Posted on March 3rd, 2015 No comments
If you want to book a Lake Ontario charter for the best chance to catch the biggest king salmon of the season, the last half of August or first week in September are tough to beat, PERIOD! Year in and year out more kings larger than 30 lbs. are caught during this time than at any other.
The reason…, king salmon feed voraciously on alewives all their lives, and as they turn three years old. The larger fish of this year class grow from about 20 lbs. in late winter to around 30 lbs. by the end of August, when they stop feeding actively, and start “thinking” about spawning. That’s the time when literally tens of thousands of prespawn kings move to Mexico Bay in the southeast corner of Lake Ontario, as they ready to run the Big Salmon River to spawn. The Big Salmon is stocked with 300,000 kings each year, more than any other tributary in Lake Ontario. It also produces more wild, naturally spawned kings than any other trib.
Mexico Bay, in recent years, has produced numerous king salmon over 40 lbs., some winning the prestigious now $25,000 grand prize in Lake Ontario’s Fall LOC Derby, held each year the last 18 days before Labor Day.
Once king salmon stop feeding in late summer, the males actually start to harden up and lose weight as they transform into slab-sided, hook-jawed spawning machines, ready to do battle on the spawning redds. What were once small, but sharp teeth, adequate for capturing alewives, now grow into grotesque “fangs”, some of which I’ve as long as a half inch long, and as sharp as honed nail points. Big, raunchy male king salmon, use their toothy maws to protect their spawning areas. I’ve videoed this unbelievable action in the shallows of tributaries in midOctober, as male king salmon attack other males, shaking them like a dog shakes a bone.
If you plan to book a Lake Ontario charter trip for big kings in late August, you must plan ahead, because most charters book up August early. If you haven’t booked an August trip well ahead, don’t be deterred. All charter captains have cancellation for various reasons, with unexpected openings, including on weekends, and most of us know other captains to whom we’ll refer you for possible openings.
After 36 years of charter fishing in August, I have found king salmon action is just as good in the afternoon as the morning, especially in the last half of August. Ditto the first half of Sept. Morning trips seem to be more popular with anglers, who believe in the old adage “the early bird gets the worm”. That’s not necessarily true this time of the season. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen more monster kings over 30 pounds come aboard my charter boat in the afternoon than in the morning, including a 38 lb. 14 oz. king that won the $20,000 grand prize in the 2006 Fall LOC Derby, and was boated at 3:30 PM. Don’t be hesitant to book an afternoon charter in August.
Speaking of big dollar kings, the Fall LOC Derby is held the last 18 days in August and September before Labor Day. With an entry fee of only $15/day, the big attraction is the $25,000 grand prize, but there are also cash prizes of $2500 for each of the salmon, brown trout, lake trout, and rainbow/steelhead divisions, with cash payouts down to 16th place in each division, plus a $100 prize for the largest fish entered each day in each species division. It’s even more exciting to hook a fish when you never know if a big dollar check might “be attached to it’s tail”!
Posted on February 26th, 2015 No comments
Steelhead, once you locate them, are the easiest salmonid in Lake Ontario to catch. Locating them, however, may not be so easy unless conditions are right. When surface temps are cool and steelhead are shallow, lfinding offshore temperature breaks where bait and steelhead concentrate are the key to a great steelhead charter fishing trip.
Steelies are generally, highly active, aggressive feeders. Unlike fussy, fickle brown trout, they are not very selective. On or near the surface, any lure works most of the time as long as it is fluorescent red or orange, or at least trimmed with red or orange. Why? It’s because the pigments in a steelheads eyes change with light conditions. Near the surface in bright light, a steelhead’s eyes have mainly those pigments that are receptive to red and orange. In deeper water, these pigments change, and blues and greens become most visible.
