Posted on October 21st, 2015 No comments
At the end of every charter fishing season there are highlights that stand out above all others. Some years it’s a monster king salmon, steelhead, or brown trout that my anglers boated. Other years it’s a great catch of salmon or trout, even though conditions were tough. This season, though, what really stands out in my mind, is the many outstanding family trips aboard my charter boat, some with adults, some with parents and some great outdoor kids.
Getting families on the water to spend time together outdoors is one of the things I enjoy most about charter fishing. Never before have I fished so many trips with so many great families, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and kids. Great memories, many caught on film to look back on years later.
Fortunately, fishing was really good on most of these trips and the kids, especially, had a blast hauling in, sometimes with a little help, everything from drag screeching king salmon to lunker browns, and, yes, even a few puny 10” smallmouth bass. When kids are fishing, it’s more about tussling with anything with fins that will stretch a line and bend a rod rather than boating a wall hanger.
One of the reasons our family charters were so successful this past 2015 season was proper timing. Another reason was preparation before the trip. A third was planning trips specifically for kids when they would be onboard.
The best time for families with young children to fish is when the fish are almost jumping in the boat. Most kids need plenty of action to keep them interested. A good trout or salmon bite can happen any time during the season when conditions are right, but the chance of plenty of hookups is better at certain times than others. Fishing in April, May, and early June on Lake Ontario out of Oswego is usually gangbusters for browns, domestic rainbows, lake trout, occasional Atlantic salmon and sometimes king salmon. July also produces some hot brown trout action when they concentrate near bottom just offshore. Either time is ideal for family trips.
Families who fish with kids should also consider arranging charters accordingly. One consideration is the length of the trip. Some kids do fine on the water fishing 8 hours. For others, though, a shorter 6 or 7-hour trip works better. Another consideration is time of the season in relation to where we’ll be fishing, nearshore or offshore. The concern is sea sickness. The closer to shore, the less chance of getting queasy on the water. This is the beauty of inshore trips for brown trout and other species in April, May and June. With nearby shoreline to focus on, the chance of sea sickness is far less.
Lastly, preparation for a charter trip is important, actually crucial if kids are onboard. If kids are up late into the night and must get up early in the morning to leave the dock at 5:00 AM, chances are they will do more napping onboard than fishing. Also, a big, greasy breakfast that could upset a young, or old for that matter, person’s stomach, is not the way to go. Importantly, if anyone, young or old, tends to have motion sickness, Dramamine is the solution, but it has to be taken according to label directions, well before leaving the dock. Even though many charter boats have enclosed heated cabins, everyone, especially kids, need to wear proper clothing and footwear, especially in early spring. The other thing to look for when planning a trip, some charters offer discounts for families.
With proper planning and preparation, family charter fishing trips, including those with young children, can be a lot of fun.
Posted on September 12th, 2015 No comments
Although most river kings are foul hooked illegally in Great Lakes tributaries like New York State’s Salmon River, kings can be caught legally. My drift boat clients boated many hundreds of kings on back trolled wobbling plugs like M-d Flatfish, gaudy wooly buggars fly cast to spawning fish, and dead drifted salmon skein. For the wading fisherman, though, salmon skein drifted on a float is one of the simplest and most effective techniques.
The following article “Deadliest River Salmon Bait”, by Kenny Darwin describes how to catch river kings on skein.
Kings go nuts for a chunk of skein drifting in the current. They strike the offering more often than coho, browns or steelies and I’m not certain exactly why. Is it the waving action of the membrane that holds the eggs together that draws their attention? Maybe the odor of fresh eggs, held tight in the natural membrane smells irresistible. Heck, I’ve seen kings in clear water streams like the Platte, Betsie, Pere Marquette, Boardman in Traverse City and more swim several feet across current to get in a downstream feeding position of the drifting candy. Sometimes they gulp the bait and you can see them smashing the eggs in their mouth, between their sharp teeth, and a cloud of milky substance is expelled through their gills. More often they slowly open their huge maw, take the bait very gently, in a non-violent feeding fashion, and the strike is less abrupt than a small trout or perch pecking at your hook.
