• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon…, The Oswego Rules!

    Posted on May 11th, 2018 admin No comments

    One of many browns, plus rainbows and salmon boated in and around Oswego Harvbor on 5/11/18.

    There are a lot of ports along New York State’s Lake Ontario shoreline where trout and salmon are caught in the spring, but it’s tough to beat fishing out of the port of Oswego.

    Second largest tributary emptying into the lake, the Oswego River and it’s warm, rich plume that impacts several miles of the lake’s shoreline is a magnet to baitfish, alewives, and, following, them, predators…, trout and salmon.

    Last time the Fish Doctor was out deep in 150 fow, offshore surface temp was 38.5 degrees.  Inshore, surface temp in Oswego Harbor was in the mid50s.  Today, in 60 fow surface temp was 40 degrees and harbor temp was 60 degrees.  Browns and salmon we boated were stuffed with alewives.

    In a tough NE wind, it was too bumpy to fish the main lake, so every boat out of Oswego fished in and around the harbor, boating browns, rainbows, Atlantics and a few kings.

    Elsewhere on the south shore of the lake from the Niagara River to the Salmon River it was either impossible to troll or very, very lumpy.

    No wonder Fish Doctor anglers say, “The Oswego Rules”!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Oswego Spring King Salmon Charters

    Posted on May 5th, 2018 admin No comments

    My "Fishin No Bitchin" charter with part of a limit catch of browns and kings on May 4.

    If you’re thinking about acharter  trip out of Oswego Harbor for king salmon, do not delay!  The spring king salmon fishing right now in shallow water is the best I’ve seen since 2012.  Wow, those kings are fun on light tackle down to 6′ custom built Fish Doctor Shortsticks and Altum 12 reels spooled with 10 lb. test Berkley/trilene line.

    It takes a silk smooth drag and plenty of 10# line capacity to tame a high octane spring king in 40 to 50 degree water, and the Altum 12s have proven them selves.  It also takes a light hand on the rod and my ”Fishin No Bitchin” fishing team had just that on May 3 and 4.

    I’m not a big fan of “meat” shots, but this crew deserved to show off their stuff!

     

     

     

     

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  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Catching Early Spring Kings

    Posted on April 29th, 2018 admin No comments

    April 23, 2018..., first king of the season aboard the Fish Doctor

    On the morning of April 23, fishing with a crew willing to hunt for king salmon, the first adult chromer of the 2018 season  came aboard the Fish Doctor.  More early spring kings will follow because we fish for them.  Yes, a few boats catch an occasional early spring king while targeting other species, mostly browns this time of year.  But, if you want to catch any number of kings you have to fish for them.

    Although the mother lode may not arrive for a while, there are always some kings around in late April.  Until kings begin to stage and forget about feeding in favor of spawning, kings are looking for only two thing, to be comfortable in suitable temperagture and to keep their bellies full.

    After spending the winter in 39.7 degree water in the midlake depths chowing down on alewives, kings are comfortable anywhere in Lake Ontario right now from the shallows to midlake, surface to bottom.  Yes, a few kings are caught in shallow water near shore, but if you’re looking for numbers, look deeper.  It’s just a behavior thing.

    Feeding kings need food, in the case of Lake Ontario, alewives.  Find alewives and you’ll find kings, whether it’s April or July.  Early spring kings are easy to catch when you find them.  The best place to find them…, off the mouths of the two largest tributaries in Lake Ontario, the Niagara and the Oswego Rivers, PERIOD!

    The same techniques that catch kings later in the season catch them now, as long as you fish the temp where they’re comfortable.  Fish for them on the surface right now with the right stickbaits spoons and they will hit them.  Dodgers and flies are another early spring Fish Doctor favorite.

    The bottom line…, you have to fish for them to catch them.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, April, 2018 Oswego Brown Trout

    Posted on April 15th, 2018 admin No comments

    The Fish Doctor, moored at dock #21, Oswego Marina.

    If you’ve got a hankering to do some spring brown trout fishing, now is the time and Oswego is the place.

