• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, 2017 NYSDEC Creel Census Results

    Posted on March 10th, 2018 admin No comments


    One of the largest king salmon ever boated on the Fish Doctor

    Whether it’s the Atlantic or a small New England pond, fishing is much the same everywhere.  Ask one angler how they were biting and you might here, “Never had a nibble all day!”  Ask another fishing the same water the same day, and you might  see a limit of beautiful brook trout in their creel.  So it is on Lake Ontario where success on any given day or during any given season may vary from boat to boat or location to location.

    Fortunately, to paint an accurate picture of the Lake Ontario fishery, each season the NYSDEC conducts a lake wide creel census, interviewing hundreds of anglers and sampling thousands of trout, salmon, and other species. 

    The 2017 lake fising census estimates are for April 15 to Sept. 30.  Although there are many variables involved and some of the census results, i.e., angler use, are estimates, much of the data, i.e., average size of each species harvested and success rate of charter boat anglers, is hard data. 

     Several  important factors dramatically affected fishing in 2017 for trout and salmon.  1) record high spring water levels, with only one public boat launch at Wright’s Landing in Oswego open for boat launching and many private marinas were struggling to operate with some permanent docks submerged. 2) excessive floating debris, i.e., large trees, docks, etc. which caused concern about boating safety. 3) Record high king salmon catch rates resulting in less fishing pressure for other salmonid species, particularly brown trout and lake trout.  

    Here are a few creel census highlights from the 2017 season;

    • Angler effort for trout and salmon declined to an estimated 35,856 boat trips, a reduction of  21% compared to the previous 6-year average
    • Trout and salmon fishing success rate was high.  Combined catch rate for all salmonids increased 45% from 2016 and 16% compared to 2003-2016 highs.
    • King salmon catch rate reached a record high of 0.14/hr., a 54% increase in the 2003-2016 average catch rate
    • Coho salmon catch rate was among the highest in 33 years surveyed
    • Estimated total trout and salmon catch was 162, 341, including 96,226 kings, 10,630 cohos, 22,556 rainbow/steelhead, 17,092 brown trout, 15,44 lake trout, and very few Atlantic salmon
    • Brown trout and lake trout catch catch declined from previous year as anglers targeted king salmon(this does not reflect the excellent April and May brown trout fishing in the Oswego area)
    • Catch of rainbow/steelhead, commonly boated while fishing offshore in mid-summer for king,  was one of the highest on record
  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Snow, Baby, Snow!

    Posted on March 9th, 2018 admin No comments


    After a Feb., 2007, lake effect storm in Oswego Co., with the roof of Gone Fish Inn only partially shoveled, our goldens joined my wifeon the roof for a pic!

    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…, first frigid cold, lake effect, more cold, more snow, then a midwinter thaw, and now, three Nor’easters in a row?   More snow and rain?    If the weather pattern we’ve been seeing continues through March, you can count on it.  This is bad news if you’re tired of shoveling snow and shuffling around on ice, but for 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 the Oswego River in Oswego Harbor, right in the city of Oswego, NY.  .  The river’s watershed is huge, 5,070 sq. miles,  stretching all the way south to the southern drainages of the largest Finger Lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, and others.  It also includes Oneida Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in New York, as well as the Syracuse area, and tens of thousands of acres of farm land. 

     When the snow melts in the spring runoff from this drainage basin funnels down the Oswego River, 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 highest Syracuse snowfall were 2000-01 with 191.9” and 2003-04 with 181.3”.  This winter, in the first 9 days of March, Syracuse has gotten 17.4 inches of snow.  Whew!

     I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that two of the best springs for chinook salmon fishing offshore of Oswego Harbor were May, 2001 and April-May, 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 main reason these fish were just outside Oswego Harbor…, the attraction of the Oswego River and 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 outside Oswego Harbor is 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.

     The  snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York is continuing with recent nor’easters dumping 17.4 inches of snow on the area in just the first 9 days of March.  The high spring runoff that will result, will produce some super fishing for kings and browns out of Oswego Harbor. 

     Sorry folks, but Lake Ontario anglers are praying, “Snow, Baby, Snow!”


  • Oswego Brown Trout Charters

    Posted on March 8th, 2018 admin No comments


    A mid-May catch of Oswego brown trout

    You may have heard “April showers bring May flowers.”, What about, “A winter whiteout brings April brown trout”.  That’s always my wish for Oswego brown trout charters in early spring.  Many other Lake Ontario anglers who have booked brown trout charters for the past 40 years agree. 