Location is the key to catching steelhead. Although they generally prefer water temperatures in the forties and fifties, it’s not unusual to see them feeding on the surface in midsummer, and I’ve seen them caught on the surface on my charter boat in water temps up to 72 degrees. In the Oswego area of Lake Ontario where I operate my charter business, they are usually right on the surface from iceout to early July. In the summer, they follow preferred temperatures into the depths and concentrate near schools of alewives in and around the thermocline, usually in midlake.
If you’re interested in booking a light tackle charter trip for steelhead, May and June are prime time. Most steelhead at that time are caught in the top 20 feet of water with many caught inches below the surface. Aerial acrobatics of steelhead hooked on light tackle are legendary and rival landlocked and Atlantic salmon.
However, spring fishing conditions are weather dependent. Steelhead fishing is probably most consistent in midsummer as these fish concentrate down deep. Most charter captains can locate steelhead this time of year, but usually have to fish well offshore to do it, sometimes as far as 12 to 15 miles offshore.
Steelhead are nomads and they love it best on the high seas, way out in the center of the lake. Radio telemetry studies conducted by the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation(DEC) show that steelhead spend the summer out in the center of 200-mile long, 50-mile wide LakeOntario. When they drop down out of spawning rivers in the spring, they move out into the lake and cruise the offshore waters, not returning to shallow water until fall, where they stage off river mouths until they run the rivers again to spawn.
If you’re used to trolling lake trout at 1.5 -2.0 mph, get ready to hang on when you’re out with me on my charter boat trolling for steelies on the surface. You will hardly ever see the speedometer drop below 3 mph and much of the time it’s reading 4.0-4.5 mph. If you’re used to trolling streamers for landlocked salmon, you’ll feel right at home fishing for “ironheads” in Lake Ontario.
Normally, the further west you fish in Lake Ontario, the better the steelhead fishing. The DEC creel census substantiates this, the data showing higher catch rates in the western half of the lake most seasons. However, steelhead fishing the past three years off Oswego has proven to be an exception to that rule. Because of ideal conditions in May and especially in the last half of June, 2014, steelhead fishing has been excellent off my home port.
Growing to over 20 lbs. in as little as 6 years, Mr. Steelhead is a truly magnificent trophy gamefish. If you have never hooked a steelhead on light tackle, rest assured that hooking one and landing it are two different matters!
Posted on February 26th, 2015 No comments
With 40 years of experience since 1974 charter fishing on the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, The Finger Lakes, and Lake George, and Lake Ontario since 1982, a question I’m commonly asked is how to book a charter for browns, lakers, steelhead, salmon, and muskies to assure the best chance of success.
The answer is to do your homework to find a skilled captain, plan ahead to book your trip at prime time for whatever you want to catch, and have realistic expectations. You’re also going to need a little luck, both with weather and with fish that can be very moody at times.
As for lake trout charters, I believe some of the best lake trout fishing on the North American continent today, except for a few waters in Canada, is in Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan. These waters produce more lakers from 5-20 lbs. in a single day than many waters in the northern U.S. and New England produce in an entire season.
Lake trout are a Lake Ontario success story. Abundant until the early 2000s, the population crashed after multiple stocking problems. After an intensified management program involving the stocking of multiple strains of lake trout, lakers are back
As with other species of Lake Ontario trout and salmon, the key to good fishing for lake trout is timing and location. If you’re looking for a spring trip for lakers, charter captains fishing out of ports all along Lake Ontario’s New York coastline from Henderson Harbor at the northeast end of the lake west to Wilson near the mouth of the Niagara River can hook you up with spring lakers.
In the east end of the lake, especially off Oswego Harbor where I moor my charter boat, lakers in April and early May are generally heavily concentrated flat on bottom in depths of 150 to 200 feet of water. When you find them there, you cannot keep your rods in the water.