So, which skein works best and where can you get it? It has been this old river rat’s experience that the number one skein comes from Chinook salmon. Coho will work, steelhead is OK, brown eggs are almost impossible to find, but king eggs are the ticket. My recommendation would be to visit a salmon trolling port like Ludington, Frankfort, Manistee, and Grand Haven, anyplace that has a fish cleaning station. Go in August when king eggs are still tight in the skein. Most Great Lakes trollers catch enough kings that they simply toss the valuable bait down the grinder with the carcass. Wash the eggs to remove blood, let drip dray, place in ZipLoc freezer bag with a couple hands full of Boraxo 20 Mule team soap. Roll skein until cover with Boraxo and freeze. A skein will keep for a couple years in the freezer. I collect skein for fall and spring fishing during August when catching Great Lakes kings that have tight membrane. By September 1st I’ve got several king skeins in the freezer and when the fish are slamming spawn in Sep.-Nov., I’ve got plenty of bait for river outings.
When you get ready to go fishing, thaw the skein, cut it with scissors into bite size bits and cover the eggs with Boraxo 20 Mule Team soap. Place the eggs on newspaper and roll until the bits are covered with soap and the moisture of the cut eggs has disappeared. Toss any newspaper that is wet or covered with egg gunk. Allow the eggs to dry for a few hours, place in clean Ziploc bag, jar or plastic container and refrigerate. Roll skein in Ziploc to completely cover all moist areas, ad more Boraxo if the powder gets mushy. Skein in the frig can last several months, provided you keep rolling it and adding new Boraxo. Take out the day you want to fish. You can reach into the bag and grab individual chunks and not cover your hands, clothing, and boat with egg juice.
The biggest advantage of rolling cut chunks in Boraxo is it dries the membrane, makes it easier to place on the hook and the eggs toughen up. This process happens relatively quickly and you can go fishing with the cut skein almost immediately after it has been rolled in Boraxo.
If you catch a female river king and her eggs are still tight, you can make dynamite bait pronto by cutting and treating with Boraxo powder. Some stream fishermen prefer to use skein that has not been frozen.
One deadly trick is to use a bit of color with the Boraxo. This gives the eggs a more vivid look and salmon love eggs died red, orange, pink or yellow. One of my secret tricks is to use a pinch of Siberian Salmon Egg cure radiant orange color. Mix it 50/50 with Boraxo, stir it with eggs and it will quickly turn them a beautiful bright orange color that river kings can not resist. Some anglers prefer to mix eggs with cherry Jell-O mix and others use regular food coloring. Some coloring will dye your hands, so when using colored cut spawn make certain to carry a rag to wipe hands.
The problem with cut spawn is it’s difficult to keep on the hook. It requires a gentle lob cast in order to prevent jerking the offering off the hook. Some Michigan anglers use a skein egg loop knot or snell on the hook. You can snell single or treble hooks. I prefer using a large single hook No.4 Mustad 92141, which has a turned up eye. The snell knot wraps around the shank of the hook out through the eye and the skein is placed in the loop of the line near the eye. The loop holds the egg cluster and because the skein is cured it will stay on the hook for quite a while. Eggs will break off the cluster and drift in the current, which is a fine way to chum salmon. When the eggs are gone and only the white membrane remains, replace with a fresh skein chunk.
Posted on August 19th, 2015 No comments
Ask any Great Lakes troller who consistently fills the cooler with trout and salmon and they will tell you sharp hooks are absolutely critical,.
Sure, we have come a long way with hook design and performance, especially with the new chemically sharpened hooks, but many hooks on store bought spoons, flies, and plugs come from the factory with standard hooks. These need to be sharpened, and even chemically sharpened hooks that have been driven into enough bony jaws get dull.
A good hook hone is a necessity to keep a needle point on hooks, if you’re fishing many trips on the water, This wasn’t a problem for me when the yellow handled Luhr Jensen hook homes were on the market. Sure enough, though, LJ quit selling them. Arrggghhh!
The ones I had been using eventually rusted or wore out and I started searching for an equal. After trying a few including one from Berkley(thumbs down !), I ordered some Tyrant hook hones from the Musky Shop. With over 150 charters a season on my schedule, a good hook hone was sorely needed. I say sorely, because struggling with a dull hook hone in 3-5 footers was doing just that to my fingers and thumbs…, Ouch!!!
Alas, another great hook hone. If you’re in the same boat I was, try a Tyrant hone. A little larger than the Luhr Jensen hone, but they work great!!!
