Posted on December 8th, 2014 No comments
If I had only one spoon to use for trout and salmon anywhere on a flatline, leadcore or copper line, or a downrigger or Dipsy, , it would be an ultralight flutter spoon called a Sutton, in Size #44. If I could select a few different sizes of Suttons, I would add the #31, #71, #88 and #38.
The first time I fished LakeOntario in September, 1977, with my fishing partner Mac Collins, five out of the six kings my partner and I caught were on a flat silver #88 Sutton. Since then, Sutton spoons in a variety of sizes and stock finishes, plus customized versions I concoct myself, have caught every species of trout and salmon in LakeOntario for me including, cohos, steelhead, lake trout, domestic rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, several thousand brown trout, plus walleyes and bass.
Suttons, by far, were the most popular trolling spoon for trout and salmon in New York’s Finger Lakes, where they originated many years ago, and continue to be manufactured in Naples, at the south end of Canandaigua Lake. They have one of the finest silver plated finishes on the market.
Suttons are no longer available retail, but if you can find any used ones, call me! They were available in both ultralight flutterspoons and heavier casting spoons in a variety of finishes including flat and hammered silver, brass, copper, silver/brass, and silver/copper depending on the model and size.
My favorite is the ultralight flutterspoon because it can be tweaked to troll properly at speeds from 1.5 – 3.0 mph. These spoons come from the factory with a light treble hook which produces good action at slow speeds. For my purposes on LakeOntario, I replace the treble on all Sutton spoons with a single Mustad siwash hook. On my favorite, the 3” long #44 Sutton, I use a Size #1, #1/0 or #2/0 Siwash hook depending on the speed I’ll be trolling for different species and the spoon action I’m trying to achieve. With the factory bend and a single # 1 hook, the #44 rigged with a #1 crosslock snap on a light leader will start to spin at 2.0 mph. Small crosslock snaps improve the action of any flutterspoon at slow speeds. Rigged with the same small crosslock snap, but a 1/0 Siwash hook, the #44 will start to spin at 2.3 mph. Rig a #44 Sutton with a #2/0 Siwash hook and a #2 Sampo coastlock ball bearing snap swivel it will wobble up to about 2.7 mph. Flatten the spoon thru the middle and bend back a 3/8” length of the nose of the spoon, and it will wobble up to about 3.0 mph.
For brown trout, tune a Sutton to wobble. King salmon prefer a spoon that wobbles, but will hit spinning spoons when they’re aggressively feeding. Domestic rainbows sometimes prefer a flutterspoon that spins. Vary the size of the Sutton you’re fishing from the smaller, 3” #44 and #31 to the larger #71 and #38 depending on the size of the bait fish trout and salmon are targeting.
One of my my favorite Suttons in LakeOntario’s gin-clear water when it’s sunny is the stock hammered silver/brass finish. A 1/16” stripe of fluorescent orange paint along the silver edge of a hammered silver/brass Sutton produces more fish in colored water under sunny skies. A flat silver Sutton with a diagonal stripe of light blue lazer tape is one of my favorites for brown trout in clear water and moderate light. Your own custom touches of tape and paint are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
I’ll never forget that first LakeOntario trip with Mac Collins. As he removed a crumpled #88 Sutton from a big king’s toothy maw, I suggested the spoon was ready for the garbage heap. “No way,” Mac said. “This baby is just starting to get a little character!” Mac put another “peppermint twist” in the spoon, rigged it on a downrigger and promptly caught another king on it. I’ve heard of some obscene prices being paid for used Suttons online, but they are probably worth it.
Posted on October 18th, 2014 No comments
In a nutshell, the 2014 fishing season was, verrrryyyyy interesting!
