• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Copper Leader Length

    Posted on January 17th, 2018 admin No comments


    A May king salmon caught on copper

    Since, 2004, when I wrote the first Great Lakes Angler article on fishing copper in the Great Lakes this  technique has become widespread from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario.   Age old, copper line has been used for years by lake trout trollers to “jerk line” lakers off  the bottom in Adirondack lakes like Lake George and the Finger Lakes in central New York.  Today’s Great Lakes copper line trolling techniques are  a mix of the old and the new.  The basics are the same, but the application is different. 

    Smiling as I write this, I remember a 2005 VHF radio conversation between two Lake Ontario captains, brothers, who fish the lake.  The VHF crackled as the first brother reported he had just caught a nice adult king on 500’ of copper.  The reply from his brother, “I’ll give up fishing if the day ever comes when I have to drag around 500’ of copper to catch a king!”

    Next season, you guessed it, on the VHF I heard the second captain, “Just took a nice king on 500’ of copper!”  Choking on my coffee, I realized a person can’t laugh and drink a cup of coffee at the same time.  Yes, trolling copper has caught on in the Great Lakes.

    Today, there are many experts(?) who troll copper, publish videos on how to do it, give seminars on the  subject, etc., etc.  The basics are pretty straight forward, but one thing many  do not agree on is the length of leader that should be fished on copper.  Let’s take a look at this.

    Although I started fishing .037 diam. twisted copper line for lakers with no backing on a Penn Mariner reel and 6’ rod with roller guides back in 1968  and have fished copper in Lake Ontario since 1978, I don’t pretend to be an expert.  However, I can tell you what leader lengths have caught fish for me for 49 years. 

    When I first started fishing copper  line I used a rod with roller guides, not realizing standard guides with ceramic inserts worked fine for copper.  So, with a roller tip on the guide, the barrel swivels available at the time for joining copper to monofilament leader would not pass through the roller tip.  That limited leader length to 6 feet, 30# test at the time.

    Six foot leaders caught lake trout in Lake George and trout and an occasional king salmon in Lake Ontario.  I say “occasional”, because very few of the kings that hit the spoons I trolled every came to the net. There was a major drawback with 6’ of 30# mono leader…, lack of stretch or shock absorption!  I was fishing large flutter spoons with #4/0 single hooks and king salmon hammered them.  However, it did not take long to learn, after a few savage  strikes using a stiff 6’ roller rod and a 6’ leader,  that there was not a 4/0 Siwash hook on the planet that wouldn’t straighten on the strike, unless you got lucky. 

    I also learned, after several kings came to the end of  the “chain!”, that a larger reel with enough line capacity for copper plus plenty of backing was a necessity.  With braided line not readily available at the  time, Dacron backing filled the bill.  Eventually Penn’s GTI 320, 330, 340, and 345 spooled with copper sections from 100’ to 600’ with Cortland Spectra braid backikng became my standards,

    The next step  in copper evolution aboard the Fish Doctor was a switch  to a 9’, moderate action rolling rod, still with a 6 – 8 ft. leader.  The longer, softer rod helped absorb some strike shock and a few more kings came to the boat. 

    Next step…, witching to standard Fuji Hardloy guides on 9’ rods and using the then newly available  Spro #3 Heavy swivels.  This was a huge step forward, because the copper/leader connection would now pass easily though line guides and levelwinds,  allowing the use  of  longer, stretchy leaders which solved the “strike shock” problem. 

    Once the system evolved to effective copper reels and rods with ample backing and unlimited leader length, my focus switched to the question…, “How much leader?”.  It made sense to use leaders that were effective, yet efficient.  Efficient as possible meant getting lines in the water and fish in the boat quickly, i.e., quicker out and quicker in, the shorter the better.  Effective as possible meant using whatever leader length it took to generate the most  strikes and hook and land the most kings, no matter how long the leader had to be.     

    After fishing with  some of the best captains on Lake Michigan  who used 100’, 20# mono leaders on leadcore, I  tried the 100’ leaders.  They caught kings with spoons,  dodger/flies, and flasher/flies and generated as many hits on copper as any leader length I have ever used.  But,  it takes time to put 100’ of leader in the water.  Ditto for landing fish on long leaders.  Were 100’ leaders necessary?  Could I fish heavier than 20# leaders, especially late  in the season with attractor/flies?