     Why, you ask?  Because there is no other port on the New York coastline that produces better spring and summer brown trout fishing.  The Reason…,  the inflow from Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, the protection offered by Oswego Harbor when browns are inshore in the spring, and perhaps most importantly, an experienced charter fleet that specializes in spring and summer brown trout fishing. 

     Spring brown trout charters are all about winter weather’s influence on spring water conditions.   The more snow in Central New York, the higher the flow in the Oswego River with it’s 5,070 square mile watershed during the spring thaw.  High, warm flows  into frigid  Lake Ontario, attract hordes of baitfish, followed by hungry brown trout, plus cohos, Atantics, rainbows, lake trout, and king salmon.

     Not only is spring a great time to catch Oswego brown trout on light tackle, but because of cool water temperatures and the shallow depths at which browns are caught, it is also a great time to release them.  Aboard my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, charter customers keep many prime eating browns, but many are released to grow to world class size and thrill another angler another day

     If you’re interested in booking an Oswego brown trout charter, you should know that spring isn’t the only time to book a trip.  Great brown trout fishing continues thru mid-August.  It’s just a matter of charter captains tracking brown trout movement as browns follow preferred water temperatures of 47-65 degrees inshore in the spring to the same cool temperatures in deeper water offshore in mid-summer. 

     If you’re following online brown trout fishing reports from the Oswego area, hot April brown trout fishing usually means good fishing for browns the rest of the season. 

     Veteran spring and summer brown trout charter customers will tell you that on occasion, it is not unheard of to land 20 to 30 or even more browns on a single charter, but on other days, browns come a lot harder.  It’s all about fishing when conditions are optimum, and Mother Nature controls that one.

     If you’re thinking about an Ontario brown trout trip, be sure to to do your homework, plan ahead, select a personable, experienced captain, and have realistic expectations

     A very few Lake Ontario charter captains have the experience and  passion for fishing brown trout that you will find aboard the Fish Doctor.  These are the captains with whom you want to fish.


  • Oswego Brown Trout Charters…, Mild Weather Means Early Fishing

    Posted on February 28th, 2018 admin No comments


    Oswego Harbor at Wright's Landing on 4/3/15, some different than this year!

    The recent warm spell in the North Country is great news for Fish Doctor Charters anglers fishing in April.  On the morning of Feb. 28 would you please the air temp in Oswego, NY at 46 degrees was two degrees warmer than the 44 degrees we were looking at in Chesterfield, SC? 

    This and the recent spell of warm weather in northern New York has had a huge impact on water temp in Lake Ontario and the Oswego River.  Oswego Harvbor and most Lake Ontario been ice free for weeks.  There is no snow cover anywhere in central New York including the Finger Lakes, Oneida Lake, and the Syracuse area

    On Feb. 28, the water temp in the Oswego River had risen to near 38 degrees.  Compare that to the average winter when the temp of the Oswego on this same date is just above freezing and the harbor locked in with ice.  In 2015, my charter boat could not be launched until April 10 because Wright’s Landing and Oswego Marina were locked in with ice.

    Also on Feb. 28, surface water temp of  Lake Ontario at the Rochester weather buoy was 38 degrees, a two degree rise in the past two weeks.  Further east in mid-lake northwest of Oswego, satellite imagery showed 39 degrees, that compared to the winter of 2014-15 when the lake was 80% ice covered. 

    Yes, we can still get some hellacious winter weather between now and early April.  But, with water temperatures this high and no snow pack in the Oswego watershed, no matter what the weather the rest of the winter, Fish Doctor anglers will be on the water in early April enjoying what should be some fantastic early spring charter fishing.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, New 2018 Stinger Colors

    Posted on February 27th, 2018 admin No comments

    Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon patterns from Stinger..., new for 2018!

    Take a look at some of the new Stinger patterns for 2018.   All but one of them are UV.  Many are hot and destined to take steelhead and cohos in clear water or kings and browns in turbid or deep water.  A couple patterns are takeoffs of the Frost Byte, a deadly black/green UV pattern that has proven itself for browns and kings aboard the Fish Doctor.


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Trolling Speed for Spring Brown Trout

    Posted on February 19th, 2018 admin No comments


    An early April catch of trophy brown trout, plus a few lakers.

    One of the questions I’m often asked this time of year as ice out on Lake Ontario approaches is what trolling speed is best for spring brown trout. 