For reasons known only to Mr. Lake Trout, in 2014, lakers that normally remain on bottom in deep water early in the season, moved in shallow just outside Oswego Harbor from midApril to midMay providing unusual good inshore light tackle lake trout fishing. A few lakers are always taken in shallow water near shore in April and May while trolling for browns, but nothing like the nonstop action in 2014. Later, in 2014, when lakers moved offshore, rather than going deep like they usually do, they stayed near the surface in midlake through the month of June until surface waters warmed. After that, unlike typical years, lakers in the Oswego area pretty much disappeared.
Further northeast , in July and August lake trout were wall to wall in the near Henderson Harbor, and that would have been the area to fish for them. Henderson Harbor is a legendary port for Lake Ontario lake trout.
If you decide to book a lake trout trip in western Lake Ontario, be aware that many of the captains there focus on salmon and steelhead and rarely fish lakers. If you want to fish lakers, try to select a captain who specializes in them.
Although most of the lakers you’ll catch will be less than 20 lbs., there is a good chance of catching a monster. My Fish Doctor anglers have boated lakers up to 25 lbs., and many larger than that have been landed, including the 39 lb. 8 oz. fish that once held the New York State record. A few years ago a 38+ lb. laker was boated in the Henderson area.
Posted on February 19th, 2015 No comments
Swedish angler, Patrik Svenson was all eyes as we headed out of Oswego Harbor on my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, on May 11, 2011. Even though he had years of experience fishing for trophy trout and landlocked salmon in large lakes like LakeVattern and LakeVanern in his Swedish homeland, he had never wet a line in any of the Great Lakes.
In the next two days, fishing ultralight tackle along the shoreline, east of Oswego, he saw the very best brown trout fishing LakeOntario has to offer. Although we didn’t boat any of the 20 to 30 lb. browns LakeOntario is famous for, action for 4 to 16 lb. browns was nonstop, as we boated and released more than 50 browns, plus a few rainbows in two mornings.
Patrik’s trip, was not unusual. Year after year, anglers catch Ontario browns averaging 4-12 lbs. with fish from 15 – 20 lbs. barely raising and eyebrow. Despite the publicity this fantastic fishery generates, it isn’t heavily fished. With lots of spring browns near shore close to protected ports like Oswego Harbor, it’s a perfect set up for do-it-yourself anglers who trailer their own boat.
In April and May, most of the best brown trout fishing is within a few hundred yards of shore. Along with browns anglers catch rainbows, cohos, steelhead, and lake trout.. You don’t need a big boat. Fishing out of Oswego, on rough days, you can troll inside the harbor breakwalls. Small seaworthy boats, properly equipped with required safty gear are perfect for inshore brown trout fishing.
Although downriggers and planer boards are your ace in the hole when trolling shallow water for hawky browns in Lake Ontario’s gin clear water, anglers will catch plenty of fish just flatlining right from the boat, if they’re rigged properly and fishing the right locations at the right time.
A key to catching spring browns especially in mid to late spring…, be on the water from the crack of daylight until the sun hits the water. On overcast days when the water is turbid from recent winds or rains, the shallow water brown trout bite lasts longer, sometimes all day. Find warm water pockets in early spring when the main lake is frigid, and you’ll find browns and the baitfish they feed on. When it comes to spring brown trout, though, the early bird gets the worm.
One thing you’ll notice when fishing LakeOntario is that the water is generally crystal clear with visibility as much as 35 feet at times. For this reason, you’ll catch more browns using light line no heavier than 10 lb.test. In gin clear water less than 30 feet deep, troll at least some lures 100 feet behind the boat.,
Spring browns in frigid water are not speed demons. Trolling speeds of 1.7 to 2.5 mph are ideal. Fine tune your trolling speed by watching spoon action boatside. If a spoon spins, you’re trolling too fast. If a spoon barely wobbles, you’re trolling too slowly. You’re looking for a quick wobble that makes the spoon dart around, but not spin,
Spring browns are very selective. The right lure can be the difference between success and failure. In clear water, fish lures with natural finishes. Spoons like the nickel/blue Alpena Diamond, hammered silver/blue Flutterdeveles, and hammered black/silver Michigan Stingers are excellent. Stickbaits like Rapalas, Thunersticks, and Smithwicks in 3” and 4 ½” sizes in black/silver, gray scale, silver/blue, and shad finishes are also effective. Use 4-8 lb. leader and attach it to the lure with a tiny crosslock snap.