    That’s when I started experimenting.  Fishing up to 7 copper rods at once, there was plenty of opportunity for testing.  To keep it simple, and knowing I needed the benefit of some stretch to avoid “strike shock”, I eventually settled on trying leader lengths of 30’, 50’, 75’, and 100’.

    What I learned was that effective leader lengths for spoons and attractor/flies differ.  Trolling spoons, there did not seem to be much difference in the effectiveness of  leaders once they exceeded 50’.   Trolling spoons on less than 50’ of  leader seemed to be less effective.  There also did not seem to be any difference in fishing 50’ of 20# leader with a spoon or fishing spoons on 50’ of 30#  leader plus an 8’ 20# leader.  Because of the durability of the 30# leader, I settled on the latter, using 8’ of lighter leader to enhance spoon action/effectiveness.

    Trolling attractor/flies, I found no difference between 20# and 30# leader, and opted for the more durable 30#.  I also found that 30’ of  leader was as effective  as longer leaders. However, I compromised and decided to use 50’ of 30# leader for attractor/flies, so the same leader could be used for fishing spoons. 

    The final result of my nonscientific, non-statistically valid, seat-of-the-pants,  personal 48-year evaluation;

    1. Spoons – 50’ of 30# leader plus 8’ of  20# leader.
    2. Attractor/flies – 50’ of 30# leader

    With up to 6 copper lines at a time fishing from boards, plus another down the chute, using the same 50’ length of 30#  leader on every rod makes my life simple, and simple catches fish!

    The undisputable fact is, though, that I’ve never  generated more strikes and caught more fish than when fishing spoons and attractor flies on 100’ of 20# leader.  Common sense tells me there is no way that much leader is necessary, but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”    In my case, though, as a charter captain, a shorter 50’ leader is a practical compromise  of efficiency, effectiveness, and durability.   

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, 2018 Prospects

    Posted on January 14th, 2018 admin No comments


    A 10 lb. domestic rainbow boated in June, 2017

    Yours truly tends to be a bit verbose  in the winter when time  is more available than during the 24-7 charter fishing season. Sooo…, with charter customers asking,  “What do you think fishing will be like this season?”, let’s take a short and sweet look at this by species ranked 1 to 10.

    King Salmon –   8-10   But, this depends on when kings show  up in Oswego.  If we start catching them in late April or early May like some years…, 10.  King salmon fishing in 2018…, I’ll give it an 8 overall with some outstanding fishing in late, June  near shore and offshore in July and early August.

    Spring Cohos –  5   Some years  we catch decent numbers  of spring cohos well into June, but other years  nomadic leave Oswego  in late April and early May.  The word is…, unpredictable.   

    Late Summer Cohos – 7  Not so with late season cohos that always show upin eastern Lake Ontari9o in late August and provide decent fishing  until the run the Salmon River in late September.  Late summer coho fishing in 2017…, 8.    2018…,  ?

    Brown Trout –  10    Look for exceptional spring/ summer fishing for larger than average browns.  We caught more yearling browns in 2017 while fishing for browns and cohos than I’ve seen in years.  2-year olds were plentiful and larger than normal in the spring and summer harvest was down because all the attention was focused on kings.  Expect plenty of  2-year olds and some jumbo 3-year olds, along with the occasional monster.

    Lake Trout(April 1 – June 1) –  10    Every spring just outside Oswego Harbor  lake trout fishing is as good as it gets, but lakers leave the Oswego area in late spring. Summer lake trout fishing out of Oswego is almost nonexistent.  If you want summer lakers, head north to Stony Point.

    Steelhead   -  ???    Excellent in June the past few years, including 2017.  Fishing in July and August 2017 was better than normal because we were fishing kings way offshore in “steelhead country”!  Steelhead fishing is all about conditions, but in mid to late summer, you can always find them offshore.

    Domestic Rainbows – ???    Normally caught incidental to brown trout and salmon fishing, domestics were more abundant and larger than normal in 2017.  Where most domestic rainbows are still less than the legal 21″ limit by early May, domestics were averaging 22-23 inches at that time in 2017.  Dandy bonus fish.

    Atlantic Salmon – 1!     We see very few trophy Atantics each season, but they are spectacular!


  • Oswego Trout and Salmon Fishing Charters…, Spring Charters

    Posted on January 5th, 2018 admin No comments


    Oswego brown trout, April, 2017.

    If you live in northern New York or New England where winters are long and cold and spring arrives oh, so slowly, it’s hard to believe what a difference there is in spring weather along the New York shoreline of Lake Ontario.

