August 13, 2007
Top Gun Is Top Team on Lake Ontario
TOP GUN IS TOP TEAM - The Oswego-based Top Gun team holds the professional Challenge Cup title following eight days of tournament fishing on Lake Ontario. Pictured with part of their prize-winning catch are, front center, Art Liebreum, first mate; and standing, from left, Capt. Greg Gehrig holding trophy; James Foltz, PA; Merle Koppenhafer, Ohio; Dave Whitehead, New Jersey; and Chad Gehrig.
OSWEGO COUNTY, NY - For the first time in the event's 13-year history, an Oswego County team is the overall winner of the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Pro-Am Team Tournament series.
Nearly 15 tons of fish were weighed in during the four tournaments during May, June and July - and consistently, boats fishing the Oswego County event had the largest catches. The tournament is just one indication of the world-class fishery that anglers are enjoying here this summer.
“Oswego County's fishing has been amazing all spring and summer, and August has been excellent,” said David Turner, director of the Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning. “Anglers are hauling in 26- and 27-pound king salmon, 20-pound lakers, 17-pound brown trout, and 11-pound walleye off our shoreline. Several of the current leaders in the lakewide LOC Derby were weighed in at Oswego, Mexico and Pulaski. And many of the largest salmon were taken on lures manufactured by a local business, A-Tom-Mik trolling flies.”
The Lake Ontario Pro-Am Series Challenge Cup is designed to determine the most consistent fishermen on Lake Ontario.
Top Gun, led by Capt. Greg Gehrig of Oswego, won the lakewide Challenge Cup in the professional division after eight days of competition in Orleans, Niagara, Oswego and Wayne counties. Top Gun also captured the “Best of the East” cup for accumulating the most points fishing on the east end of the lake during the Oswego and Wayne county events.
The Oswego team started out with a fourth place finish in the first tournament at Oak Orchard in Orleans County, where they quickly limited out 12 fish, fishing a total of 4 ½ hours over both days.
Gehrig said they “tanked” the first day of the following weekend in Niagara County and ended up in 21st place in that tournament.
Back in Oswego, “we had two great days,” said Gehrig. “We didn't limit out the first day, and had 12 the second day - only good enough for fourth place. In Sodus we limited out the first day. We took 11 fish the second day, but they were a much bigger class of fish.”
Gehrig uses Big Jon Speedriggers, Shimano rods and Tekota 600LC reels, gamma 25-lb. main line with a 20-lb. fluorocarbon leader all attached to Michigan stinger spoons.
The combination of equipment was effective and the team ended up the final day of the tournament in Wayne County as the Challenge Cup winners. His enthusiasm is contagious.
“What a fishery Lake Ontario has become!” said Dave Antoneri, leader of Team Screamer A-Tom-Mik, whose team has won the Challenge Cup in the amateur division for the past three years.
“We do credit our winning to running an A-Tom-Mik fly pattern on our boat,” said Antoneri, who uses an A-Tom-Mik attractor and fly on every rod.
The tournaments, he said, illustrate the quality and quantity of the Lake Ontario fishery. “Anybody can go out there and catch a fish in a short amount of time,” he said.
The resident of Peckville, PA has fished the Oswego County waters of Lake Ontario for more than 20 years, starting as an 11-year-old with his father. Antoneri travels to Oswego every weekend from late April through early October “when the last fish goes up the river.” He fishes out of Oswego, he says, “because the fishing is the best and most fun. Where else can you go and catch fish like that?” he asked.
“The lake is loaded!,” agreed Tom Allen, owner of A-Tom-Mik trolling flies in Oswego. Allen's home-based business has taken off, largely as a result of the exposure he receives as a sponsor of the Pro-Am team tournaments, he said. He relies on his two decades of fishing Lake Ontario, and the constant feedback he receives from 30 pro staffers, to fine-tune the lures he develops to attract Great Lakes salmon and trout.
The business, which started in 2001, now produces 60,000 lures a season.
The Pro-Am series, he says, brings in hundreds of anglers who eat in local restaurants, stay in hotels, buy gas, and pay sales taxes. “They are a huge part of the economy and a huge part of our success,” he said.
Allen, through A-Tom-Mik flies, has sponsored the “big fish” award for all four Pro-Am events. He notes the winning fish for the Spring LOC derby, a 28-pound king salmon, was also caught on one of their trolling flies.
For current Oswego County fishing conditions and visitor information, visit www.visitoswegocounty.com, or call 1-800-248-4FUN. For the latest LOC Derby standings, visit www.loc.org. For complete Pro Am results, visit www.lakeontarioproam.com.
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