    Water temperature in Oswego Harbor was near 40 degrees the past few days and there are plenty of browns in the harbor and to the east of it.  There are also some lakers stacked up on bottom in 120 fow and deeper.  Along with the browns in shallow water near shore, occasional domestic rainbows are showing up.  Haven’t seen or heard of any spring cohos being caught, but there have to be a few around.

    Good numbers of 2-year olds are being reported, along with 3-year old and older fish.   Check out the attached pic of one of the browns boated on the Fish Doctor on April 13.

    The browns, even in early spring, can be a bit selective.  It didn’t take long a few days ago that the browns told us they wanted Stingers and 3″ stickbaits in black/silver/orange.  Fussy buggars!

    Weather has been an issue for sure, keeping us off the lake on April 14, 15, and, from the looks, well into the coming week.  When things finally settle down, spring fishing should be good.

    See you on the water!

  • Lake Ontario trout and Salmmon Fishing…, Targeting Shallow Water Lake Trout

    Posted on April 10th, 2018 admin No comments

    This jumbo laker was boated on April 9, 2018, in Sturgeon Bay(Lake Michigan) while trolling shallow water for browns.

    It’s that time of year when you’ll see many Lake Ontario anglers on the water trolling for brown trout in shallow water.  Along with the browns, they will catch occasional cohos, domestic rainbows, Atlantics, and lake trout.  Most of these other trout and salmon species are caught incidental to browns, without targeting them.  However, while fishing shallow, inshore water, anglers can target these other species, including lake trout.

    Lakers behave differently than browns and like a different trolling presentation.  When folks aboard my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, are interested in catching a few shallow water lakers along with browns, we target them with one or two lines.  To do this, I run at least one rigger tight to bottom with a larger spoon than I would typically fish for browns.  That spoon also has a bit more color in it, be it paint or tape, than a spoon I would select for brown trout.

    Ditto, for targeting lakers with planer board lines…, a larger, deeper diving plug will catch more lakers for you.  Storm’s Thin Fin is one of my favorites for what my Maine customers call togue.

     

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon fishing…, Lake Ontario Charters, When and Where

    Posted on April 5th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A successful early June Lake Ontario trout and salmon fishing charter

    So, you’ve heard about the unbelievable fishing in Lake Ontario for king salmon up to well over 30 lbs., plus brown trout, steelhead, and lake trout all reaching weights of over 20 lbs.  You’ve decided you’re going to book a charter on this 200 mile long by 50 mile wide inland ocean in 2015.

    Whoa!!!  Stop right there.  Don’t make one more move until you’ve considered two things…, when, and where.  Both are extremely critical to the success of your charter fishing trip.  There are lots of uncontrollable variables like weather and the mood of trout and salmon on any given day that will affect your success or failure.  But, when and where you fish are factors you can control.  Wise decisions about each are the difference between time and money wasted or memories of an awesome fishing trip that will last forever. 

    Lake Ontario is about 200 miles long, it’s southern shoreline winding 326 miles along the northern edge of New York State.  Fishing along the coastline varies, with some areas producing better fishing for certain trout and salmon species at different times of the season. 

    To keep things simple, let’s break the lake fishing season, which generally runs from April 1 to Sept. 30 into four categories, early spring(April/May), spring transition(June), midsummer(July and August), and early autumn(September).  Now let’ take a look at the hottest fishing areas along New York’s coastline during these periods.

    Early Spring – The minute anglers get on the water in late March and early April they’re catching trout and salmon, mostly cohos.  Although every port along NYS’s coastline produces cohos in early spring, the west lake is the best bet for “silvers” in May and Jun.   If you’re looking for spring king salmon, wait until after  the first of May and fish from Oswego west.  Because of the  heavy spring flows of sun warmed water from the Oswego River, the port of Oswego usually  produces king salmon fishing in May when  Fish Doctor anglers have put as many as 201 May kings in the cooler in 31 trips .  However, spring  salmon fishing out of Owego is not as consistent as in the western end of the lake. 

    For spring brown trout, three of the very best Lake Ontario ports are Oswego, Fair Haven, and Sodus, where charter  captains target Lake Ontario’s world class “football” browns. 