    So it was when I answered the phone one early April evening.  “Hi captain Ernie!”, I heard holding the phone to my ear.  It was Phil, a long time customer from the Adirondack mountains in northern New York.  After some “hellos” and “How are yas”, he said, “Just wanted to call and reschedule our April 10th trip.”  “Why is that, I asked?” “Because of the snow and ice.”, he replied.  “What ice and snow?”, I questioned. 

    With northern Adirondack lakes still frozen solid and two feet of snow in Phil’s front yard, it was hard for Phil to believe I was looking at bare ground and had been catching brown trout, coho salmon, lake trout and a few rainbows in Lake Ontario out of Oswego Harbor since April 2nd.

    Spring comes much earlier to the south shore of Lake Ontario than parts north.  Up to 20,000 cfs of Oswego River runoff  flowing into the lake flushes ice cover from Oswego Harbor and it’s marina.  With a 5,090 square mile watershed draining snow free central New York and the rich farm land of the eastern Finger Lakes, the nutrient laden early spring flow warms quickly, a huge attraction to baitfish and trout and salmon as it enters t icy Lake Ontario, which seldom freezes over.

    Quality and diversity best describe Oswego’s spring charter fishery.  Charter fishing starts as soon as the marinas are ice free, usually some time from late March to no later than midApril.  Even in the spring of 20q15, after one of the coldest winters on record, I launched my charter boat on April 10th.

    As soon as marinas inside the lower harbor are ice free, most most charters target near shore brown trout.  Spring coho salmon may also be abundant in late March and early April.  Lake trout, rainbow trout, and Atlantic salmon are also caught on fishing charter trips trolling the shoreline.  Browns remain inshore in shallow water until around midJune when water temperature reaches the mid60s in the shallows.

    Although often overlooked in early April some of the best lake trout fishing of the season is in deeper water where lakers stack up on bottom.  A diet of wintering alewives produces heavy bellied togue, the largest to date from Lake Ontario, 39 lbs. 8 oz.

    By late April, brown trout fishing continues and lake trout move closer inshore.  Coho salmon usually head west out of the area by late April and early may when king salmon move in, attracted to the bait filled plume of the Oswego River.

    In recent seasons, kings have arrived off the mouth of Oswego Harbor as early as April 13 in 2012 and as late as May in 2016.  King salmon fishing in May is fair to outstanding depending on conditions, and salmon fishing continues throughout spring.  IN one of the best spring salmon season I recall, my anglers boated 201 kings in 31 trips in May.

    Spring steelhead fishing, year in and year out, is usually best in June, as it was in the last half of June, 2016.  Steelhead are usually found well offshore, but in 2016, along with large numbers of king salmon, steelhead followed spawning alewives inshore and were easily accessible, just minutes from the mouth of Oswego Harbor, a fishing bonanza.

    No matter how you cut it, because of the influence of the Oswego River, Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, the quality and diversity of spring trout and salmon charter fishing in Lake Ontario out of the port of Oswego is tough to beat.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Copper Depths

    Posted on January 5th, 2018 admin No comments


    A copper king caught just outside Oswego Harbor

    Whether you’re new to trolling twisted copper line for trout and salmon or have fished with it since 1968 like I have, a constant concern is the depth at which it presents a lure.  This depends on the weight or diameter of the line you’re fishing and the speed at which you are trolling.

    My rule of thumb after fishing .037 diam.(45#)copper on bottom for 50 years is…, at a trolling speed of 2.7 mph every 100 feet of copper  fishes down 22’.  Pick up your  speed and copper fishes shallower, slow your speed down and copper sinks like a stone, fishing deeper.  Fish lighter, smaller diameter copper, and it fishes shallower.  But what about the speeds above  and below 2.7 mph, and what about copper smaller in diameter than .o37?

    The following depth chart by Blood Run Tackle compares the sink rate of 30# and 45# twisted copper line at 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 mph.  It clearly shows the difference in depth both sizes of copper line fish at different speeds, with an estimate that 30# copper fishes at 2/3rds the depth of 45# copper, i.e. with  300’ of copper in the water, 30# fishes a spoon down 56 feet while 45#  reaches a depth of 84’.