Posted on August 7th, 2015 No comments
An hour into their afternoon trip, Mike Ducross and his buddies from Cornwall, Canada, were not quite as optimistic as they had been after watching my morning charter carry heavy coolers of 20–30 lb. Lake Ontario kings off the dock. They had heard the war stories about how we had them dialed in all morning with whole alewives and big flashers, and knew we were returning to the very same “X” on my chart plotter. The Sitex fish finder showed the kings were still there, but they were turning their noses up at our 2-rigger spread of 13” Slashers and whole alewives down 120 and 130 feet.
With unwavering confidence in the big silver and gold prism taped golden retriever flashers in bright midday light for staged kings, I had opted for changes in leader length and bait head color, to no avail, before deciding on one last change before doing something drastic.
Still firm in my belief that when a big king bellies up to the sushi bar he’s looking for one thing, alewives, I reached into my bait cooler for a freshly salted alewife strip and replaced the whole bait with a baited fly. Minutes after dropping the rigger back to same depth of 120’ with the same 15’ setback, the rod fired. Immediately I reset it the second time, and it fired again. Meanwhile, the whole bait, 10’ deeper at 130’and 25’ back was just a slug. While fighting the second fish, Mike pulled the deep rigger, while I baited another Mirage fly, and we reset the rigger exactly as before, 130’ down and 25’ back. Before we could untangle the second king from the net, the deep rigger fired.
Four hours later, as the sun angled toward the horizon and light intensity at the riggers dropped, you guessed it, the program changed and the kings decided they absolutely loved whole alewives in a glow green bait head 60” behind a glow green splatterback HotChip 11.
Why a king salmon, with a brain the size of a pea, would select a baited fly over a whole alewife one time and do the reverse the next, I cannot imagine. What I can say is it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen, and I’ll be ready when it happens again.
Baited flies and, before that, baited hoochies or squids, in combination with flashers have been a go-to rig for me aboard my charter boat, ever since my first trip to Alaska in 1990. Fortunate to be invited aboard several commercial salmon trolling boats, the first thing I noticed on deck was buckets of 11” plastic flashers, mostly white, green, chartreuse, and red. Hanging on the rear of the cabins were rows and rows of 3 ½” hoochies(squids) in a myriad of colors, some for kings, some for cohos. Closer inspection of the hoochies showed a piece of light brass wire, inside each hoochie, attached to the eye of a 6/0 single hook.
The wire on these hooks was for attaching 3”- 4” herring strips inside the hoochie, which rarely go in the water for Alaskan kings without bait.
The trollers also showed me how they rigged whole herring, herring filets, and cut plugs, all of which they carry onboard, along with spoons and plugs, during an king salmon opening. To a man, they were adamant about how fussy king salmon were and how important it was to master a variety of techniques to consistently catch fish in all conditions.
I never forgot that lesson, and returned to Lake Ontario with a new perspective on fishing bait for kings and a conviction to do my utmost to become as versatile as possible in fishing for them .
Today, my favorite flashers with baited flies include, 8” ProChips, 11” ProChips and HotChips, and 13” Kingston Tackle Slashers in a variety of colors and finishes. I use 36”- 48” leaders on 11”- 13” flashers and 19”- 30” leaders on 8” flashers. Flasher/fly color combos are the same as for clean flies.
Rather than the single hook used by commercial trollers, I prefer a tournament tie with a 5/0 beak hook and a #2 bronze treble. The same tournament tie used with clean flies can be used with bait, but I prefer to extend the leader length between the beak and treble hooks about 1 ½” so the treble trails at the tail of the bait. Although, the alewife bait strip can be hooked on the leading beak hook, even a properly prepped alewife bait strip softens quickly in fresh water and seldom will stay on a hook very long.
The secret to keeping an alewife bait strip secured inside the fly is to wrap it on the beak hook just behind the hook eye using soft .020” diam. brass wire. Although the brass wire can be attached to the beak hook on a pretied Tournament Tie, I like to attach it before I snell the hook, by simply placing a 3” length of wire midway through the eye of the hook, pulling the brass wire down along the shank of the hook, and tying the snell, leaving about 1 ½ inches of each end of the wire extending to each side of the hook.
The head end of a correctly shaped bait strip, tapered to about 3/8”, is then laid skin down against the hook shank, and the brass wire is wrapped from opposite directions around the bait with enough tension to slightly bury the wire into the meat on the bait strip. It is not necessary to twist the ends of the wire together to hold the strip. The wired bait will remain in the fly as long as you fish it. I prefer lightly dressed flies for use with bait strips.