Brown trout fishing the past few years has been good, and should continue to be in 2015. If you’re interested in fishing Lake Ontario in your own boat for big browns, this might just be the year to give Oswego Harbor a try.
Posted on February 19th, 2015 No comments
It was April 3rd, just a few days after the windblown ice flows along the eastern end of LakeOntario had cleared enough to ease my charter boat out of the harbor to troll for early spring brown trout. My college roommate and his two friends had booked an early season trip, and the bluebird weather was cooperating, with a midday high that would reach the low 50 degrees. Our mission, a cooler full of fine eating spring browns, so silvery that an unsuspecting angler might just confuse them with a landlocked salmon. As we trolled along near shore in 5 feet of gin clear water, I watched the surface temperature gauge intently…, 34 degrees, chilly, but typical for LakeOntario in early April.
Our mission that beautiful spring day was to find brown trout, but the first task at hand was to search for warm water, anything warmer than 34 degrees. We were trolling westward toward a shallow bay where Butterfly Creek flows into the lake, it’s outflow warmed by the sun as it passes through the shallows of a half mile long swamp. As we neared Butter Fly Bay, one of my favorite locations for early spring brown trout, I could see a slightly greenish cast to the lake’s surface, a tell tale sign of warmer water rich with plankton, the food of baitfish, the food of browns.
As we approached, the surface temperature gauge crept slowly upward, finally settling on 37.5 degrees, and our lures disappeared just below the surface in the turbid water . You guessed it…, “Fish on!” Two hundred yards further, the water temperature had dropped to 34 degrees again, and the rubble and boulders along the bottom were clearly visible. No fish.
We had rigged a spread of 6 flat lines, all with stickbaits, on each planer board, plus two shallow downrigger lines with spoons. Each time we passed thru the small area of warmer water, we hooked up with 1 or 2 feisty 2-4 lb. browns, and had trouble keeping all of our lines in the water. After an hour or so of trolling our hotspot, we hooked a couple of larger browns and before we battled them to the net on 9’ ultralight noodle rods and 8 lb. test line we found ourselves a quarter of a mile or so away. The extra time it took to troll back to “brown trout city” gave us time to rerig all eight lines with what the browns had told us were the hot lures that day, chartreuse J-7 Rapalas on the planer boards and hammered silver/lemon lime 3100 Flutterdevles on the riggers.
…the first rod fired, and the rods didn’t stop firing until we had hooked up seven
of the eight rods were bowed over, each with a brown trout attached. ________________________________________________________________________
What happened next, I have remembered ever since. As our lure spread entered the warm greenish water where we knew the browns were stacked up, the first rod fired, and the rods didn’t quit firing until seven of the eight rods were bowed over, each with a nice brown attached. Better yet, my crew of three anglers kept me busy with the landing net until they had boated all seven of the brown trout, still a Fish Doctor boat record for spring browns.
The moral of this story is simple. Locating early spring brown trout just after ice out on LakeOntario and any other lake is all about water temperature. Back in the 1980’s, researchers tagged 36 LakeOntario brown trout with temperature sensitive tags and followed them for two years to track their movements and study their water temperature preference. What they found was when brown trout had a choice, they preferred water temperatures between 47 and 65 degrees with no particular optimum temperature preference. When the water was colder than 47 degrees, browns were in the warmest water they could find.
My experience fishing spring browns in LakeOntario since 1978 has convinced me of that. When the main lake water temperature is less than 47 degrees I find browns around warm water discharges from power plants and the outflow of sun warmed rivers and streams. Research studies also show trout and salmon can detect a change in temperature of as little as a half a degree centigrade, so only a slight increase in water temperature is important in locating cold water browns.