    That’s the story when fishing spoons, but in my experience the depth fished with diving plugs and attractor/flies, especially dodger/flies or large flashers,  varies slightly, especially on longer, 50’ to 100’ leaders. Diving plugs like a #4 j-plug will fish about 5’ deeper on 100’of leaeder. Dodger/flies fish shallower, but your guess is as good as mine about how much shallower.


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, the Copper Connection

    Posted on January 3rd, 2018 admin No comments


    A #3 Spro Heavy swivel attached to copper and leader

    Back in 1968, when Lake George guide Doug Canaday showed me how to fish  .037 diameter twisted copper for lake trout, rigging it was no big deal.  Because the 30# monofilament leader Doug used for lakers was only 6’ long, he didn’t have to worry about the leader to copper connection sliding thru the guides on the 6’ trolling rod he was using and a large barrel swivel connecting leader to copper sufficed.  With the Penn Mariner reel he used with no level wind, neither did he have to worry about the barrel swivel passing freely thru the  level wind.   Since no backing was necessary for lake trout fishing, there was no concern about a backing to copper connection.

    That all changed when Doug’s copper technique evolved over the next 50 years to the one I use today with leaders up to 100’,  Penn levelwind reels, and up to 600 feet of 50# braided backing to keep feisty king salmon from “hitting the end of the chain”!   With this system, the copper to leader and copper to backing connections must pass freely thru both guides and levelwinds.  If not, at best, connections that  hang up are a nuisance, and, at  worst, they either make it impossible to fish efficiently or cost you big, strong, drag screeching trout and salmon.

    Many anglers, mostly for convenience sake, use a variety of  knots to connect copper to leaders and backing, but I have never found any of these to be foolproof and none of them pass thru guides and levelwinds smoothly,  As a result, after doing some research and testing, I settled on #3 Spro Heavy Swivels, which  I have used since I found them, probably 15 years or more ago.

    #3 Spro Heavy Swivels test 150 lbs. and are small enough to pass smoothly thru level winds on the Penn GTI and Penn Fathom reels I use and thru theoversized  ceramic guides on my 7’ custom Fish Doctor Coppersticks. 

    Mono leader is tied to one end of the swivel using a Trilene knot.  Then the end of the copper is twisted as much as possible, passed thru the end of the swivel once, then again, pulling the loop of the copper as firmly as possible onto the eye of the swivel  The copper line extending from the end of the swivel is thn cut leaving about 2” extending from the eye of the swivel.  The last step is to wrap the 2” end of thedopper as tightly as possible back onto the main copper line. 

    To attach the braided backing to the swivel at the opposite end of  the copper line simply make a loop in the braided backing using an overhand loop knot and loop it thru the end of  the swivel.  I’ve never had an overhand loop knot in braided backing work loose, but I have had the braided line wear at the eye of the swivel and break, leaving the air blue, and some expensive copper, tackle, and occasionally a trout or salmon in the lake.  Argghhh…

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Fishing Shoreline Currents for Early Spring Browns

    Posted on December 28th, 2017 admin No comments


    A triple on browns boated in the Oswego River plume on 4/21/17.

    As I sat on the bluff overlooking the New York shoreline of Lake Ontario in Mexico Bay one sunny afternoon in the spring of  1990, I noticed a huge log to the west drifting toward me.  In just minutes, it passed in front of me, just offshore, riding the current to the east. “Wow, that current is cooking!” I thought to myself.  The next morning as I eased my charter boat from the dock, I could still picture that log drifting by, a reminder of the vital part current plays in catching early spring browns. 

     Having fished the lake in the spring since  1978, I was well aware of what limnologists call the cyclonic or counterclockwise spring and summer flow of Lake Ontario that has such a huge effect on fishing.  In spring in the shallows, the lake is more like a river than a typical lake.  Speed of this current is affected by wind speed and direction.  The heavier the wind from the west, the faster the current.  When the wind switches to the east and blows hard, it actually reverses shoreline flow to clockwise.

     This, of course has a major influence on the outflow or plume of tributaries like the Oswego River which empty warm, nutrient filled water into icy Lake Ontario in early spring.  This warm inflow is like a magnet to bait, trout, and salmon.  With tributary flow more turbid or colored than the lake water it is obvious how lake currents affect the plumes of these rivers and streams when they enter the lake.

     In the case of the Oswego River, when winter snow pack is deep, spring runoff high, and winds westerly, the warm colored river plume is stretches up to 5 miles east of Oswego Harbor.  Yet, when the wind switches, it reverses shoreline current and pushes the river plume to the northwest.

