Salmon is king of Spring LOC Derby
Written by Cleveland Plain Dealer   
Friday, 13 May 2005 18:09
Salmon is still king for fishermen flocking to Western New York.

There are so many angling options here in spring. The Lake Ontario fishing is a smorgasbord of coho and Chinook salmon, as well as lake trout, brown trout and steelhead trout as the schools of big fish have moved closer to shore. Steelhead trout are still hanging around the Niagara River, where big lakers, browns and smallmouth bass can liven up the day.

It's a world-class fishery, but grabbing the spotlight is the king, or Chinook salmon. They're big, strong and ready to smash a lure.

The Spring LOC Derby is on through Sunday on Lake Ontario and a 25-pound salmon caught Thursday off Wilson, N.Y., leads the list. It may be beaten by a lunker later, as happened last spring when a 30-pounder arrived at the scales, but kings are the royalty of Lake Ontario.

The kings are tackle testers in the spring when 12- to 25-pounders move to near-shore areas before going on a deep-water feeding binge in summer. When they return in August some of the kings have gorged themselves past the 30-pound mark and can trash tackle.

There are rivals. Steelhead trout will leap from the water and run like bonefish on the flats, and the rare one will grow just as big. Rob Wilson of Tallmadge was trolling out of Olcott last August when he landed a 31-pound, 3-ounce steelhead that fought so hard and was so big he thought it was a king salmon - and was going to fillet it into steaks.

Local fishing guide Bob Cinelli stopped Wilson from cutting away after identifying the fish as a steelhead trout that would set the New York state record.

On Tuesday morning, Jim Dolly of Triple S Sporting Supplies in Amherst, N.Y., North Ridgeville, Ohio, sportsman Jim McConville and I joined guide Jim Taylor of Hawg Master Charters (1-800-464-0103, and mate Scott Palmer in Olcott Harbor for a morning on Lake Ontario. Kings were the name of the game.

"You never know what we'll catch, but we're targeting kings," said Taylor. "They've moved into the 150- to 200-foot depths about a mile offshore and we should be able to hook a few."

One is enough to respect the power of a king salmon.

When Palmer darted to the back deck to grab a fishing rod vibrating with the power of a king on the line, Taylor pointed my way. Palmer handed me the fishing rod and I could only watch as the big fish decided to run for the border. At first, it seemed as if it might make it to Ontario.

"He's 250 feet out," I told Palmer after looking at the line counter on the Shakespeare reel.

"The lure was only 150 feet out when the fish hit it," said Palmer, with a smile.

Twenty minutes later the fish was just off the stern. Palmer adroitly slipped an extra-wide net under the fish and hoisted it to the back deck. The powerful engine under the silvery scales wasn't ready to give up and go quietly into the cooler.

While its nose bumped one end of the large cooler and its tail the other, the scale registered 15 pounds. The first of almost a dozen kings we'd catch on a sunny morning, it was a long way down the leader board in the Spring LOC Derby but a king-sized prize for a visiting fisherman.

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