High water, yes, but Lake Ontario fishing has been fantastic

Lake Ontario is open for business!

That’s the mantra that lake shore communities, fishing derby promoters and tournament organizers are shouting from the rooftops. Yes, the water levels are high once again – exceeding the record 2017 levels and still rising. Yes, there is a no-wake ordinance in place that restricts boating within 1,000 feet of shore to 5 mph. And, yes, there is floating debris out there that you need to take some precautions with. However, when it’s all said and done, if you want to experience some of the best freshwater salmon and trout fishing on the Great Lakes, if not the world, you need to check out Lake Ontario and see for yourself – high water and all.

Every year, the Buffalo Sabres Alumni crew sets up a charity fishing tournament out of Olcott. It is held in conjunction with the Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament in Niagara County, at a time when there are plenty of big boats around to utilize for the friendly event. This year it was May 29. While the air temperature would struggle to hit 60 degrees and the lake water temperature was hovering around 50 degrees, there was very little wind.

A hard northeast wind the day before scattered the fish and captains questioned how consistent the fishing would be. It’s a perfect time for captains participating in the Pro-Am to seek out productive waters and rule out areas with no fish. No one thought that the high water would also come into play.

More than half of the teams participating wondered if the event would even happen. Because of the sensationalized local media hype, high-water levels were causing a State of Emergency and, like it was in 2017, the general public thought the lake was closed.

The event went off without a hitch and many of the participants enjoyed some of the best fishing since the event began 15 years ago. It was a great opportunity to sample this outstanding natural resource while rubbing elbows (without the elbow pads and other gear) with some local hockey legends who still call western New York home.

Rene Robert, Lindy Ruff, Wilf Paiement, Brian Gionta, Pat Kaleta, Danny Gare, Grant Ledyard, Marty Biron, Cody McCormick, Tim Kennedy, Derek Smith and Rob Ray were some of those who participated in the event. Because they had an excess of hockey (and a few Buffalo Bills) celebrities, Ray decided to stay back and help me get everything organized for the cookout, held annually out of Krull Park. When everyone came off the water, the grill was the most popular spot to be – not for just the food, but also for the warmth.

Olcott and the Town of Newfane roll out the red carpet when this event is held. They provide a trolley ride to and from the Town of Newfane Marina, so no one needs to drive. Scott Scheffler, marina director, arranges the entire marina to accommodate for the 20 boat captains who need to tie up for the day (if they are not already docked there). The marina also adapts to the high water by securing pallets to the docks and launch area, so no one must get their feet wet. It’s all business as usual, high water or not.

Boat captains volunteer to participate in this fun day year after year, helping to provide a memorable experience for all involved. At the same time, they are working to promote the lake and their businesses, often leading to more work down the road.

Fishing-wise, the lake is off to another great start this year, despite the high water. After coming off back-to-back record-catch rates for salmon in 2017 and 2018, that’s saying a lot. Now we just need to let everyone know that the lake is still open for business.

Categories: Blog Content, New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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