From 18 years of experience fishing what have now become know on my charter boat as sushi flies, I’ve found that elongated diamond shaped bait strips about 3” in length and ½” to 1” wide, tapered to 3/8” at the head and ½” at the tail are about right. The later in the season, the larger the bait strip, including strips with tails as wide as ¾”. Bait strips are filleted from both sides of an alewife and trimmed to shape. The better the quality of a bait strip, the better it catches fish.
Availability of alewives to use as whole bait or bait strips has always limited the use of alewives for Great Lakes trout and salmon. The Familiar Bite Co., which harvests, brines, and vacuum packs fresh alewives in 8-packs, has now solved this problem. To properly prep quality bait strips, filet alewives when fresh or immediately after removing partially thawed bait from a vacuum pack, trim them to shape, and place them in a ziplock bag of noniodized salt. They will keep indefinitely refrigerated. I carry ziplocks of preshaped bait strips in a small bait cooler along with a brine jar of whole alewives and an ice pack.
Years of experience and millions of Great Lakes king salmon have proven clean flies catch fish. When it comes to inactive kings, though, especially staged fish or big, lazy fish, I’ve found that sushi flies are just what the doctor ordered
Posted on August 3rd, 2015 No comments
Any Great Lakes angler who trolls the midsummer depths for trout and salmon will tell you that temperature is one of the keys to locating and catching trout and salmon.
In early July this season as surface water temperatures increased, trout and salmon dropped deeper into cooler water. On July 11, when the Winot family filled coolers with salmon aboard the Fish Doctor, most of the kings were caught between 40 and 60 feet below the surface. Two weeks later, when Bob Heimbecker and his son Grant and fishing buddies Glen, Donnie, Rick and Heather fished with me on July 29, kings had dropped to 75 feet and deeper.
Most fishing books and articles list preferred water temperatures for locating kings, browns, steelhead,, and lakers, but experience has shown me that these so called optimum temperatures may be close to meaningless most of the time.
As for optimum water temperatures, read the “Good Book” and remember what it says, but don’t use the info as the “Bible”. In my “Fish Doctor Book”, preferred water temperature for various salmonid species falls into two categories, 1) resting temperatures, and 2) feeding temperatures. These, I find, are far different. Sure, when steelhead are dormant, they may be found resting in 42 – 52 degree water, suspended in the depths in midlake with their eyes closed(not literally). Why then,did we catch one setting a rigger, 30 feet behind the boat, 6 inches below the surface in 72 degree water on a bright, sunny afternoon in early July? Answer…, because it was actively feeding, looking for bugs or whatever it could find right on the surface, 100 feet above cold water.
A hungry fish isn’t much of a reader and it doesn’t always follow the rules. Put some baitfish a few feet above or below it’s so-called preferred water temperature, and it will ignore the written word in favor of hunger pangs. Chinook salmon and steelhead, both transplants from the Pacific, have rewritten the book in Lake Ontario on preferred temperature for these species, probably as a result of evolution and natural adaptation to the colder waters of Lake Ontario. Thirty years ago, we usually caught chinooks in 50 to 60 degree water. Today, they are common found feeding in water temperature as warm or warmer than 60 degrees, but resting in the ice where it’s a chilly 41 degrees. Brown trout may be even more temperature tolerant, and I have boated many in water temperatures from 65 to 71 degrees. Steelhead once common in water temps from the mid40’s to mid50’s and low 60’s, are now bending rods in surface breaks at 38-41 degrees.
My rule of thumb…, when trout and salmon are aggressively feeding, fish warm. When their guts are bulging with alewives and other forage, don’t be afraid to drop ‘em deep and fish the ice.
Posted on July 30th, 2015 No comments
If you have fished Lake Ontario in the past week or so, you have been introduced to the dreaded, ooky, fishing line clinging, spiny water flea and fish hook flea, better known to biologists by their Latin name, Bythotrephes longimanus & Cercopagis pengoi. Here’s some info on exactly who and what they are, provided by “Ontario’s Invasive Species Awareness Program”.
Spiny and fishhook waterfleas are small aquatic predators native to Eurasia. The first report of spiny and fishhook waterfleas in North America were both in Lake Ontario – spiny waterflea in 1982 and fishhook waterflea in 1998. Both species were introduced to the Great Lakes in ballast water from ocean-going ships.
