I feel everyone was a bit disappointed the Walleye Challenge was canceled this season due to questionable ice conditions, but it is always better to follow the rather-be-safe-than-sorry motto, especially when a good amount of the contestants are not local fishermen and are unfamiliar with the lake.
That being said, the other big-gun contest of the year, the Fuel 'n' Food on Great Sacandaga Lake, went off without a hitch. Come Friday afternoon, 12-15 inches of ice graced most of Great Sacandaga, albeit not the greatest quality ice, but it was still plenty safe to host the weekend-long contest.
The weather was great, cold nights and mornings gave way to warm afternoons with abundant sunshine all three days, a bit of a breeze here and there, but the weather was quite ideal.
On this weekend, my old school ice fishing crew always make it a point to get together and fish.
It is way more than just a tournament. It is an event we all look forward to every season. We all get together, responsibilities thrown to the wayside for a weekend and just have a great time. No matter the conditions, no matter the fish caught.
Camaraderie at its finest.
Friday evening, just before dark on a walleye set, my good buddy Mark from Minnesota pulled up a 16 7/8 inch brown big enough to hold out for second-place trout!
As a group, we caught a bunch of walleyes over the course of the contest. I personally targeted pike throughout the duration of the contest and ended up catching a 40 1/2-inch fatty tipping the scales at a hair over 20 pounds, but that wasn't good enough for any placing.
Six places each were paid for the categories of Walleye, Northern Pike, Perch, and Trout. The contest winners are as follows:
Walleye: 1. Timothy Green, 26 7/8; 2. Les Kruger, 23 11/16; 3. Joe Benato, 21 1/8; 4. Balt Santiago, 20 7/8; 5. (tie) Joe Benato, Ely Stone, 20 3/8.
Northern Pike: 1. Kyle Hanson, 45 1/2; 2. Derek Streck, 43 3/4; 3. John Reale, 43 1/2; 4. (tie) Michael Anderson, Marty Sepko, 42 3/8; 6. John Weaver, 42 1/8.
Perch: 1. Fred Bentley, 14 5/8; 2. Ben Morey, 14 1/2; 3. (tie) Wade Hindes Jr., Michael Anderson, 14 7/16; 5. Maria Lawrence, 14 13/32; 6. Shane Porter, 14 1/8.
Trout (All were brown trout): 1. Colleen Weil, 26 1/2; 2. Mark Gutierrez, 16 7/8; 3. Patrick S. Arnold, 16 3/4.
Bonus cash was paid out to trout winners, as not all six places were accounted for.
Non Game Species category was taken by Teddy Aesch, with a 16 1/4-inch whitefish.
LEAD AMMUNITION BAN ON THE TABLE
Bill A-703 was recently passed by the New York State Assembly codes committee and is now on the floor and up for vote. In a nutshell this bill would prohibit the use of any type of lead ammunition on state lands and also any lands contributing surface water to NYC reservoirs.
To let your opinion be heard, visit the webpage https://www.nysenate.gov/
LAKE ONTARIO TRIBUTARY RULES IN EFFECT
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced the adoption of several fishing regulation amendments for anglers fishing Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and their tributaries.
The new regulations are effective immediately and include:
-- Increasing fishing opportunity by opening the Lake Ontario/Lower Niagara River lake trout season on Dec 1. (formerly opened on Jan. 1). The season will be closed from Oct. 1 through Nov. 30, and is now consistent with Province of Ontario regulations.
-- Reducing the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on the open waters of Lake Ontario (excluding the Lower Niagara River) to two fish (formerly it was three) per day to provide consistency with Province of Ontario regulations and help increase survival of steelhead, especially during periods of reduced fishing success for other species.
-- Decreasing the brown trout daily creel limit on Lake Ontario tributaries (excluding the Lower Niagara River) to one fish per day (down from three) to maintain high quality brown trout fishing opportunities from fall through the spring.
-- Increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead to 25 inches (it was 21) to prolong high quality rainbow trout/steelhead fishing opportunities through the winter months on Lake Ontario tributaries (excluding the Lower Niagara River). The rainbow trout/steelhead minimum size limit for the open waters of Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River remains at 21 inches.
-- Eliminating unnecessary angling regulations on Spooner Creek and tributaries (Erie County) and the North Branch Clear Creek and tributaries (Erie County) from Taylor Hollow Road upstream to the outflow of Clear Lake by allowing fishing year-round.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said these changes are designed to safeguard and expand certain fish populations while enhancing anglers’ continued enjoyment of these world-class fisheries. Most of these regulations are a direct result of DEC’s work with anglers during the past several years to identify desired outcomes for Lake Ontario sportfishery management.
"DEC received comments from more than 550 anglers on our proposed regulations and most were highly favorable, which reflects the importance of working with the fishing community to develop regulations that are protective of the resource and continue to offer quality fishing opportunities," he said.
Details on these amended regulations can be found on the DEC website. Questions can be directed to [email protected] or Steve LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head, at: New York State DEC, P.O. Box 292, Cape Vincent, NY 13618.
Jerrod Vila covers outdoors for The Recorder.