    Spring Transition – By June, king salmon are scattered lakewide fishing in out of the port of Oswego is  revving up as kings follow spawning alewives inshore.  Offshore steelhead fishing starts to heat up in June, as nearshore surface temperature warms.  Some years, like 2014, when conditions are right, steelhead fishing in late spring is fantastic.   June also produces some of the best fishing of the season for tropy brown trout,  east of Oswego Harbor where two out of the three recent 30+ lb. New York State record browns were boated.

     

    Midsummer –   In July and August, every Lake Ontario port  along New York’s 360 mile long coastline, including Oswego,  produces good salmon and trout fishing.  The big difference among ports by early August…, tens of thousands of king and coho salmon beginning to stage in the southeast corner of the lake, as they prepare to spawn in the Salmon River, the Lake Ontario tributary with the heaviest salmon stocking and the greatest production of wild king salmon.  This is when anglers flock to the port of Oswego. 

    Early Autumn – In late August and September, stocked and wild salmon are returning to their rearing streams, and all New York’s Lake Ontario ports produce salmon fishing.  Again, though, the largest  concentration by far, of king and coho salmon is in Mexico Bay in the southeast corner of the lake, making ports like Mexico Point and the Salmon River early autumn hotspots.

    That’s why you’ll  find the Fish Doctor moored in the Lower Little Salmon River just upstream from Mexico Point,  from midAugust through the end of September, at the front door to Mexico Bay, minutes away from , more staging adult king and coho salmon than anywhere else in Lake Ontario.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Same Old, Same Old

    Posted on March 30th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    One of many browns that fell for a new spring trolling technique in 2017.

    “If you always do what you always did, you will always catch what you always caught.” That is a quote from Chip Porter,  one of the best fishermen on the upper Great Lakes.   I heard it many times when he and I were touring the states of Michigan and Wisconsin a few years back giving seminars for Chips’s Salmon Institute.

    The point Chip was making was don’t get in a rut when you’re fishing for many reasons.  Fishing conditions can change and a consistently successful angler needs to change with them.  You may be catching fish doing the same old, same old, but changing your tactics might just catch you more and bigger fish or help you cash in on another species you haven’t been targeting.   Being versatile and experimenting with new techniques pays off sooner or later.

    It did for me when I first started guiding back in the early 1970s.  When downriggers first became available commercially,  I started doing something I had never done.  I left my old reliable copper  and leadcore rigs at the dock and began experimenting with riggers in 28,00 acre Lake George in northeastern New York  for lake trout and  rainbows. 

    There was a learning curve involved in fishing this new fangled gear, but it didn’t take long to figure things out.  Trolling medium size Mooselooks at moderate speed near bottom was all it took to catch lakers.  The only problem was most of these lakers were 5 lbs. or less and I knew as a fishery  biologist working on the lake that much larger lakers were there.

    Although I could have fished the same old way with Mooselooks and continued to catch small lakers on spoons at a moderate trolling speed, I wasn’t satisfied and continued to experiment with different downrigger techniques.  Surprise, surprise!  Yes, there were bigger, lazier, slow moving lakers there, and they could not resist an F-7 Flatfish wobbling along slowly,  inches off bottom, 4 feet behind an 8-inch chrome dodger attached to the tail of a fish-shaped downrigger weight.

    At the slow speed I was trolling for lakers, the same, small, 4-blade cowbell I used for rainbows on leadcore line caught suspended ‘bows just as well on light tackle when the cowbell was attached directly to a downrigger weight and fished with the same fluorescent red F-4 Flatfish trailing 18 inches behind the tail spinner of the cowbell at a water temperature of 61 degrees. 

    More recently, during the 2017 season, avoiding the same old, same old paid off for me big time.  Every season I experiment with a new trolling technique that I’ve never heard of or read about to  to augment my arsenal of old reliables.  Some of the new trials work out and some don’t.  In 2017, the new technique I tested for  spring browns didn’t just work out, it turned out to be one of the deadliest, most efficient spring brown trout trolling techniques I’ve ever fished.  It pays to experiment, and I’ll be trying another new technique for kings this season.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Take an Ol’-timer Fishing

    Posted on March 27th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Ol'-timer Bob Lorenzen, his nephew Dave, Dave's wife Jodi, and Fred with an early May quad on kings.

