• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, What’s Wrong with My Riggers?

    Posted on November 1st, 2017 admin No comments


    Releasing an early May king boated while fishing only two riggers.

    I sent the center rigger down the 5th time to 135 feet  Conditions had not changed in several days and I new the troll, due north at a surface speed of 2.7 mph.  Wham!!  Dr. Kerry Brown, Capt. Tim Hummel, and their first mates, Tom and John watched the 7’ Shortstick double to the water as I tightened the line to the release.  The tally was 5 kings in a row on the double pearl dodger and “king salmon” Howie Fly behind the decoy rigger weight down the center, before we could put another line in the water. 


    Kerry, and his crew had traveled from the Port of Oak Orchard in western Lake Ontario to Oswego Harbor in eastern Lake Ontario on July 20, 2005, to do an  on-water Howie Fly class with me.   Tom’s  comment after a half hour on the water and five consecutive kings with only one  rigger in the water, “I’ve seen enough, we can go back!”


    What Dave had not seen, was what was comng next.  Instead of dropping the center rigger back down to 135’, I rigged the two corner riggers with dodgers and flies and dropped them to 130’ and 120’.  No takers!  I immediately dropped our hot item on the center rigger back down to 135’.  We watched intently.  We were still on the same hot troll…, identical speed, identical direction,  doing everything to “repeat-a-fish”.  The sonar was still showing  bait and kings from 100’ to 140’.  Nothing.  After setting copper lines, wire Dipsys, and a thumper rod, we started catching fish again, but not on the riggers.


    One week later, the scenario was similar.  As my crew approached the end of an 8-hour charter, we had boated some nice kings, but not a single one of them had come on a rigger rod.  Running three to four riggers at a time, the flashers and Howie Flies, had not  produced a nibble.  Because our copper rods, wire Dipsys, and thumper rods were all firing I had not changed the rigger spread.  As we got ready to haul lines, I purposely pulled both  boom riggers and spread the corner riggers, one down 100’,  one down 140’.  Before I could get the second boom rigger weight out of the water, we doubled on the two green ProChips trailing  green krinkle flies.  Reducing the number of riggers in the water and spreading them out was all it took.


    I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer in the addage that, “less is often more”

    when it comes to fishing riggers.  And, when I say less, think about not just dropping down to two riggers, but sometimes only one!  One fish on one rod every 10 minutes equals 6 fish/hour, equals…  You  know!


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, The Deadly Sutton

    Posted on November 1st, 2017 admin No comments


    Another Oswego Harbor brown trout falls prey to the deadly #44 Sutton.

    Some things never get old, and that includes spoons that have caught trout, salmon, and other fish species for eons.


    As a Lake Ontario charter captain with 40 years of experience under my keel fishing the “Big Lake”, I’ve been asked many times, “If you had only one spoon to use in Lake Ontario for trout and salmon, what would it be?”  Well, to answer that, I’ll take it one step farther.  If I had only one spoon to use for big water trout and salmon anywhere on a flatline, leadcore or copper line, or a downrigger or Dipsy , it would be an ultralight Sutton flutter spoon in Size #44.  If I could select a few different sizes of Suttons, I would add the #31, #71, #88 and #38.


    Apparently, I’m definitely not the only angler who favors the Sutton spoon, otherwise a while back when the Sutton Co. was not manufacturing their deadly spoon, used #44 Suttons would not have been selling for up to $25 ea. on ebay.


    The first time I fished Lake Ontario 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 Lake Ontario for me including, cohos, steelhead, lake trout, domestic rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, several thousand brown trout, plus walleyes and bass. 


    Suttons, by far, are 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 had and continue to have one of the finest silver plated finishes on the market. 


    Suttons are available in both ultralight flutterspoons and heavier casting spoons.  They are available 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 Lake Ontario, 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 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 Lake Ontario’s gin-clear water when it’s sunny is the stock hammered silver/brass finish.  A 1/16stripe 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 low light.  Your own custom touches of tape and paint are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.


    I’ll never forget that first Lake Ontario 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. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Location, Location, Location

    Posted on October 26th, 2017 admin No comments


    The first of a limit catch of kings in 600+ feet of water on 7/20/17.