As a fishery biologist, I remember an old rule of thumb when crews were stocking trout. It takes a trout 24 hours to completely adjust physiologically for every degree difference between the temperature of the stocking truck tank and the water in which the fish are stocked. This is a good point to keep on your back burner, because once you find warm water with a concentration of bait and brown trout, those fish will generally stay there until conditions change.
Posted on February 10th, 2015 No comments
Whether it’s precisely casting a dry fly to a rising brown trout in a crystal clear stream or centering a rocketing grouse in a pattern of 6’s as it thunders away thru a jungle of aspens, timing is everything. So too, is timing the secret to a successful king salmon charter fishing trip on Lake Ontario.
Misconceptions about the best time to fish for kings in eastern Lake Ontario plague charter fishermen and result in disappointing charter trips. Many years ago, back in the late 70’s when I first started fishing eastern Lake Ontario, king salmon were few in number and only available to boat fishermen when adult spawners moved into the southeast corner of Lake Ontario in August and September to stage in Mexico Bay off the mouth of the Salmon River where the first king salmon stockings were made in 1971. Ever since, the notion persists that the best king salmon fishing is still in August and September. Each year I even receive calls from anglers asking to book lake salmon fishing charters in October, long after most adult kings have entered spawning streams.
The fact is, in the Oswego area of Lake Ontario king salmon are available through most of the lake charter fishing season from early May to late September, and some years like 2012 and 2014, in April depending on conditions. Some of the best, most consistent king salmon fishing occurs long before August in some of the nicest weather of the lake fishing season, when mint silver kings are aggressively feeding, and much better eating than when they start coloring up in late August.
In May, 2004, in 31 charter fishing trips, Fish Doctor anglers boated 201 adult kings. In, 2010, the hottest salmon fishing of the season was from June 14 to August 13. When James Ciuffetelli and his son Jimmy fished on the mornings of June 21, 22, 23 and hammered the king salmon and steelhead three days in a row, there were almost no other boats in sight just minutes outside Oswego Harbor. What a treat to have the entire eastern end of Lake Ontario almost to ourselves, but , what a shame so many anglers weren’t aware of the great June fishing. In, 2012, April king salmon fishing just outside Oswego Harbor was the finest I’ve seen in 35 years, followed by exceptional May and June fishing. In 2015, late April, early May, and the first half of June produced the best king salmon fishing of the season.
In April, May, and some years as late as midJune, if river flows are high, the warm, nutrient laden water of the Oswego River, is like a magnet to baitfish and the trout and salmon which feed on them. King and coho salmon often stack up in the plume from the Oswego River where it extends out into the lake in up to 70 to 120 feet of water, providing fast spring salmon fishing.
The peak alewife spawn, when the bulk of the adult Lake Ontario alewives are inshore in shallow water, occurs each year around midJune. When this happens, adult kings, steelhead, and brown trout along with an occasional Atlantic salmon follow the baitfish as close inshore as water temperatures will allow. When that happens these actively feeding salmonids are an easy target for anglers along the outside edge of the baitfish concentrations. Alewives slowly move back out into deeper water after spawning, and the king salmon follow them and scatter out into the deeper water of the broad lake in July and August.
Important to charter fishermen, weather conditions tend to be much more stable in spring and midsummer than late August and September, when the big blows across the length of the 200 mile long lake keep many anglers off the water.
After midAugust, the quality of king salmon fishing in the lake depends mostly on the weather. If it’s windy and rough, you cannot safely or comfortably fish the lake. If it’s rainy with lots of runoff, flow rises in rivers like the Salmon and Oswego, attracting spawning late summer kings. I’ve seen major king salmon runs in the Salmon River as early as August 24.
Another factor to consider is boat fishing pressure in late August and September when kings stage in small areas off the mouth of the Salmon River and in and around OswegoHarbor, concentrating fishing boats. Yes, there are lots of kings in that situation, but lots of boats also, definitely not a place for the weak of heart!