     Limnological studies of Lake Ontario report shoreline currents up to .62 miles per hour, and I believe currents are even stronger after heavy  blows.  With a westery flow like this, when you troll to the east along shore with the current, it seems like you’re flying.  Troll to the west, into the current,  and you seem to be standing still.  This is where a trolling speedometer which measures speed thru the water is critical in maintaining desired trolling speed. Comparing water speed with GPS speed, which measures speed over land, clearly shows how much current you’re dealing with.

     With a river of current flowing along the shoreline, it’s easy to understand how points jutting sharply out into the lake, affect bait and brown trout distribution.  Each point deflects current out into the lakeincreasing current speed pff the end of the point and an eddy of still water on the leeward side of the point.  When shoreline current is strong, especially in very early spring when the main lake is icy cold, bait and browns tend to concentrate in the calmer, warmer water in the lee of these points.

     For early spring brown trout trollers, fishing warmer shoreline waters, especially river plumes where bait and browns concentrate is key to good catches.  Ditto for maintaining proper trolling speed. A working knowledge of early spring shoreline currents will definitely put more browns in your boat.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, A Sushi Fly Lesson

    Posted on December 27th, 2017 admin No comments


    Sushi Flies baited with a fresh frozen alewife strip

    As I stood at the rigging table in the stern of the Fish Doctor wiring a strip of fresh frozen alewife to a Sushi Fly I just unhooked from the mint silver king lying on the cockpit deck, I could only shake my head.  “Why would a king salmon with a brain the size of a pea select a baited fly over a whole alewife?”

    Earlier that day, on  my morning charter, I had located a concentration of active king salmon well away from the fleet and messed with them with different presentations for a few hours until I found the hot item…, a simple 2-rigger spread of  Kingston Tackle Slashers trailed by whole alewives. 

    It was like clockwork…, mark a king or kings on the fish finder and a rigger rod would pop as a big, adult salmon inhaled the real McCoy behind the flasher.  At trips end, we couldn’t close the two coolers onboard.

    Soo…, having figured things out, I thought, I headed back to the same spot, 4 miles east of Oswego,  for my afternoon trip.  “We’ve got it made.”, I thought, with what turned out to be way too much confidence.  Fortunately, one of the things I’ve learned over 40 years of charter fishing is to keep that overconfidence to myself, just in case.

    Well, it turned out to be one of those just-in-case situations. As I slowed the Fish Doctor to trolling speed, Ipointed out to Val Ducross and his Canadian fishing buddies the waypoint where we had found fish in the morning.   The fish finder showed us the kings were still there.  Again, I thought to myself, “No problem!”, as I rigged the two hot golden retriever Slashers with whole bait in a clear bait holder and dropped them to the magic depth, one set back 15’ the other 25’, spread 10 feet apart.

    Sooo…, we were ready and the rods were popping, right? Wrong!  With absolutely no change in conditions, same sunny sky, same westerly chop, and plenty of kings at the  same depth, I could not believe it…, ZERO!  After 45 minutes of trolling through king salmon, not a touch.  I pulled each rigger several times to checkfor tangles, make sure the bait was rolling properly, and even changed bait, but nothing.  Because the spread had been so good on my morning trip, and conditions had not changed, I probably  left the flashers and whole bait in the water longer than I should have.

    Finally, I had to make a change.  I  pulled the shallowest rigger and without removing the line from the release,  handlined the Slasher to the boat,  replaced the whole bait with a freshly baited Sushi fly, and lowered the same Slasher I had been using, with the same 25’ setback, back to the exact depth where it had been fishing.

    Long story short…, the Slasher and Sushi fly fired in less than 5 minutes and continued to fire nonstop while the Slasher and whole bait next to it never budged.  Once the whole bait behind the Slasher on the  second rigger was replaced with a Sushi fly, that rigger also continued to fire nonstop.

    Are we talking fussy, or what???  Moral of the lesson the kings had given me and many other anglers including some commercial salmon trollers I know in Alaska…, never get hung up for too long on one technique when you’re trolling for fickle king salmon!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Custom Painted Lures

    Posted on December 16th, 2017 admin No comments


    Custom painted stick baits can make your day when browns are finicky

    As I looked at the3-inch Smithwick Rogue hooked solidly in the brown trout’s jaw, I thought, “Thank the Lord for custom lure painters!”  The deadly metallic  perch stickbait bait pattern that had lured  the 6 lb. brown into striking was once available from Smithwick in a special Walleye  Series, but  no longer made.  The one I was fishing was was not an original, but a custom painted replica of  one of the deadliest stickbait patterns on my charter boat for spring browns.