    More years ago than I care to think, in the fall of 1980,  when fur prices had climbed to an all time high, I was checking mink traps on a crisp October morning in the high peaks of the Adirondacks.  Walking the shore of the small, shallow  pond after a crissp, calm night, the early morning sun relflected off a mirror gin clear first ice, I was focused on trapping, not fishing. 

    With the first rays of the day, just barely clearing a shoreline of dense white spruce, I stopped in my tracks.   Across the pond, in a small bay a column of steam, highlighted by the sun, rose straight up in the stillness.  Hmmm…? 

    As I walked closer, checking traps, the source of that column of steam was clear.  About 40 yards from shore there was a circular,  ice free opening in the frozen surface of the 12 acre pond. Aha, a spring hole!

    Knowing the shallow, trailless pond,  three miles from the nearest road,  was stocked with brook trout and lightly fished, my mind turned from trapping to fishing.   With visions of fresh caught brookies sizzling in a cast iron frying pan of hot  bacon grease, I made a mental note to return there the  next summer with my fly rod. 

    9 months later, my lightweight Grumman canoe on my shoulders, I could see the surface of the pond reflecting through the spruces as I eased my way down a ridge to  the shoreline.  My sinking fly line and tandem light cahill wet flies worked close to bottom in that spring hole confirmed what I already knew.  That spring hole in the warm, shallow pond supported brook trout through the hot months of summer.  Releasing all but four 10 – 12 inch brookies, the pleasure of  a memorable fishing trip making the hike out an easy one. 


               Ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water.





    As I bush whacked my way back out to the truck, I kept thinking…, location, location, location.  As an old timer once told me, “Ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water!”

    Thirty-six years later, in early August, 2017, I was sitting at the helm of my charter boat planning northwest out of Oswego Harbor.  The depths of  Lake Ontario below us looked like the Black Hole.  My  12” Garmin fish finder had been blank for 10 miles.  Not deterred, I continued, heading for the offshore honey hole where salmon and steelhead fishing had been consistent for weeks. 

    Fishing one or two trips a day, I had searched for and followed the bait, trout, and salmon from 120 feet of water east of port as they gradually moved offshore.  Every day the fish and bait had moved northwest further and further until they were 10 to 12 miles out, suspended over more than 600 feet of water.

    The pattern, an early morning bite, had been the same for weeks.  Find them, get the right stuff down to them, and action would be nonstop. 

    When the Garmin fish finder lit up, Karl and his wife Colleen, both veteran Lake Ontario anglers,  could not believe it…, we had found them!  The motherlode of king salmon and steelhead were below us.

    Because we had searched for miles to locate fish, the first downrigger rod in the water fired in minutes, followed by strike after savage strike from aggressively feeding kings and  steelhead.  Our high speed spread of spoons and flasher/flies flies was exactly what they wanted.

    The old timer wasn’t far off when he said ninety percent of the fish are in 10  percent of the water, and it doesn’t make any difference if that water is 200 mile long Lake Ontario or a 12 acre brook trout pond. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Record 2016 Alewife Year Class

    Posted on October 26th, 2017 admin No comments


    Hatched in 2016, record numbers of yearling alewives showed up in 2017

    When I launched the Fish Doctor in early April, 2017,  and started fishing charters for brown trout and lake trout, the great fishing was what I expected, but the big surprise was the abundance of  2-4 inch yearling alewives they were feeding on.  As spring progressed into May, these alewives were even more abundant.

    In shallow water where we were trolling in 5 to 15 feet of water, the browns were chowing down on them.  Ditto for lake trout on bottom in 120 to 150 feet of water.  At the end of a trip the bottom of the fish cooler was dotted with small alewives.  Never since 1977 have I ever seen such an abundance of young alewives. 

    Later in the season bottom trawling by US Geological Survey fisheries researchers confirmed what anglers suspected.  The abundant 2-4 inch yearling alewives anglers observed in 2017 were an all time record 2016 year class.  Just what Lake Ontario salmonids needed to maintain to the lake’s legendary world class fishery. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, 2018 Brown Trout Prospects

    Posted on September 8th, 2017 admin No comments


    A hefty 13" yearling brown boated in July, 2017,

    September is here and the lake fishing season is winding down, time to think about the 2018 season.  And, what a season it should be, especially for spring and summer brown trout fishing.

    Anyone who fished spring browns in April, May, and June out of Oswego will tell you that 2-year old browns, some of them up to over 6 lbs. by late May were super abundant.  They were gorging on one of the largest ever year classes of 2-4 inch yearling alewives…, perfect forage.