Both waterfleas are species of zooplankton – small animals that rely on water currents and wind to move long distances. Spiny and fishhook waterfleas prefer large, deep, clear lakes, but can also be found in shallower waters. Spiny waterfleas move to deeper, cooler waters during the day and swim towards the water surface at night to feed, while fishhook waterfleas stay near the surface.
Both species are able to reproduce asexually, by cloning, and also sexually, and can multiply very quickly. When they reproduce sexually, the eggs can survive through the winter on lake bottoms and can be transported long distances on boats or equipment if they stay moist. The main diet of spiny and fishhook waterfleas is other zooplankton.
The spiny waterflea has been found in all the Great Lakes and in more than 100 inland lakes in Ontario. The species has also been reported in Lake Winnipeg and the Winnipeg River in Manitoba. It is not known to be anywhere else in Canada, but has been found in inland lakes of American states that border the Great Lakes. The fishhook waterflea is established in lakes Ontario, Erie and Michigan, as well as some inland lakes in upstate New York.
Impacts of Spiny and Fishhook Waterfleas
Researchers believe that spiny waterfleas are the greatest threat to the biodiversity and structure of native zooplankton communities on the Canadian Shieldsince acid rain.
- Because their main diet is zooplankton, they reduce food supplies for small fish and the young of sport fish such as bass, walleye and yellow perch.
- A few animals can quickly multiply into a large population.
- They are easily spread between waterbodies on angling equipment and bait buckets and in live wells and bilge waters.
- Spiny waterflea introductions result in an average 30 to 40 per cent decline in native populations of zooplankton.
- Spiny and fishhook waterfleas can affect recreational angling and commercial fishing. Their tail spines catch on fishing equipment, making it difficult to reel in lines, and clogging commercial nets and trawl lines.
Posted on July 22nd, 2015 No comments
After I wrote the article, “Copper Magic” which appeared in a 2006(I think?) issue of Great Lakes Angler, lots of trollers read about the benefits of trolling copper line, including the mystical electrical attraction of fish to wire, and the fast sink rate, 1.65 times that of leadcore. Most anglers who tried copper raved about their success catching trout and salmon with it. A few had problems, mostly with (1) depth control, (2) kinks and breaking, (3) and attaching backing and leader to copper. Since then, copper line has become the rage on the Great Lakes. Lots of anglers have mastered it’s use, but many, including folks new to fishing copper, still have some problems with it.
Depth Control – So, you spooled up with an unknown amount of line and you’re on the water. You’re seeing kings on your fish finder at 66 feet and want to put drop your copper rig right to that depth. Good luck. You’re just guesing unless you know precisely how much line you have in the water. The .037 diam. copper line I use sinks at a rate of 22 of depth per 100 feet of line at a speed of 2.7 mph when fishing a spoon. Dodgers and rotating flashers, which have more resistance in the water run shallower. To control the depth at which you’re fishing with copper, you must either buy premeasured sections of line, or measure it yourself.
When I rig reels for fishing 100 to 500 feet sections of copper from inline boards I accurately measure it with a 200 foot surveyor’s tape. For copper rigs that will be fished straight off the boat, I measure the wire and at 25 foot intervals code it with shink tubing or thin strips of adhesive tape from Johnson and Johnson Band-Aids or . If these strips are applied tightly, just a couple of wraps, they will last for many years. Unless the diameter of shrink tube is small enough and it is heated enough, it will slide on copper line.
There are at least two different gauges of twisted copper line now available. The heavier .gauge, labelled 35 lb. test and .037 diameter, may actually test closer to 40 lb.. The lighter gauge is listed at 30 lb. test. I have no idea what the sink rate of the lighter gauge copper is, but did receive some interesting info from Capt. Dave Begins, Dream Chaser Guide Service, who weighed 100 foot sections of each gauge copper with the following results;
30# test – 4.03 oz.
35# test – 5.55 oz.
With the 35# test, heavier gauge line weighing 36% more than the lighter gauge, you can bet the heavier line sinks quicker.
Kinks and Breaking – One of the characteristics of wire line, even soft, multistrand copper, is that it has memory. It is just the nature of the beast. Get some slack in it, and a loop will form. Put tension on the line and the loop tightens into a kink that will eventually break under pressure. Avoid slack line and you’ll avoids kinks.