    Earlier in the morning  the brown trout bite had been steady under a solid cloud cover and flat calm seas.  Black and silver spoons and stickbaits were firing on the riggers and planer boards.  At about 9:00 AM conditions changed as the sun peeked through the clouds,  the sky turned to clear blue, and a warm southerly  breeze rippled the water.

    It was like throwing a switch.  Action went from feast to famine…, lock jaw!    Knowing we were on fish, it was time for a lure change.  With browns in 5 to 10 feet of water feeding near the surface on 2 to 4-inch alewives under sunny skies, there was no question in my mind that we should be fishing a shallow running stickbait on our planer  board lines, and that bait, which is no longer made,  but tops the list of deadly spring brown trout lures, should be a custom painted 3” metallic perch. Just minutes after it went in the water, the brown trout switch tuned back to “ON”!

     Many anglers are in the same boat.  You have a favorite lure for trout and salmon or whatever you fish for.  It is a fish catcher.  The problem, it is no longer made.  Either the company has gone out of business or  your favorite pattern was discontinued.  You are down to the last one in your tackle box.  You are holding back, hoping you can catch them on something else.  You’re desperate for a fish.  “Old Reliable” that has seldom failed you goes in the water, and the next thing you know it is gone, either in the jaws of a fish or hung up on bottom.  Grrr…. 

    If you’re like me, you’ve tried to-it-yourself paint jobs to try to duplicate a lure pattern, but at least in my case, the end product was a dismal failure.  Then, through fishing buddies, one in Wisconsin and one in New York, I learned about two fantastic custom lure painters whose custom painted lures are works of art.  Jay Hunter from Hunter Boys Outdoors in Indiana is a master painter.  Jay produces the finest replicas on the planet, PERIOD!  You can contact him through his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Hunter-Boys-Outdoors-754122868010025/  He can copy your favorite stick bait or crank bait patterns or create new patterns for you.  The many color photos of Jay’s work on his Facebook page are nothing less than amazing.  For the best results mail Jay the lure you want replicated, but he can also work from photos.

    When it come to spoons, Crazy Ivan Lures www.crazyivanlures.com/  in Vermont gets my nod for custom painted spoon patterns.  Pat Church  another fantastic artist with an air brush, duplicates color tones and patterns  exactly.  Many of my favorite Chinook salmon and brown trout spoons on my charter boat were painted by Pat.   Pat strips the finish from the spoons sent to  him to be replicated, paints them, and then clear coats them.  The finish is indestructible.  

    If you have a favorite spoon or stickbait in your tackle box that is no longer available, and don’t have the artistic ability to reproduce it your self, contact a custom lure painter.  These folks are unbelievably talented artists.  They can reproduce color tones exactly and copy color patterns precisely.  On my charter boat, often save the day.

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

    Posted on December 15th, 2017 admin No comments


    Penn Reels's Fathom 60LW spooled with 300' of .037" twisted copper

    I was uneasy, sitting next to float plane pilot “Buss” Byrd, engine roaring, aluminum 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” calmly replied, as the rickety old biplane jumped from the water, pontoons brushing the spruce tops.

    The answer is the same when someone asks me about using multiple copper lines.  I fish up to a 7-copper spread, but only when I have to, and only with  megaboards, for suspended fish IN NO BOAT TRAFFIC!  If the bite is hot using my standard spread of 3  riggers, 2-4 diving planers, a thumper rod and a couple of copper lines off the boards, there is neither the time nor the need for rigging multiple copper lines.    If the bite is slow, and suspended fish are very scattered vertically and horizontally,  a 7-copper spread goes in the water, 6 copper lines on the megaboards, and one down the chute.  It’s a lot of work, especially fishing solo without a mate, but multiple copper lines catch fish.  Done properly, it’s no problem.  Mess up, and it’s a copper calamity!

    Thinking back, 2008,  was one of those only-if-I-have-to Lake Ontario salmon seasons.  The 7-copper spread has saved the day for Fish Doctor anglers  that season and many times since when  salmon and steelhead are scattered far and wide, espeically in nasty seas. 