    Oswego anglers will also tell you that because of the excellent salmon fishing from midJune thru September, summer fishing pressure on brown trout was almost nonexistent.  Harvest of all browns, including the abundant 2-year olds, was way down.

    Now comes the best news…, survival and growth of yearling browns stocked in May, 2017, looks excellent based on the unusually high number of yearling browns boated aboard the Fish Doctor, all caught, incidentally, while fishing for salmon.  These browns are in tremendous condition, some with tails of yearling alewives sticking out of their mouths.

    All of this adds up to what should be an outstanding 2018 spring and summer brown trout fishery out of Oswego.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Plan Ahead to Book in 2018

    Posted on September 5th, 2017 admin No comments


    Planning ahead for a prime time date produced a limit catch of kings.

    It was the evening of August 12, 2014, and I was just about to hit the sack after morning and afternoon charter fishing trips on Lake Ontario.  The voice on the other end was a father who wanted to book a late August or early September fishing trip for him and his two daughters.  Telling him my late season calendar was completely booked was disappointing to him and frustrating to me.  Not only should he have planned further ahead to book a charter,  he should have done a little homework. 

     Planning and preparation are crucial in booking a charter trip anywhere.  Call early for best dates and don’t be afraid to ask questions.   Good captains are proud of their reputation and fishing services and will gladly answer your questions.

     Ask what size and type of boat the captain fishes.   Safety is the top priority. Your captain must be U.S. Coast Guard licensed and fully insured.    You will rarely find a veteran Ontario captain fishing less than a 28 footer.  Your charter fishing vessel should be fully equipped with USCG required safety gear, plus radar, a VHF marine radio, a chart plotter, and the best of fishing gear. 

    Ask if your captain fishes full time or part time, and how many trips he fishes per season.  Time on the water is important in locating and catching fish consistently.   

    Ask about lodging.  Many charter captains either provide their own, or arrange it for you at cabins, lodges, bed ‘n breakfasts, or  motels.   Captains also know the   best places to grab an early morning cup of coffee or a good meal.

    Ask for and check references.  Check the captain’s web site.   When you ask about price, remember you usually get what you pay for.   

     As easy as it is to arrange a trip by email, a quick phone conversation will help you feel out your captain.  When personalities aren’t compatible, it’s tough to have a good time even if fishing is outstanding.

     Tell the captain what you expect.   He will tell you if your expectations are reasonable.  Do you want to fish on a boat with the help of a mate, or would you prefer a hands on experience where you and your friends get involved in  rigging lines, and hooking your own fish?  

     Work with a captain to schedule your trip during prime time  for the species of fish you want to catch.  In Lake Ontario fishing for trout, salmon, walleyes, and bass  peaks at certain times.  If you want to lake fish for browns with light tackle, your captain will recommend a trip in April, May or early June.  If your sights are set on catching a king salmon, late spring or summer is best.

    Before you arrive at the boat, talk to your captain about what you’ll need.  Sun glasses, appropriate clothing, a camera, and a small cooler for lunch and beverages is standard.  Your captain will have an iced cooler on board for your fish.  Everyone 16 years of age and older will need a New York State fishing license, available online.

    When you arrive, be on time with the gear you need without overloading the boat.     Once you’re onboard, the rest is up to the captain.  Let him worry about details like tackle and techniques.    Any fish you catch and want to keep to eat or have mounted are his responsibility.    Most captains or mates gladly clean and package your fish free of charge, or provide fish cleaning facilities.  Wall hangers should be separately bagged, carefully stored on ice, and delivered to the taxidermist of your choice.

    When the boat leaves the dock, sit back with a cool drink, enjoy the ride, and relax, confident you’ve done everything you can to enjoy a great Lake Ontario charter fishing trip.


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Now is the Time for Kings!

    Posted on June 29th, 2017 admin No comments


    Val and "Sammy" with a 22-pounder boaterd on 6/26/17

    If you’re thinking about booking a trip to fish for king salmon out of Oswego, you could not pick a  better time to fish for kings than RIGHT NOW!!!  We’ve been boating limit or near limit catches of kings for the past week or so, and it looks like the great salmon fishing will continue.