Brown trout fishing, as usual in the Oswego area of Lake Ontario, was super beginning in midApril when the Fish Doctor was launched. Lake trout action in 30 – 40 feet of water just outside Oswego Harbor was nonstop. The big news, though, was the early king salmon fishing. Attracted by a heavy flow of warm water from the Oswego River flowing into the icy, 35 degree water of the lake, kings produced steady fishing a stone’s throw from the Oswego lighthouse beginning the last week of April.
By late May, hordes of alewives moved inshore and the king salmon feeding frenzy was on. Fish Doctor anglers aboard my charter boat cashed in on the action, boating many kings on ultralight tackle, trolling stickbaits and spoons right on the surface from planer boards. Most of the kings were caught in the top 30 feet of water.
Tangle with a feisty 15 lb. king on 10 lb. test line, and you’re in for a fish(not fist) fight! Just ask Rev. Thomas James, who fished with me on May 26, 27, and 28. The first couple days, we worked hard for the kings we caught and lost more of these tough battlers than we landed. The third day, however, we zeroed in on the kings and there were no escapees. The hottest rod on the boat was the lightest, a 6-foot custom rigger rod with a Penn 965 International reel and 10 lb. test Berkley Big Game line. Set 65 feet down on the center downrigger, it was all we needed in the water, and a handful with kings up to 15 lbs. stretching the line. By midmorning Rev. James and his fishing buddy boated their limit of 6 kings, two 8 and 10 lb. lakers and released one king. The trip was typical of many this spring with catches of up to 20-30 kings, steelhead, lakers, and browns per trip.
Ditto for June…, kings, kings, kings, a little further out, but still keying on the muddy plume of Oswego River flowing into the frigid lake water, where schools of prespawn alewives were stacked up. On the morning of June 7, Karl Schmidt and his crew of Fish Doctor anglers boated 8 kings and a laker by 6:30 AM trolling along the edge of the river plume in 70 feet of water. Black/silver, and black/green spoons were the medicine for the kings, along with some of Stingers new UV patterns.More than half of the kings boated have been wild fish, with no fin clips. The remainder are adipose fin clipped st ocked fish, resulting from an annual stocking of 1.7 million fingerling .
Alewife spawning peaks in midJune, and aggressive, actively feeding kings key on the deepwater edge of this baitfish concentration. As the lake temperature warms and alewives begin to move offshore to deeper, colder waters, kings will follow them, a typical midsummer pattern. So it was in July, 2014, one of those years when the spoon bite far outshadowed the flasher/fly bite until August.
That is when Lake Ontario trollers started scratching their heads this season. At a time when adult king salmon normally move inshore, most adult kings were being caught in deep water, mixed with immature fish. Later in August, when huge numbers of kings and cohos stage in Mexico Bay, far fewer fish showed up there. Later, in September, when spawning kings normally begin to swarm into the Salmon River and other spawning tributaries, fewer fish showed up these streams.
Why adult kings stayed offshore far later in the season and why there were fewer king salmon staged in Mexico Bay are unanswered questions. With runs of spawning kings showing up in tributaries like the Oswego River as late as late November in past years, there is still plenty of time for kings to show up. The question is, will they, and if not, why?
Posted on July 9th, 2014 No comments
It took longer than normal because of the frigid winter, but the surface temperature of Lake Ontario is finally starting to warm up, concentrating king salmon in deeper, cooler water. This signals the start of a major summer king salmon bite.
Icy surface water temps in June and early July wasn’t a bad thing. Offshore temperature breaks in the 40′s and as low as 50 degrees produced some of the best surface fishing for steelhead, domestic rainbows, lakers, and scattered kings that I’ve seen in many years.
But, the kings were scattered and harder than normal to target. Even so, Fish Doctor anglers boated some dandy kings along with coolers of steelhead, rainbows, and lakers.
The key to good catches was locating offshore temperature breaks and lure presentation with multiple 2 to 7-color leadcore lines on megaboards, plus slide divers. Riggers fired occasionally, but it was the lead and slides that really produced with a variety of Stingers, Maulers, and custom painted Fish Doctor spoons.