    A “ball park” answer would be 1.7 – 2.5 mph, with a qualifier…, “That depends.”  Why the “depends”?  Well, because conditions vary so much every spring, including surface water temperature of Lake Ontario.  And Where I fish out of Oswego Harbor, the water temperature of the Oswego River.  Although the surface temp of Lake Ontario tends to be 34 to 38  degrees each spring pm  early April 1st, not so for the temp of the  Oswego River. 

    I have seen seen drastic swings in Oswego River temp from around 34 degrees on April 10, 2015, when chunks of harbor ice were still floating in Oswego Harbor, to April 10, 2012,when the river water temp was 54 degrees.  Spring brown trout trolling speed is generally dependent on water temperature, the colder the water, the slower the trolling speed and vica versa.  It’s not uncommon aboard the Fish Doctor to see trolling speeds from 1.7 to 2.1 mph when fishing frigid early spring lake water,  but I’ve caught browns later on in early May in mid50 water temps on tuned stickbaits zipping along in short bursts of speed at up to 4.2 mph. 

    At any given water temp, ptimum trolling speed  depends a lot on light and water conditions(especially turbidity), the lure being trolled, and the mood of the fish on any particular day.  Trolling speeds that catch fish in clear water, may not be effective in muddy or cloudy water. 

    Be aware of trolling speeds that catch fish.  If a rigger or planer board is firing consistently on the inside of a turn, browns may want a slower speed, and visa versa.  Aboard my charter boat, I monitor surface trolling speed with both my GPS and Fish Hawk.  

    After every fish is taken, I enter the speed in my mental diary, and note the location.  Straight-as-an-arrow trolling patterns at a constant speed can be a trap for trollers.  Variable, erratic speeds catch more browns, especially in calm seas.  “S” turns rather than a straight troll, catch more fish, especially when trolling planer boards.  If fish are really negative, you’ll see my throttle occasionally in neutral, then forward.  The “dying baitfish” action, as a spoon settles then swims upward, or a stickbait does the opposite, will often trigger strikes from otherwise unwilling spring browns.

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing…, Trolling Direction for Spring Brown Trout

    Posted on February 18th, 2018 admin No comments

    A 2-year old Lake Ontario brown trout about to be released.


    Trolling direction is far more important for spring browns than many realize.  Troll a stickbait or flutter spoon into a current sweeping around a rubble point, and the effect is far different than trolling the same lures down current.  Shoreline currents are one of the least understood but most vital factors influencing lure presentation for spring browns in shallow water along shore..  Because of the rotation of the earth, each of the Great Lakes is affected by a force called the Coriolus Effect, creating a river of current flowing counter clockwise along shore.  This shoreline current, moving up to1 mph, creates rips and eddies as it flows past river mouths, points, shoals, and other shoreline features..  Learning to read this “river” in the area you fish and troll it effectively will improve your catch of spring browns.   

     On any given day, I may catch browns trolling either upcurrent or downcurrent.  If I’m fishing an area in the lee of a point or harbor breakwall, current may not make much of a difference, but the current lines I often find in these areas are brown trout hot spots.  When I’m trolling a current swept stretch of shoreline, especially when browns are feeding on bottom oriented gobies, my catch rate is much better on an upcurrent troll.  If I find fish in these areas,  I’ll commonly make a shallow troll upcurrent, then a deeper pass downcurrent..

     Looking at this from a brown trout’s perspective, if you’re trolling upcurrent and your Fish Hawk Temptroll is reading 2.0 mph on the surface but your GPS is reading 1.0 mph, you know you’re trolling into a 1.0 mph shoreline current.  If you’re a bottom oriented brown trout, picture the difference as a lure creeps by upcurrent at a land speed of 1.0 mph, versus that same lure when trolled downcurrent at a land speed of 3.0 mph.  The colder the water, the more important I think trolling direction is.

     When you’ve caught hundreds of brown trout along the same stretch of shoreline over more than 30 years, you know exactly where to position your boat along submerged rock piles, slight dropoffs, and other underwater features to repeat success..  It’s no different than the steelhead angler wading his favorite stretch of river knowing every lie where he’s apt to find a fish.

     The direction of your troll in relation to the sun, especially when it’s low on the horizon, is also an important and often overlooked factor, when trolling for spring browns.  Lures trolled just below the surface in shallow, crystal clear water with an early morning sun off your stern are more visible to fish than the same lures trolled toward the sun.  As a once avid scuba diver,  I can tell you that it’s difficult to see as you swim into the sun, but when  swimming away from the glaring light visibility is much better.  Fish have the same visual perspective. 

