Another reminder that Lake Ontario is alive and well and open for business
It started with a phone call from outdoor scribe Chris Kenyon of Wayne County.
“You up for a fishing contest between the New York State Outdoor Writers Association old-timers and the folks from ‘Rush Outdoors’ TV?”
“I’m not an old-timer,” was my response.
“We could get Leo Maloney, you and me; we just need a fourth,” said Kenyon. “The date would be June 22. I already have two charter guys lined up.”
“I could ask Dave Barus.”
And as simple as that, the 2019 challenge between the writers and the TV guys was set up for 2019. We would be fishing aboard the “Dandy-Eyes,” a 31-foot Baha owned and operated by Capt. Jerry Snyder of Williamson, who fishes out of Hughes Marina in Wayne County. The “Rush Outdoors” crew would be led by Tim Andrus aboard the MissDemeanor, another 31-foot Baha captained by Matt French of Rochester. John Lenox with the Rush contingent would be doing some filming on the “writers” team, making sure we didn’t pull any fast ones, I’m sure.
We met at Hughes Marina at 8:30 a.m., a bit late for going out fishing but perfect for people who had trips in excess of two hours to get to our rendezvous point. By 9 a.m. we were putting lures in the water outside the marina.
Hughes Marina is another Lake Ontario access point that is getting hit with a double whammy when it comes to this year’s current record-high water situation. First, some of the marina is underwater, but they’ve been able to make due and keep things rolling along, including a working launch ramp. The second is dealing with the perception that Lake Ontario is closed due to the State of Emergency restrictions and shoreline damage. That was one of the reasons for this friendly media event, to help dispel some of the myths surrounding Lake O.
It wasn’t long before Snyder was able to trick a salmon into hitting some meat behind a paddle. Leo Maloney was the first to the rod and he managed to reel in a respectable salmon as he hauled in the fish that was back 290 feet on a No. 4 setting off his Chinook Diver.
As Leo was battling the king, a 24-foot Angler Qwest pontoon boat was travelling alongside our boat, video cameras running for the TV show. On board was Capt. Sandy Miller running the boat, Snyder’s significant other who just recently received her captain’s license. The pontoon was an excellent addition to Snyder’s “fleet,” allowing him to run more trips in the season due to its trailer-ability and versatility.
“I can fish earlier and later in the year,” says Snyder, “such as brown trout trips in the spring and perch trips in the fall. There’s a livewell available in the pontoon for spring fishing and the customers really enjoy the comfort of the boat for the seating. The only real difference with my fishing program is that I only run two downriggers off the pontoon, three off the big boat.”
Back to the half-day Lake O. action. After a couple misses off the center rigger on Warrior spoons, we hit another king on the meat trailing a paddle behind a Chinook Diver set on No. 1, 340 feet back. Kenyon was up. He took a long time to reel in the big one of the day, estimated around 45 minutes. It seemed longer than that as we told stories and ribbed him on how slow he was taking. To give him his just due, it was the big fish of the day between the two boats. Still, it was about three minutes per pound when it was all said and done.
The Warrior spoons came through on the next two fish. Okay, it was actually more than that. After Barus reeled in a steelhead that came off the corner rigger on a Sister Sledge Warrior spoon, I managed to lose the next three fish due to a variety of mishaps that ranged from a broken line, a tangle and the fish simply wasn’t hooked well enough. And the sun was in my eyes.
When I asked Snyder how he knew how far the Chinook Diver was going down, he showed off a fishing tool called a Smart Troll, a device that attaches directly to the fishing line and wirelessly transmits information like speed, temperature and depth to your smart phone or tablet. He can figure out how deep he is based on how fast he’s going and then adjust his presentation to lock in on the fish zone on any given day. He can run six probes at one time and use it with his divers, riggers, lead core or whatever. The technology that’s available nowadays is amazing.
Finally, I managed to catch another respectable king before it was time to head back in for a great lunch at Snyder’s home down the road a short way. Yes, the writers beat the Rush Outdoors guys, 4-1. We also had the biggest and the smallest fish to sweep the categories. The contest results wouldn’t make ESPN, but it was still a battle that commanded a lot of pride for the victors. It also reminded us that Lake Ontario is alive and well and open for business.