Now that the kings have dropped deeper, copper will replace leadcore on the boards, flashers and dodgers with flies, and super flashers with Sushi flies, cut bait, or whole bait should be the ticket for salmon.
If you’re looking for the best bait on the market, look no further than Familiar Bite.
Posted on July 1st, 2014 No comments
Wow, what a start to the 2014 season! Brown trout fishing, as usual in the Oswego area of Lake Ontario, has been super since midApril. Lake trout action has been nonstop. The big news, though, is the king salmon fishing. Attracted by the warmwater discharge from the Oswego River into the icy, 35 degree water of the lake, kings have produced steady fishing just outside the harbor since late April, except for a few days following weather changes.
By late May, hordes of alewives moved inshore and the king salmon feeding frenzy was on. Fish Doctor anglers aboard my charter boat cashed in on the action, boating many kings on ultralight tackle, trolling stickbaits and spoons right on the surface from planer boards. Most of the rest of the kings boated have been caught in the top 30 feet of water. With water temperature in the lake much colder than normal, anglers will be catching king salmon close to the surface on light tackle minutes from Oswego Harbor through most of June, .
Tangle with a feisty 15 lb. king on 10 lb. test line, and you’re in for a fish(not fist) fight! Just ask Rev. Thomas James who fished with me on May 26, 27, and 28. The first couple days, we worked hard for the kings we caught and lost more of these tough battlers than we landed. The third day, however, we zeroed in on the kings and there were no escapees. The hottest rod on the boat was the lightest, a 6-foot custom rigger rod with a Penn 965 International reel and 10 lb. test Berkley Big Game line. Set 65 feet down on the center downrigger, it was all we needed in the water, and a handful with kings up to 15 lbs. stretching the line. By midmorning Rev. James and his fishing buddy boated their limit of 6 kings, two 8 and 10 lb. lakers and released one king. The trip was typical of many so far this spring with catches of up to 20-30 kings, steelhead, lakers, and browns per trip.
This season in April, May, and June kings have ranged in size from about 5 to 20 lbs, smaller than normal.. By September, on a diet of rich, oil laden alewives, salmon this size will grow rapidly to 10 to 30 lbs. More than half of the kings boated are wild
The prognosis for king salmon fishing the remainder of the season could not be better. Alewife spawning peaked in midJune, and kings are now following them as they move offshore. Salmon fishing out of Oswego Harbor in early summer should be some of the best we’ve ever enjoyed.
As the lake temperature warms and alewives begin to move offshore to deeper, colder waters, kings will follow them, a typical midsummer pattern. This deeper water is right out the “front door” of Oswego Harbor, creating an ideal summer fishing situation, with little travel time involved in reaching salmon.
By late August and September, king salmon from all over 200 mile long Lake Ontario will begin to stage in the Mexico Bay area as the urge to spawn brings them back to the Salmon River, the most heavily stocked tributary in the lake, and the source of most of Lake Ontario’s wild, naturally reproduced kings.
Posted on April 27th, 2014 No comments
Fishing for browns, lakers, and occasional, cohos, rainbows, kings, and Atlantics has gotten off to a fast start out of Oswego Harbor, with Fish Doctor anglers averaging around 30 fish per trip since our first of the season on April 18. Interestingly, the only forage fish I’ve seen in the limits of trout and salmon I’ve fileted are gobies. That’s right 100$ gobies in trout and salmon stomachs so far. You can bet that alewives will move inshore soon, but right now it’s all about gobies.
This little bottom dweller is just that…, a mottled brown forage fish that lives on the bottom, actually walking around on it’s oversized pectoral fins. The furthest it gets off bottom, when startled, is about one foot. To feed on them, trout and salmon have to scrape the bottom, and so should you when you’re trolling right now. Sure, when browns, kings, cohos, and rainbows are active, they will be on the surface and can be caught there. But…, when their bellies start to fill up and the bite slows down, it’s back to bottom.