     If I’m fishing a certain location, I’ll generally troll both directions, and may catch fish trolling both ways.  But, if I have my a choice when I’m just setting up, I’ll always make my first troll with the sun off the stern. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Improving Trophy Brown Trout Fishing

    Posted on February 17th, 2018 admin No comments


    Trophy Oswego Browns like this often show evidence of hook scars from catch and release.

    Want to improve trophy brown trout fishing in Lake Ontario?  Think about this.

    From 1989 to 2007 when I operated a drift boat business on Lake Ontario tribs, just about every drift boat guide and many of  the bank guides who fished these rivers killed every steelhead their customers caught and bragged about dead stringers of fish, including beat up, scrawny, lifeless, inedible dropback spawners.

     I remember a spring trip on the Salmon River one late April day when my clients had caught and released around a dozen dropback steelhead, knowing they weren’t good eating and should live another day.  As we passed another drift boat the guide purposely lifted a stringer of 6 lifeless dropbacks and splashed them into the river alongside his drift boat, for us to admire, he thought.  Wrong!

    It’s hard to say why, although a few years of slim pickings for steelheaders may have contributed, but that kill-and-hang-em mentality slowly evolved to a catch-and-release ethic which has improved the quality of steelheading in many Lake Ontario steelhead tribs.  One of the contributing factors…, recreational(for lack of a better word) anglers who had not been releasing steelhead followed the river guides’ lead.

    So what about Lake Ontario brown trout?  Well, all you had to do is listen to the VHF in past years, and you would have heard charter captains bragging about catching a limit of 6, 9, 12, or more breowns in an hour or two and returning to the dock 4 to 6 hours before there charter was supposed to end.  Every brown over 15” went in the “box” no matter how big

    Or,  watch the goings on at any marina today, including Oswego marina where I moor my charter boat and, especially in April, May,and early June if king salmon are scarce in the area.  You’ll see captains hanging limits of browns of every size on meat racks for bragging(?) photos of limits of fish.  Many times, depending on the fishing, all or most of these browns are 1 ½ to 4 lb. 2-year old fish with the potential to live several more years and grow to trophy size.   Killing a 2-lb., 2-year old browns that could live to be 4 years old and grow to 20 lbs. limits the trophy quality of the brown trout fishery, PERIOD!

    So, what if…?  What if charter captains voluntarily decided to set the example and rather than focusing on limit catches of brown trout, instead focused on catches of trophy browns,  If fishing was hot and heavy a small brown over the legal size limit was in good shape, release it. If fishing was tough and a customer wanted a fish to eat, then keep that small, legal brown.  If a small brown was hooked badly and would not survive, keep it.

     What if, releasing small, young browns drastically improved the numbers of trophy browns. What if  Lake Ontario developed the reputation not for quantity, but for quality, and attracted anglers, not just from the Northeast, but from the entire country and maybe even further away?

    It certainly wouldn’t hurt the charter business, and it might just produce the quality fishing that today’s catch-and-release steelhead ethic has produced in Lake Ontario tributaries.   

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Fishing Multiple Copper Lines

    Posted on February 9th, 2018 admin No comments


    Fish Doctor favorite..., Penn Fathom 60LW for 300' copper sections

    I was uneasy, sitting next to float plane pilot “Buss” Byrd, engine roaring, pontoons skimming the water as we attempted to take off from Terror Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  My fishery biologist partner and I had just completed a fisheries survey of the remote 25 acre pond, and it was time to head back to civilization.

    Circling over the pond on our arrival, I had looked down at the hour-glass shaped pond with it’s narrow, boggy, spruce lined channel separating the pond’s two sections and naively asked “Buss”, “Can we get in there?”.  Buss replied, “No problem getting in.  It’s getting out that’s the problem!” 

    As we addressed the “getting out” problem, the plane roaring toward a wall of spruces near the narrow neck of the pond, pontoons still skimming  the water, I blurted out, “Buss, can we make it through the narrows?” “Only if we have to”, “Buss” answered calmly, as the rickety old biplane jumped from the water, pontoons brushing the spruce tops.

    The answer is the same aboard the Fish Doctor when someone asks about using multiple copper lines.  I fish up to a 7-copper spread, but only when I have to and only with  oversized planer boards I call megaboards, for suspended in IN NO BOAT TRAFFIC!  If the bite is hot using my standard spread of riggers and wire Dipsy rods, there is neither the time nor  need for fishing multiple copper lines.    If the bite is slow, or suspended fish are scattered far and wide,  up to 7-copper lines go  in the water, six megaboards, and one down the chute. 