    Just ask Val and Diane DeCesare and their crew who boated well over a dozen kings, steelhead, lake trout, and rainbows on June 26.  Yesterday it was Brian and Matty’s turn and they boated their limit of kings while releasing others.

    The kings are just offshore, less than 5 minutes from the Oswego lighthouse. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Salt Ice for Fresher Fish

    Posted on June 29th, 2017 admin No comments

    This June 26, 2016 catch of trout and salmon aboard the Fish Doctor was kept fresh on salt ice.

    The only charter boat fishing out of Oswego Harbor that cleans trout and salmon onboard before returning to the dock is the Fish Doctor, AND…, we are very fussy about keeping fish as fresh as possible.

    That starts with bleeding and rinsing every trout and salmon that comes aboard the Fish Doctor.  The next step is putting the fish in our onboard cooler with salt ice to keep fish as fresh and cool as possible until they are fileted.

    Salt ice?  Yes, salt ice, 1 gallon jugs of water to which 3 heaping tablespoons of salt have been added.  Adding salt to water before freezing it lowers the freezing temperature of the water, meaning the ice will actually be colder than frozen fresh water.  When salt is added to water, the temperature drops: A 10-percent salt solution freezes at 20 F  and a 20-percent solution freezes at 2 F.

    That’s why you see the liquid in the bottom of a Fish Doctor cooler at the end of a trip frozen to the bottom of the salt ice jugs.  Not so with a frozen  jug of regular fresh water.

    Bleed fish, keep them rock hard on salt ice, filet them fresh taking care not to get any slime on the filets, and you’ll have the best tasting fish possible that keep much fresher for much longer in your frig or cooler..

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing Conditions

    Posted on April 7th, 2017 admin No comments

    An Oswego brown trout double boated on one rod in early April

    Despite recent fluctuations in the weather, plus high winds, early spring brown trout anglers are eyeballing the Oswego area, tops for browns in eastern Lake Ontario, waiting to get on the water.  If you’re one of these anxious brown trout fisherfolks, here’s an update on the Oswego fishing conditions.

    Flow in the Oswego River is crucial to spring brown trout fishing out of my home port.  The higher and muddier the water, the better the brown trout fishing conditions, and we do have high water!  This morning, April 7, 2017, flow was 25,300 cfs, 1.6 times higher than normal.  Temperature was 44 degrees.  Perfect.

    On Wed, April 5, temp on my Fish Hawk at my  boat slip(#21) in Oswego Marina was 45.3 degrees.  East of Oswego in 20 feet of water on the afternoon of April 5, the water was muddy, I’m guessing a visibility of 1 foot or less and the water temperature was 44.4 degrees.  Nice.

    With all the  recent rain, plus snow predicted today in the 5,000+ sq. mile Oswego River watershed, you can bet on high flow in the Oswego River well into April and probably May.

    Oswego anglers could not ask for better spring brown trout fishing conditions.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Steelhead Egg Take

    Posted on April 7th, 2017 admin No comments

    A Lake Ontario steelhead.

    Each fishing season Lake Ontario anglers enjoy some of the finest steelhead fishing in inland waters on the North American continent. To support that fishery the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation(NYSDEC) stocks close to one half million yearling steelhead raised at the Salmon River Hatchery in Altmar, NY.  This stocking, plus the yearling stocking policy for Lake Erie requires and annual egg take from adult steelhead at the Salmon River Hatchery.  A recent email from the NYSDEC reported the following results from the ;

    “NYSDEC Salmon River Hatchery staff completed Steelhead egg collections on Wednesday April 5th, 2017. More than 640 female steelhead were spawned over four days, resulting in over 2.4 million eggs collected (exceeded the 2.15 million egg target). Fish hatched from these eggs will be raised in the hatchery for approximately one year, and will be stocked as spring yearlings in 2018. An additional 149,238 eggs were collected from Skamania strain steelhead.  Steelhead are stocked every spring in tributaries to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie where they contribute to the open lake and tributary fisheries. Current Lake Ontario Steelhead/rainbow trout stocking includes 497,700 Washington strain yearlings, 43,000 Skamania strain yearlings and 75,000 “domestic” strain rainbow trout yearlings. Lake Erie tributaries are stocked with 255,000 Washington strain steelhead annually.  Steelhead are an important component of the world class fisheries supported by lakes Erie and Ontario.”