This time of year aboard the Fish Doctor, we’ll have two riggers scratching the bottom all the time, and some of our biggest fish are taken there, including a 14 lb. king on 4/25/14 taken 25 feet down over 30 feet of water. Although you can buy goby imitation spoons, black and silver spoons seem to work just fine.
Posted on April 24th, 2014 No comments
Whew! Brown trout fishing out of Oswego Harbor COULD NOT be any hotter. The Fish Doctor went in the water April 10 and our first charter trip was April 18. On the 18th Fish Doctor anglers boated somewhere between 30 and 40 trout and salmon, mostly browns, but along with them shallow lakers, cohos, rainbows, and one Atlantic salmon. Ditto on our second day.
The next two days a fisheries research team fished with us to tag browns, lakers, kings, and Atlantics. It’s an exciting new tagging study designed to track tagged fish for a year, constantly recording the temperature and depth. Despite spending time targeting Atlantics, which we knew would be few and far between, we still boated almost 25 fish per trip and tagged a sample of shallow water lakers and browns.
The tally for our first four days of fishing was somewhere around 120 fish, or an average of about 30 fish/trip, the largest browns 31 1/4 inches and the largest laker 13 1/2 lbs., were all taken on ultralight tackle.
Conditions could not be better for early spring fishing in the Oswego area, with the water temperature of the Oswego River as high as 49 degrees in recent days, but the lake water temperature just outside the plume of the river 35 degrees . We’re talking a magnet in this area for baitfish and the trout and salmon predators that follow them. With flow of the Oswego River still pushing 20,000 cfs and the water entering the lake still turbid, conditions could not be more ideal, and good inshore fishing should continue thru early June.
Posted on April 2nd, 2014 No comments
It’s a rarity in this day and age for the cost of anything to go down or for a regulation to change for the better, but that’s what happened to New York State fishing licenses. Here is a summary of changes and fishing license fees you’ll be able to take advantage of this season.
New Fishing License Year – Annual licenses are now valid for one full year from date of purchase Instead of fishing licenses being valid from Oct. 1 thru Sept. 30, as in the past, your fishing license is now valid for one full year after purchase. In the past, if you fished with Fish Doctor Charters on, say, July 1st and August 30, 2013, you would have had to purchase an annual license for ___ and it would have been good only thru Sept. 30, 2013. With the change in licensing, if you fish the same dates in 2014, the annual license you purchase on July 1, will be valid thru June 30, 2015, giving you 9 additional months to fish.
Annual Fishing License – Resident and nonresident fishing license fees have been reduced. “Juniors” from 16 to 69 will pay $25 and seniors, only $5. An annual nonresident license is now $50.
1-day Fishing License Fee – Many Fish Doctor Anglers fish only one trip each season and purchase a 1-day license. The cost of that license, which was $15 for non residents and ___ for residents in, 2013, has been reduced to $10 for nonresidents and $5 for residents
Resident Senior Annual Fishing License – Now only $5, this fee was reduced from ____ in 2013.
General Fishing Licenses(effective 2/1/14)
$25 (ages 16-69)
$5 (ages 70+)
Posted on March 25th, 2014 No comments
The answer is many things. The first is foresight by the fishery managers and scientists who recognized the potential of the Lake Ontario as a salmonid fishery, laid out the plan and sold it to license buyers and government bureaucrats. Following that initial step, an international management team involving New York State, the Province of Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was crucial to the program. Air and water pollution abatement by the US and Canada, sea lamprey control, the basic productivity of the lake itself, plus sound fishery management and consistent stocking, all contributed to today’s multimillion dollar salmonid fishery.