If you’re thinking about booking Lake Ontario charter fishing trip for salmon, you might just want to consider fishing a little earlier in the season, and avoid the stampede of salmon anglers and boats in late August and September.
Posted on February 9th, 2015 No comments
June 10, 1992, was a big brown trout day, overcast, windy, and a steady drizzle, with hordes of alewives spawning along New York’s Lake Ontario coastline. As my charter crew from PA trolled along in 30 feet of water east of Oswego, we weren’t hammering browns by any means, but the fish we had been catching were good ones, up to 12 lbs. The only monster we had hooked had crushed a 4 ½” Rebel stickbait and wedged it in it’s jaws with enough leverage to open the split ring.
That was disappointing to Bob Heplar, who had lost the fish. A gracious host, he had watched his guests on past charter trips boat browns up to 16 lbs., but had never landed the brown over 10 lbs. that he wanted to hang on the wall of his Pennsylvania hotel. His fishing buddies decided he deserved another turn at the rods.
There were still a few long faces aboard after losing the big fish when another brown inhaled a Fastrac Rebel in a brown trout finish and swam steadily away. As the 10 lb. test mono peeled from the spool of the Penn International reel, I knew we were tangling with a monster. Forty-five minutes later, after pulling all the lines, I backed down on the giant brown in 3-foot seas, both engines roaring. When the fish showed itself for the first time straight down off the stern, it took my breath away!
Readying the net, I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping the 9’ ultralight noodle rod and 8 lb. test leader would hold together for just a few more seconds. The thrashing brown came aboard with a chorus of gasps, oooohs, and ahhhs. Later, on a certified scale, it weighed 25 lbs. 4 oz. Bob Heplar had landed the largest brown ever boated on my charter boat.
The secret to catching that fish was timing. Yes, timing, booking a charter fishing trip for browns in the first half of June. Fact…, from June 1 to June15, there have been more monster Lake Onario browns caught over 20 lbs., including the current state record 33 lb. 2 oz. brown, boated on June 10, 1997, than any other time of the year. Sure, one of my Fish Doctor customers boated a 19 lb. 4 oz. brown in April, and another boated a 21 lb . 3 oz. brown in late June, but the records show that early June is unquestionably your best bet if you want to book a Lake Ontario charter fishing trip for a real wall hanger brown.
The reason is simple, food! Really big browns need lots of baitfish to maintain all that body weight, and alewives are their food of choice. Not coincidentally, the peak alewife spawn occurs around June 15. When this nutritious baitfish concentrates in huge numbers in the shallows along New York State’s Lake Ontario coast line, big browns follow inshore. Most of the time these heavy bellied predators are gorged with alewives and could care less about hitting a bait or lure. Catch them when they are actively feeding, though, and hang on!
If you’re thinking about booking a charter fishing trip for a monster brown trip, book a trip with a charter that fishes the area from Oswego Harbor east to Nine Mile Point, where anglers caught all three of the most recent record browns, 30 lb. 6 oz., 30 lbs. 9 oz., and 33 lbs. 2 oz. Look for a captain who specializes in browns.
Posted on February 5th, 2015 No comments
Yessss!!! The Feb. 4, 2015, Weather Channel forecast is for 18-24 inches of snow in the next few days for central New York. That may not be what northerners want to hear, but it’s great news for fishermen who fish Lake Ontario out of Oswego Harbor, where the Oswego River enters the lake. Nothing, absolutely nothing produces better spring brown trout and salmon fishing in the Oswego area than megasnow in the Oswego River drainage basin in Central NY.
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 5100 sq. mile watershed is huge, 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 OswegoRiver, 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.
Northern New York has had plenty of cold so far this winter, but by Feb. 3 only(only?) 57.2 inches of snow had fallen in Syracuse compared to 68 inches at this time in the winter of 2013-14. With another 2 feet or so of snow on the way in the next few days, cold weather predicted for weeks, and two more months of snowfall ahead of us, chances are good that central NY will see plenty plenty more snow.