     I’ve always been a proponent of, “Take a kid fishing!”  Kids are the future of  fishing and any of us who love the sport should do whatever we can to encourage kids to participate.  On my charter boat, there is no charge for kids.  

    But what about the old-timers, the people who got us here,  the folks who took the time out of their lives to share a special experience with us when we were youngsters and teach us how to be successful anglers? Some of my most memorable charter trips have been with these elders, and I cherish the time I spend with them aboard the Fish Doctor, knowing the trip may be their last.

     So it was when old-timer  Bob Lorenzen slowly made his way with the help of a cane down the dock toward my charter boat one spring morning.  His nephew Dave, with a watchful eye, was close behind.  This was the 25th year Bob, now 81 years young,  had fished with me.  When Dave was in his early teens, Bob brought him along on a charter fishing trip with me.  On that trip, I watched  Dave land his first king salmon, knees shaking, full of excitement.  It was a fishing trip Dave never forgot, and later in his life, a favor he would never forget to repay.

     As Bob approached my charter boat, I welcomed him in the early morning darkness.  Never, ever late for the 5:00 AM dock departure, Bob was raring to go.  The only help he needed boarding was someone to hold his cane …, independent old cuss.  He seemed as excited on this trip as he was on his first.  I glanced behind Bob, and there was Dave, not too obvious, but close at hand, just in case.  Dave’s wife Jodi, and Bob’s fishing buddy, Fred rounded out the group.  Fred, a spry 77 years, is pretty much just a youngster in Bob’s eyes.

     It was early September, and the king salmon were bunched up right at the mouth of Oswego Harbor.  As usual, just off the Oswego lighthouse, when dawn broke over Lake Ontario’s east shore salmon action was wild, with almost every boat in the area hooked up to salmon after salmon.  This was what Bob lived for, and always the last in the group to take his turn on a rod, he waited patiently for the fourth salmon, his fish, to hit. There is a reason we call Bob “Hawk”, he never misses seeing a hit before anyone else, never taking his eyes off the rod tips.

    Sure enough, even though I wondered if Bob could safely navigate the slippery cockpit deck to get to the rod, when the next king hit, he was there, his cane forgotten.  With experience from many years on the water, and muscles not as young as they used to be, Bob fought the unseen king salmon in a give and take battle.  Minutes passed and we still hadn’t seen the big king. I started wondering if we might have accidentally foul hooked the fish.  Finally the monster surfaced in the wash of the inboard, and I could see the trebles of the glow green #5 J-plug buried deep in it’s mouth.  A quick swipe of my oversized landing net and the fish was Bob’s, a 36 lb. hen on my Sampson digital scale.  It was Bob’s biggest ever Lake Ontario king salmon, and a real thrill. 

     As my eyes met Dave’s, I could see the whole story…, a little payback for an old-timer who took the time to bring him along fishing years ago. Where are these ol’ timers  like Bob Lorenzen now?  In their later years they are often unable to handle their own boat, or maybe even unable to drive to a fishing spot? Take a look around my friends.   It’s great to think about taking a kid fishing, but just don’t forget the old- timers.

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing Charters…, Fussy Spring Brown Trout

    Posted on March 23rd, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Some butt kickin' Flutterdevles for spring browns, including the Blue Lazer, second from left.

    If any species of fish on earth is more selective than a spring brown trout in shallow,  crystal clear Great Lakes water, I don’t know what it is.  On every spring brown trout charter out of Oswego Harbor Mr. Brown Trout reinforces that.  No other Lake Ontario salmonid is fussier or more fickle. 

    One such experience occurred during a spring charter trip one morning off Four Mile Point east of Oswego Harbor.  The first couple hours the early morning bite was hot and heavy and my charter was having a ball.   Everything we did was right, with brown after brown coming to the net until the rippled lake surface went flat calm.  Browns were actively feeding on the surface, but we couldn’t get a hit.