An important componentof the fishery and a primary reason for its consistency is the diversity of the stocking program. Each year six species of trout and salmon, totaling about 3.5 million are stocked by New York State, including 1.7 million kings salmon, close to a half million each of lake trout, brown trout, and steelhead, along with lesser numbers of coho and Atlantic salmon, domestic rainbows. The Province of Ontario, Canada stocks about half that. In addition, in recent years millions of wild fingerling king salmon, mostly from the Salmon River, have added to the fishery. This diversity of stocking is vital to maintenance of Lake Ontario’s high quality fishery, year after year.
Since fishery biologists first began to manipulate Lake Ontario’s fish populations through management and stocking, these populations have fluctuated up and down. Around, 2000, the lake trout population was thriving. That ended abruptly when a variety of hatchery problems reduced stocking drastically for several years. The population crashed, but recently recovered after successful management efforts. If lake trout were the only species managed in Lake Ontario, the salmonid fishery would have completely collapsed. As it was, fishermen continued to enjoy great fishing in the lake, the slack taken up by healthy pupulations of other species.
Since I first began fishing Lake Ontario in 1977, salmoid populations have fluctuated. Not every stocking is 100 percent successful every year. Size and health of stocked fish varies year to year. The alewife forage base fluctuates. For many years a burgeoning population of cormorants took a toll on brown trout and steelhead stockings. That has no changed after the introduction of gobies, a bottom dwelling exotic that now comprises 96% of the cormorants’ diet. The improvement in brown trout and steelhead fishing has been dramatic.
Fortunately for anglers, with six different species of trout and salmon stocked in Lake Ontario, when one particular population decreases, experience has shown one or more others is usually doing the opposite or holding it’s own. The world class fishing that results is one of the reasons Lake Ontario is considered one of the finest, accessible trout and salmon fisheries in North America.
Posted on January 24th, 2014 No comments
Few anglers question that trolling with meat, whether whole bait, cut bait, or Sushi Flies, is one of the deadliest techniques for catching monster Great Lakes Chinook salmon. Each of these meat rigs catches fish, but “matching the hatch” with whole alewives, the primary salmonid forage in the Great Lakes, makes a lot of sense. The secret to success with the “real McCoy” is properly rigging and tuning it.
You can buy fresh frozen vacuum packed alewives and whole bait rigs directly from Great Lakes Tackle Supplies. Contact Walt Thompson <greatlakestacklesupplies.com>. You’ll find the bait heads are easy to use, but there is a learning curve involved with rigging and tuning it. Here are some rigging tips you might find helpful;
- You’ll need bait, rigs(prettied plastic heads/leaders/hooks), flat toothpicks, a coil of .019(or so) wire, and wire cutters.
- before you do anything, just behind the eye of the alewife, you’ll feel a bony bump…, crush that slightly so the bait slides into the bait head easily and all the way…, no space between nose of bait and end of head.
- slide the head of the bait all the way into the bait head, take the end of the wire and insert it thru the hole in one side of the bait head, thru the bait, and out the other side. Slide/twist the wire back and forth to “open” the hole in the bait. Remove the wire without moving the bait inside the baithead…, insert the toothpick in the hole you just made with a pushing/spinning motion, and it will easily follow the hole you just made with the wire right thru the bait head. Snug it up, break it off.
- use a flat toothpick that will fit easily thru the holes in the bait head.
- Now the key to tuning whole bait and keeping it tuned…, slide a section of wire thru the bait along the backbone, on the side of the backbone toward the outside of the bend. Push the wire right up into the bony head of the bait. You want the bait to be straight when you do this. The straighter the bait when you get done, the easier it will be to tune(bend) it properly. The wire helps maintain the correct bend in the bait as you fish it. Pic shows inserting wire after hook is placed, but I like to do it before hooking bait.
- Hook the leading beak hook thru the bait as shown in the pic, with the tail treble swinging free at the tail of the bait.
- Check the tune in the water boatside, and adjust the bend according to your trolling speed. You want the same basic corkscrew rolling motion as with cut bait.