    It’s a lot of work, especially fishing solo without a mate, but multiple copper lines catch fish.  Mess up, and it’s a copper calamity!   Done properly, it often saves the day.

    The megaboards I use with up to 500’copper sections run nearly straight out boatside rather than  dropping back  like inline boards.  These  triple boards  are built with 3’ x 10” boards with Styrofoam flotation to keep them from diving in roughseas.  They are rigged on  200 feet of 300# test mono tether line on Great Lakes Planer System  masts and rod holders.   

    My choice for releases is the Scotty Power Grip Plus 1170.

    For copper reels, I prefer Penn’s  Fathom 40LW for 200’ copper sections with 35” Spectron backing, the Fathom 60LW  for 300’ sections with 50# Spectron backing, and the 345GTI for 400, 500, and 600’ sections with 50” backing. 

    Up to six 7’ copper  rods on the boards are stacked in the rod holders and a 9’ copper rod is used   down the chute All the copper rods  are custom built from E-glass blanks with oversized aluminum oxide guides and  tip tops. 

    Fifty feet of 30# Berkley Big Game leader on the copper is attached directly to flashers. An 8’, 20# leader added for spoons. 

    A typical midsummer, 7-copper spread aboard the “Fish Doctor” when steelhead and kings are suspended from 80 to 110 feet looks like this.  3 to 4 riggers set at 41- 62 degrees, with a combination of spoons and flashers.  Two to four wire dipsy rods fishing  the same temps.  Six copper lines, 400’, 450’, and 500’,  are set out 200’, 150’, and 100’ from the boat on each  tether line, with spoons on the outside four rods and 8” flashers on the shorter lines on the inside.  A 9’ Chute Rod with coded copper and a dodger/fly finish the spread.  

    Yes, there are definitely a lot of lines in the water at once and every once in a while when you contact a feeding cluster of kings all heck can break loose with multiple hookups.  And, yes, tangles can occur.  But, if you’re concerned about that, all I can say is NGNG(no guts no glory)!!!

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing…, Releasing Dropback Spawners

    Posted on February 4th, 2018 admin No comments


    A dropback brown about to be released

    I cannot remember who caught the brown trout, but I do remember it coming on a Michigan Stinger fished on  leadcore off  the board just outside Oswego Harbor. What I will never forget is that it was the longest brown trout that has  come aboard the Fish Doctor in 40 years of fishing Lake Ontario.  The monster brown was released to swim another day because she was a drop back spawner. 

    When the fish hit, the leadcore rod just bowed over slowly and the backing pulled  out of the Scotty release.  No run, no tugs, no head shaking, just a heavy , steady pull as it came to the boat, much like an early spring northern pike, lethargic.  When I finally saw it, I almost mistook it for a big steelhead, but not quite.  It had too much bulk.

    As the net slid under it, I could see what we had, a monster spawned out female brown trout in the 16-18 lb. class.  I measured it quickly…, well over 36  inches, then slid it back in the water in the landing net.   The big hen  had expended all  her energy spawning and had remained in a river, probably the Oswego, way too long into the winter, not feeding.  When we hooked her, she had not been in the lake long enough to chow down and put some “meat” on her bones.

    The angler who caught her could not believe it.  “Wow, that’s the biggest brown I’ve ever seen!”  “Yup!”, I  replied, “She’s a monster, but she’s  in tough shape, thin, with eroded fins after spawning and basically  inedible.”  With the fish still in water in my landing net off  the stern of the boat, recovering from the battle, I explained that the 3-4 pound 2-year old browns were far better eating,  and that the big brown in the net had the potential, if it was released, to weigh well into the mid-20 lb. class by mid-August.

    The angler took the high road, “Release her!”

    …and, in my opinion, to improve Lake Ontario’s brown trouit fishery,  that should be the fate of every thin, poor condition, beat-up, drop back spawning brown trout that is.  The condition of the flesh of these fish and their low oil content makes them close to inedible.  So, why keep them, unless…, a paying customer decides to do so.  Even then, many of charter customers would be more than happy to release the fish in favor of  a eating brown, if they knew it was tasteless and realized it’s potential contribution to the trophy brown trout fishery. 

    Why are most of these emaciated drop back spawners chucked in a cooler, and hung on a meat rack for photos.  Being as tactfully said as possible, let’s just say it’s seldom for the benefit of the angler who boated them.