    Without using megaboards, oversized triple planer boards, trolling up to 7 copper lines without eventual tangles is impossible.  The triple megaboards I use with up to 500’copper sections run nearly straight out boatside and don’t drop back  like inline boards.  The time an effort saved not having to haul an inline board back to the surface after a big king has submarined it is a blessing.   

    My multiple copper line trolling technique evolved over the past 41 years, influenced by some of North America’s most innovative anglers.  In 1967, Adirondack guide, Doug Canaday taught me to fish .037” diameter twisted copper line on the bottom for Lake George lake trout.  In 1978, on Lake Ontario I learned that  tuned #38 brass/silver Sutton spoons on copper were deadly medicine for bottom hugging prestaged kings.  Later trips to Lake Michigan in 2001 with Tim Dawidiuk  and Chesapeake Bay in 2004 with Capt. Bill Williams paved the way for the multiple copper line spread I use today aboard the Fish Doctor. 

    Fishing multiple copper lines from megaboards is as basic as fishing multiple flat lines from a  standard size planer board.  My  oversized triple boards  are built with 3’ x 10” boards with Styrofoam flotation to keep them from diving in rought seas.  They are rigged on  200 feet of 300# test mono tether line on Great Lakes Planer System  masts and rod holders.  The heavy mono is stron, and  because of it’s stretch, has built in shock absorption, important when fishing in heavy seas.

    Scotty Power Grip Plus 1170 releases  save time and missed fish.  To prevent chafing the tether line, a spring loaded  ¼” diam. carabiner is substituted for the stock crosslock snap.  Release tension is perfect with 35-50 lb. Cortland Spectron braided backing. 

    Reels for fishing copper are a matter of choice.  I prefer Penns, the 330GTI  0r Fathom 40 for 200’ sections with 35” Spectron backing, the 340GTI or Fathom 60 for 300’ sections with 50# Spectron, and the 345GTI for 400, 500, and 600’ sections with 50 braided backing.  Six hundred foot sections are coded with shrink tubing and reserved for fishing down the chute.

    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 with tuned 12 lb. salmon tracker weights are set at 41- 62 degrees, normally with a combination of spoons mixed with flashers or dodgers and flies. An X-4 Fish Hawk probe on the shallowest rigger monitors temp and speed, usually 2.5-3.0 mph.  Two to four wire dipsy rods fish 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.   Later in the season,  J-Plugs or Orcas are substituted for spoons.

    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 hell can break loose with multiple hookups.  Up to 10 on at once, is the record aboard the Fish Doctor.  And, yes, tangles can occur.  But, if you’re concerned about that, all I can say is NGNG(no guts no glory)!!!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Pro-Troll’s New Pro-Flash Flasher

    Posted on December 9th, 2017 admin No comments


    Another king salmon that fell for a Proflash flasher and fly

    In early August when the package arrived with the new ProFlash flashers from Pro-Troll, I was anxious to check them out.  Hmm, a water activated blinking light in the time tested and deadly ProChip8 and ProChip 11 flashers, a gimmick or a fish catcher?

    The colors of the flashers were right, white, green, and chartreuse, all proven to catch trout and salmon.  But the water activated light???   The next morning when I climbed aboard the Fish Doctor before daylight the first thing I did after carefully stowing that all important travel mug of strong, black coffee was to fill a bucket with a few inches of water and place an 8” ProFlash flasher in it.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!

    The water activated light kicked in the instant the flasher hit the water blinking red, white, and green and lighting up the white bucket beyond my wildest expectations!  No question about it…, we’re talking some serious light here.

    The next step was to get the new Proflash attractor in the water and see what the kings we had been catching every trip thought of it.  The white on white flasher/fly combo that went in the water before daylight did not produce and had me wondering???  Just before the early morning sun edged above the horizon, the green 11” Proflash flasher with a glow/green Sushi Fly baited with a strip of fresh alewife answered my questions when a mature king nailed it!  Yesss!!!

    Later in August either green or chartreuse 8 or 11-inch Proflash flasher and Sushi Flies produced king salmon, cohos, brown trout, and even a nice Atlantic, more than proving themselves.  This text message from a charter captain friend of mine on 8/29/17 when the demand for Proflash flashers sky rocketed and they were in short supply in local shops. 

    “Would you happen to have any of the 11” green lighted protrolls?  None of the shops have  them in stock, if you have some lying around, name your  price.”

    Name your price???  My answer…, “If I had an extra one, I would give it to you.”  He later found the hot item and ordered it online.