     

    I tried a repertoire of favorite lures, lighter leaders, longer setbacks, erratic trolling speed, and did everything else in my spring brown trout book, but nothing.  Then, on my lure hanger snapped to the transom, I noticed a hammered silver Eppinger Flutterdevle, freshly doctored with a strip of blue sparkle laser tape a friend had sent me two weeks before.  It hadn’t been in the water since I taped it up.  With nothing else firing, and browns rolling on the surface all around us,  in desperation it was worth a try. 

     With the spoon 100 feet back behind the boat, I started to attach the line to a planer board release and a 4 lb. brown ripped it from my hand.  The next try with the same spoon was an exact repeat except this brown weighed 10 pounds.  We couldn’t keep that spoon in the water, and the other nine lures we were trolling weren’t getting a touch. 

     That incident proved to me  and some happy charter custommers just how selective a Great Lakes brown can be.

     

     

     

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Charters…, Crazy Spring Cohos

    Posted on March 17th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Spring cohos like red!

    We watched my 16” flat screen in amazement as not one, but four cohos darted around behind the red #00 dodger and green hummer fly trailing 5’ behind my underwater camera on the center rigger set 15’ below the surface. 

     As all four fish swirled around in full view of the camera, a silvery  torpedo shot forward and nailed the fly, pulling the line from the rigger release.  The 7’ Fish Doctor Shortstick sprang upward and a quick hand snatched the ultralight rod from the rod holder.  Before the excited angler could say, “Fish on!”, the mint silver coho was already airborne.

     There are lots of brown trout caught in the  spring in the Oswego area of Lake Ontario, but not many cohos, unless you’re fishing specifically for them.  Sure, you’ll catch an occasional coho while fishing for browns, but the best locations and techniques for each differ.

     For those in the know who target spring cohos, they are a great bonus, especially when conditions aren’t right for browns.   Nothing compares to their wild antics.  Absolutely fearless of boats, I’ve watched them hit a spoon less than 6’ behind a rigger one foot below the surface.  The wilder and noisier the lure action and the gaudier the color,  the more cohos like it.  Especially if it is fluorescent red!   When you find a “wolf pack” of marauding spring cohos, prepare for battle.  It’s  not unusual for  every rod in the water to fire!

     Cohos are hyper fish.  Everything they do is fast including the rate at which they grow.  Ontario’s spring cohos are 2-year old fish weighing 1-5 lbs.  By late August of the same year, when they stage in Mexico Bay before returning to the hatchery in the headwaters of the Big Salmon River, they weigh 6-12 lbs. and more.   After spawning, adult cohos die as do all Pacific salmon. 

     One of the favorite rigs for spring cohos is a fluorescent red #00 dodger trailed 12” – 14” back by a small 1” – 2 ½” green mylar fly.   Dodgers are effective trolled shallow on downriggers and Dipsy Divers,  but #00 dodgers and coho flies really shine fished behind inline planer boards. 

     To rig dodgers and flies behind inline planers, use 6’ of 20# test leader ahead of the dodger.  Between the leader and the main line snap in a 5/8 to 7/8 ounce bead chain keel sinker.  This weight helps keep the dodger from planing to the surface.  Set the dodger/fly back 25 to70 feet behind the inline board, and let the board out to the side of the boat the desired distance.  Multiple inline planers can be used off each side of the boat.  Jointed stickbaits and spoons in hot colors catch cohos, too.

    Riggers are normally set in the top 10 feet of water when surface temperatures are cold in late March, and April, then set deeper as temperatures warm and cohos move offshore.  Much like landlocked salmon, cohos are attracted to the boat, and downrigger setbacks of  6 to 20 feet are common.  My side riggers are set 3 to 5 feet down and 10 to 12 feet back with the dodger fly clearly visible from the boat as it wobbles back and forth.  Diving planers are set on 15 to 25 feet of line.  A trolling speed of 2.0 to 3.0 mph is about right depending on water temperature. 

    When a coho hits close to the boat, you usually see the fish in the air before you see the rod go!