Yeah, but what about those “Mystery Kinks” that appear even when you’re being really careful? Well, chances are you’re letting your line out to fast, about the same way you let out lead core. What’s happening is you’re letting out line fast enough that your terminal gear plus the speed of the boat isn’t pulling the line tight enough and as the line freefalls, it forms unseen loops underwater. When you stop letting out line, the loops tighten and form kinks. You let it out in perfect shape, but when you reel it in, you have dreadful and costly “Mystery Kinks”,or is it just work of the deep water copper devil!
If you’re fishing copper on inline boards, especially my personal favorites, Church Walleye boards with metal releases, DO NOT clip the copper wire directly in the release. Do not clip or wrap copper wire in any release. Clip the backing in the release, instead. Trust me, or pay the price!
Four years ago, I switched from inline boards to large, triple “megaboards”. Towed on 300 lb. test mono tether line, they’re capable of fishing three sections of copper line as long as 600 feet without the board dropping back. I use Scotty downrigger releases snapped intp a ¼” diameter spring clip(available at Lowe’s, etc.), which is clipped on the tether line.. These big boards are a bit bulky to store onboard, but they do an awesome job in the water.
Attaching Backing and Leader – Nothing is more frustrating than losing fish, gear, and copper line because the attachment between backing and copper broke. If you want to minimize this unpleasant, blood pressure raising experience, use Size 3, 150# test heavy Spro swivels to attach backing and leader to copper line. Spool on 35# test Cortland Spectron, tie an overhand loop knot in it, thread the loop through one eye of the swivel and loop it around the swivel. Spin the last 6 inches of the copper line to tighten the twist in it, slide the copper through the eye of the swivel and then twist the loose end of the copper tightly to secure it. Spool on the measured length of copper, attach the opposite end to another Size 3 Spro swivel in the same manner, and then tie on the mono leader with your favorite knot. Voila!
Oh, and one other thing. Beware the Twili tip if you’re using braided line backing. The sharp end of the stainless coil spring wire can saw through braided line, especially Dacron. Believe me, 300 feet of copper can sink a Church Walleye board! How do I know? You guessed it!
One of many comments I received about fishing copper line was from Capt. Ed Retherford, who fishes Trout Scout V on Lake Huron out of Alpena, Michigan. Ed fished copper to help him place 6th out of 115 boats in the Michigan Brown Trout Super Tournament and to place his crew 5th out of 123 boats in the Ladies Michigan Brown Trout Tournament. Shame, shame on you Ed for sneaking around Alpena for two weeks without telling anyone, including your kids, you started fishing copper!
Posted on July 20th, 2015 No comments
Ask Joe and Darlene Winot, their son Joe, Jr., and Joe’s kids Carter and Gage and they will tell you, “The king salmon bite is on in Lake Ontario.”, minutes away from Oswego Harbor.
The Winot family fished aboard the Fish Doctor this past weekend on July 18 and 19. On Saturday morning when my crew for the day arrived at the dock , the weather was raunchy with lightning flashing, thunder booming, and a torrential downpour literally dampening my angler’s spirits. That storm blew by quickly though, and only delayed our 5:00 AM departure a few minutes.
Very often, after a thunder storm, king salmon turn on, and that is exactly what was about to happen as I rigged our downrigger lines and we started trolling. The first hit was a screamer, a big king peeling line off the reel as the clicker on the reel buzzed a “Wake up!” alarm.
I had an ace up my sleeve, having located a hot spot the previous afternoon, far from any other boats and we trolled steadily towards it. Not seeing any bait or fish showing on the 12” Garmin fish finder for nearly a half mile after we caught our first king, I was starting to wonder if things had in 12 hours. They hadn’t.
As soon as the schools of alelwives, a king salmon’s favorite forage, showed up on the fish finder screen, the rods started popping. Before the bite was over, the cooler was full…, 11 king salmon up to just over 20 lbs., plus two nice lake trout. The next day was a near repeat of the first, with slightly fewer but larger kings boated, the biggest 24 lbs.
If you’re thinking of booking a king salmon trip, now is the time and Oswego is the place.
Posted on July 17th, 2015 No comments
If you’re thinking about booking a Lake Ontario trout and salmon fishing charter, you could not pick a better time than right now, and you could not pick a better port to fish out of than Oswego Harbor.
