east wind and it took us 15 minutes to bring in.” In case Campanella’s name sounds familiar, he won the Grand Prize in the Fall LOC in 2012 – also while fishing out of Olcott.
In the Brown Trout Division, it was 17 year old Tanner Niezgoda of Newfane hauling in a 16 pound, 10 ounce brown trout east of Olcott – also fishing around the 30 Mile Point area – to take the top prize of $1,100. Of course, there’s more to the story.
Fishing with Team Thrillseeker out of Capt. Vince Pierleoni’s 22-foot Crestliner with his team partner Nick Glosser of Amherst, the three were trying to pound out fish. “We were scouting for salmon when the fish hit,” said Niezgoda, fishing in his first derby ever. “It screamed out line and we thought it was a salmon, but it stayed down and Capt. Vince thought it was a big brown. He was right.” They caught the fish at 7:30 am pulling a Live Target plug in 14 feet of water off boards – 60 feet back. It took him 20 minutes to reel in the big brown.
Second place brown trout should have been a first place if you hear Steve Gerloff of Douglasville, Penn tell the story. The fish weighed in at 16 pounds, 8 ounces at the end of the day – but the team of Mike Geiger of Wellsboro, Penn., Harold Hess of Sinking Spring, Penn. and James Salter of Mechanicsburg, Penn. all wanted to stay out and fish for kings aboard Geiger’s 26-foot Baha named “This is It.”
“If we would have weighed the fish in right away we would have won,” insisted Gerloff. “It sat in the cooler losing weight and at one point spit out a big goby!” They were trolling east of Olcott in 21 feet of water on the final Saturday when the fish hit a charteuse Bomber with an orange belly. They were fishing it off a planer board 125 feet back, using a ¼ ounce keel weight to get the bait down a little. It was his biggest brown ever. They had just changed baits five minutes before it hit.
The Lake Trout Division was also filled with good story material, starting with the first place catch hauled in by Michael Ehrhardt of Brockport – a 25 pound, 7 ounce fork tail he hauled in while fishing with his wife Dawn and Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown, the skipper on Wet Net Charters and no stranger to the winner’s circle. They won $1,100.
“We actually caught one bigger that same day,” said Ehrhardt, a licensed captain and guide himself. “Dawn hooked into a big fish that she fought to the boat, a lake trout that bounced between 28 and 29 pounds on our hand scale. The problem was it was foul hooked! After a little discussion, we knew it wasn’t legal and we released the fish back into the lake. Twenty minutes later we caught the winner.” Using a chartreuse gator spin doctor and a green glow fly 225-feet back behind a slide diver, they wanted their baits as close to the bottom as possible in 85 feet of water. They caught the fish at 1 pm. Yablonsky’s boat? Get the Net Wet, a 21-foot Lund Baron that is a fish catching machine. And the spin doctor had teeth marks on it!
Second place lake trout was a 24 pound, 11 ounce fish reeled in by Clair Lawson of Dalton, NY. Fishing with Jerry Gibson of Dalton aboard his 18.5 foot Sea Ray called “Gibby II,” they were trolling between the Niagara Bar and Wilson when a lake trout hit. It turned out to be a 19 pounder that they hauled in, losing their net in the process. They headed into port to weigh the fish and look for a net. The only net they could find was a small bass net with a hole in it. That same day, back at the same GPS coordinates, another fish hit only this one was bigger – and bigger than any net they had! They were trolling a blue and green Pirate spoon on the bottom in 65 feet of water when the big fish hit the rigger along with two dipsy divers. They grabbed the dipsy divers first and reeled those fish in before they grabbed the rigger rod. They immediately realized it was a much bigger fish. The rest is history. Some catches are just meant to be. Every lake trout came from Niagara County. Twenty pounds, 14 ounces was 20th place.
In the Walleye Division, Tim Queior of Dexter managed to catch a 10 pound, 15 ounce fish from the Henderson harbor area on opening day of walleye season to take the top prize. He was fishing with Aaron LaFlair of Watertown, who also had a fish that placed ninth overall with a nine pound, 10 ounce marble eye. They were trolling out of a 25 foot Sport Craft named “Reel Time” with a gold Husky Jerk bait to win the division. The bait was 120-foot back off a planer board over 44 feet of water near Point Peninsula. First place was worth $1,100.
Second place was also 10 pounds, 15 ounces, weighed in by Jena Massey of Dexter – also caught on a Husky Jerk but a week later. Timing is everything.Next up on the LOC Derby calendar is the Summer Classic set for June 14-July 27, 2014.