In the spring of 2014, following a bitter cold, snowy winter in central New York, fishing for browns, lakers, and king salmon just outside Oswego Harbor could not have been better. Fishermen are hoping this winter’s weather might just produce more of the same in the spring of 2015.
If the cold, snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York continues, we will be looking at plenty of snow pack in the Oswego River basin, high spring runoff, and some super brown trout fishing out of Oswego Harbor this spring.
Spring fishing out of Oswego Harbor is all about the Oswego River, the second largest tributary after the Niagara flowing into Lake Ontario. The higher and warmer the spring flow, the more colored the water, and the more attractive it is to baitfish, alewives, and the predators that feed on them.
Since the year, 2000, the two winters with the highest Syracuse snowfall were 2000-01 with 191.9” and 2003-04 with 181.3”. If the cold, snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York continues, we will be looking at plenty of snow pack in the Oswego River drainage basin, high spring runoff, and some super brown trout fishing out of Oswego Harbor this spring.
Yes, folks in Central New York are having a tough winter and are sure to be tired of shoveling and plowing snow. We’re hearing lots of groaning, but we’re also hearing, “Snow, baby, snow!”, not only by skiers and snowmobilers, but by LakeOntario anglers who know that a heavier than normal snow pack means better than normal spring fishing!
Posted on February 2nd, 2015 No comments
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 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 26 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.
Planning and preparation are crucial in booking a charter trip anywhere.
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 LakeOntario 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 ng trip.
Posted on January 23rd, 2015 No comments
So, you’ve heard about the unbelievable fishing in LakeOntario 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 – Looking for early season cohos? Fish the any of the ports from Oswego to the Niagara River with the west lake being best. In May and June the best coho fishing is in the west lake. If you’re looking for spring king salmon, wait until at the first of May and fish either out of Oswego or one of the ports on the western end of Lake Ontario off the Niagara River out of the ports of Wilson and Olcott where salmon concentrate in and around the plume of the massive Niagara River. Because of heavy spring flows of sun warmed water from the Oswego River, the port of Oswego usually produces king salmon fishing in May, and my customers have put as many as 201 May kings in the cooler in 31 trips there, but spring salmon fishing out of Owego is not as consistent as in the western end of the lake.
The big difference among ports by August…, tens of thousands of king
and coho salmon beginning to stage in the east end of the lake
For spring brown trout, three of the very best LakeOntario ports are Oswego, Fair Haven, and Sodus, where charter captains target LakeOntario’s world class “football” browns. Point Breeze, Rochester, and Henderson Harbor and ports further west also produce spring browns.
Spring Transition – By June, king salmon are scattered lakewide, but you’ll find most of the coho salmon action in the western end of the lake from Point Breeze to Wilson. King salmon fishing was hot and heavy just outside Oswego harbor in 2012 and again in 2014. Offshore steelhead fishing starts to heat up in June, as surface temperatures warm with some of the best fishing from Sodus west to Olcott. In the past three years, though, including late June, 2014, steelhead fishing was fantastic out of Oswego. June also produces some of the best fishing of the season for brown trout, especially big browns, out of ports in the eastern half of the lake.
Midsummer – In July and August, every Lake Ontario port along New York’s 360 mile long coastline produces good salmon and trout fishing, but the focus in the west end of the lake is on salmon and steelhead, while east lake anglers are targeting salmon and brown trout. The big difference among ports by 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 ports like the Salmon River, Mexico Point, and Oswego Harbor. Lake trout are available lakewide, but it’s tough to beat the Henderson Harbor area in the northeastern corner of the lake, where a 38 lb. laker was boated in 2010.
Early Autumn – In September, stocked and wild salmon are returning to their rearing streams, and all New York’s LakeOntario 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.