With time, you’ll be able to tune a whole bait from a tight roll to a wide roll. Get it right, and a whole bait is very speed tolerant. Also, you can tune them to troll at almost any speed, i.e., fished clean, you can rig them as part of a spoon spread, etc. The bend you see in the attached pic is for a slow troll.
Once you’ve done this a few times, it won’t take long to rig/tune whole bait. The rigging/cleaning table mounted permanently at the stern of my boat is invaluable for this. I precut wire sections and keep toothpicks handy. I carry my whole bait in a separate cooler in a plastic contair of salt brine…, thaw the bait in the morning when I get up, place it in the salt brine, and carry it aboard in the cooler. I place a ziplock of a few frozen bait in my cooler, and early in a trip fish them fresh as they thaw.
I like clear heads for running clean bait and the standard color(as with cut bait) for fishing with attractors.
When the fish are aggressive and biting spoons, flies, etc., I don’t fish bait unless I’m fishing for a derby winner. When the bite slows, the bait goes in the water. Familiar Bait alewives are also deadly for everything else that eats alewives, including big lakers and browns.
Posted on January 10th, 2014 No comments
Most of us like to look on the bright side, especially folks who fish. If the fish aren’t biting, they should start any minute. If they don’t start biting, well, it’s a nice day to be outside. If it really isn’t a nice day outside, well, your garden needed the rain anyway. You know, like we’ve all heard before, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work!”
Well, those of you in northern New York may be having a little trouble looking on the bright side this winter. What weather swings…, frigid cold, lake effect, more cold, more snow, then a January thaw that may cause flooding. What’s next? More snow and rain? If the weather pattern we’ve been seeing continues, you can count on it, since we’ve got over 2 ½ months of winter left. This is bad news if you’re tired of shoveling snow and shuffling around on ice, but for the spring brown trout fisherman on Lake Ontario, it couldn’t be better.
The Oswego and Niagara Rivers are New York State’s two largest Lake Ontario tributaries emptying directly into deep water areas of the lake.. I moor my charter boat at the mouth of theOswegoRiverinOswegoHarbor, right in the city ofOswego, NY. . The river’s watershed is huge, stretching all the way south to the southern drainages of the largestFinger Lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, and others. It also includesOneida Lake, one of the largest inland lakes inNew York, as well as theSyracusearea, and tens of thousands of acres of farm land. When the snow melts in the spring runoff from this drainage basin funnels down theOswegoRiver, increasing the flow into the lake. The spring runoff, warmed by the sun, carries with it nutrient laden water, the food of plankton, which attracts baitfish like smelt and alewives as it enters the lake. Following the baitfish…, predators like brown trout, rainbows, chinook and coho salmon, and Atlantic salmon.
Since the year, 2000, the two winters with the highestSyracusesnowfall were 2000-01 with 191.9” and 2003-04 with 181.3”. I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that my two best springs for chinook salmon fishing offshore of Oswego Harbor were 2001 and 2004, when flow in the Oswego River was high from the huge snow melt. I didn’t keep an accurate log of my salmon catch in 2001, but I did in 2004…, 201 chinook salmon in 31 trips. The only reason these fish were just outsideOswegoHarbor…, the attraction of theOswegoRiverand it’s plume of warm water that extends out into the lake, like a magnet to baitfish, trout, and salmon.
High river flows have the same effect on brown trout fishing in the Oswego Harbor area, but for a different reason. Spooky, browns are much easier to catch in colored water. When river flow is high and the discharge plume outsideOswegoHarboris turbid with visibility as little as 3 to 5 feet, baitfish aren’t as easy for brown trout to locate and chow down on so browns feed longer. In addition, light penetration thru turbid water is reduced, so the sun doesn’t shut down light sensitive browns.
If the cold, snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York continues, we should be looking at and some super fishing for kings and browns out of Oswego Harbor. Sorry folks, but from where I am in South Carolina, I’m joining the chorus singing, “Snow Baby Snow!”