Parties aboard the Fish Doctor have been enjoying some excellent king salmon fishing in the past week, plus they have been boating browns, steelhead, and lake trout. This is typical midJuly fishing out of Oswego Harbor with surface water temperature warming, vast schools of alewives moving offshore after spawning, and trout and salmon concentrating in the cooler depths to chow down on their favorite forage.
In the past few days Fish Doctor anglers have boated kings up to 22 lbs., steelhead up to 8 lbs,., lake trout up to 14 lbs, and browns in the 5 to 15 lb. class. Most of the fishing has been targeted at king salmon, which are scattered north of the harbor in 150 to 450 feet of water, just a few minutes run out of the harbor in our in our twin engine 28-foot charter boat.
Posted on July 7th, 2015 No comments
I finally got a day off from a busy Lake Ontario trout and salmon fishing charter schedule, so what the heck was I doing on the water on the morning of July 6, 2015? The answer…, experimenting with a new trolling system geared to catching widely scattered kings. It took only a couple of hours. The 17 lb. king and 8 lb. steelhead in the box, plus a screamer that broke off, and another fish that didn’t hook up were proof of the pudding. The system worked.
Trying to find the right bait or lure and getting a fish to hit it, is an age old challenge to anglers. Too little stimulus, and the fish ignores the bait or lure. To much stimulus and the fish avoids it. What makes fish tick? Well, there are lots of things to consider, not only lure or bait size , color or action, but speed of the lure through the water, available light, and water color, all underscored by fish activity level.
For the troller, speed at which a lure is presented is critical. Troll a streamer for Mr. Lake Trout at 6.0 mph and forget it. Troll that same speed for Mr. Landlock in the right conditions, and hang on. Speed control while trolling shallow is easy using a surface trolling speed indicator or even just a trained eye and ear. Fine tune the action of a lure boatside as you adjust your trolling speed, then maintain that optimum trolling speed.
Speed control as you fish deeper, especially in lakes like LakeOntario with strong subsurface currents is not so simple. As depth and currents increase, on my charter boat I depend heavily on my Fish Hawk X-4 downrigger temp/speed unit that relays back trolling speed and temp at the weight. Once fish are located, and we start catching them at a certain speed, depth, and temperature, it’s all about “repeat-a-fish”, that is repeating the same effective presentation
Much has been written about optimum temperatures and trolling speeds for various gamefish. I once caught a 3 lb. lake trout 3 feet below the surface at 6.0 mph while trolling for landlocks, but I”ve watched a musky on my underwater camera approach a lure when the boat was dead in the water. There is no “bible” on trolling speed. Read the available info, then “sort the wheat from the chaff” based on your own experience. Remember effective trolling speed for any species may vary from day to day based solely on it’s mood.
I believe one of a troller’s greatest pitfalls is trolling at a constant speed in the same direction. With 34 years as a charter captain, I’m still guilty of this, especially when the boat is on autopilot. When fish are hitting at a constant speed/direction, fine, troll at that speed/direction. When they aren’t, vary your speed. Erratic lure speed and direction often spell the difference between a good and a bad day. It’s often not trolling speed that catches fish, it’s changes in trolling speed.
The number of lures anglers troll also affects success, especially on big waters like LakeOntario with multiple salmonid species scattered far and wide from the surface to 250 foot depths. Prior to about 1972, when trout and salmon were near the surface, most trollers fished flatlines, sinking fly lines, or shallow run lead core, and were physically limited to 2-4 lines to avoid tangles. With the advent of downriggers and planer boards, multiple lure presentation vertically and horizontally away from the boat became simpler, allowing charter boats like mine to run a standard surface spread of ten or more lines on planer boards and downriggers.
As for preferred water temperatures, read the “Good Book” and remember what it says, but don’t use the info as the “Bible”. A hungry fish isn’t much of a reader and it doesn’t always follow the rules. Put some baitfish above or below it a few feet, out of it’s preferred water temperature, and it will ignore the written word.
Remember, versatility catches fish. Learn to use a variety of fishing gear and techniques to be more successful. Small inline planer boards that attach directly to your line and fish out from the side of the boat are deadly for landlocks with streamers. In early spring, a Dipsy Diver rigged with your favorite landlock or lake trout spoon fished off the side of the boat with just 25 feet of line in the water is a killer.