• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Respecting Our Fishery

    Posted on June 27th, 2018 admin No comments

    Carefully releasing a spring king off the stern of the Fish Doctor

    ;Earlier today, I received an email about a video from a Lake Ontario charter captain posted on Facebook.  The email read, “I saw a video on Facebook of a chest thumper from the little salmon river. He says I quote ” this is how good the fishing is right now, bite 38!”  Holding a 12 lber by the gills, whips it over his head back in the lake. P_ _ _ _ _ me right off. No respect for the fishery. But he did confirm my opinion on him.

    I checked out the video and sure enough…, just as I was told.  The video showed a competitor fishing the Atomik Challenge fishing tournament on June 23 at the stern of a boat boasting about the number of bites the  tourney team had gotten.  In his hand was a king being  held  by the gill  flap. As he spoke he flipped the king into the air and it splashed into  the water well behind the boat.

    I have fished Lake Ontario since 1977 and have known some of the very best captains on the lake, many still  here and some departed.  I have know full time captains and part time captains, young and old.  I know many great fishermen who don’t charter but love fishing the  lake. Many of these great guys have been with me on the Fish Doctor during on-wateer fishing classes.

    Through all of this, I have never, ever witnessed the disrespect for a fish that I saw on this video, utter disregard for the animal.

    Whether it’s fur, fowl, or scales we harvests, none of it deserves that kind of disrespect.  Careless, senseless, rough handling of released fish in privates or in public on social media makes all of us who hunt, fish, and trap look bad in the eyes of those who do not.  Actions like this by the thoughtless hurt our fishery and endanger the future of our sport and provide “ammo” to the antis.

    Such disrespct for fish harvested during a fishing tournament  jeopardizes the future of these events.

    I’m sure many tournament bass  anglers who go to great lengths and expense to release bass unharmed would  agree.

     

     

     

     

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

    Posted on February 19th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on February 18th, 2018 admin No comments

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on February 17th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, 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…, King Salmon Satellite Tagging Study

    Posted on December 5th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    graphs of taged king salmon "Super Dives" and night time foraging

    In 2018, Cornell fisheries researchers, fished aboard the Fish Doctor in July and August to collect king salmon for marking with satellite tags.  These so “called “pop-off” tags are programmed to physically pop off a salmon at a predetermined time, floating to the surface to be tracked by satellite.  Recovered tags provide a wealth of information.

    Not only do recovered tags show location relative to the tagging site, they also record every second depth, water temperature, acceleration rate.

    Although most of the tagging results have yet to  be released, one of the first tags placed on a king collected on the Fish Doctor off Oswego showed up at the mouth of Coburg Ck. in Canada four months after tagging, yielding both expected and unexpected information.

    Yes, this particular king salmon, as expected, inhabited cool water, generally in the high 40 to low 50 degrees F., whichput it around 60 to 80 feet deep most of the time.  However, it made some surprising instantaneous dives to as deepas 300 feet for no apparent reason, and also made routine forays to the surface at night where temps were often +/- 70 degrees F., presumably in search of alewife forage.

    There is much more to come on the results of this forage, so stay tuned!  Check out this link to a video taken onboard while collecting and tagging kings aboard the Fish Doctor <http://www.greatlakesboating.com/2017/11/hightech-salmon-in-lake-ontario>

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

    Posted on October 26th, 2017 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing Conditions

    Posted on April 7th, 2017 admin No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on April 7th, 2017 admin No comments

    A Lake Ontario steelhead.

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

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

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing…, Key on Gobies to Catch Oswego Browns

    Posted on March 21st, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Browns gobble gobies as large as 8 inches

    Each season I launch my boat in early April when no other Oswego charter boats are on the water  to take advantage of the early spring brown trout fishing around Oswego Harbor.  And, each spring, I see the same thing…, almost 100% of brown trout stomach contents are gobies.

    Early spring browns gorge on gobies and anything else available around Oswego Harbor until spawning alewives move inshore, some years as late as June.  Occasionally I see gizzard shad, spottail shiners, and even a few alewives in April browns, but usually they are feeding heavily on gobies.

    So what does that mean to brown trout trollers?  Well, to answer that question, you have to take look closely at a goby and consider it’s behavior.  The description in “Biokids” is excellent;

    Round gobies are small fish with large, frog-like heads, raised eyes, soft bodies, and spineless dorsal fins. Males are generally larger than females. They have a distinctive black spot on their front dorsal fin. Mature round gobies are covered by black and brown splotches that lighten when they are alarmed” Gobies reach 7 – 8 inches in length in the Great Lakes and have fused pelvic fins called a suctorial disc with which it attaches to the lake bottom in current.

    Important to brown trout trollers, gobies, 1) prefer a rocky bottom, 2) rest or literally crawl around on rocky bottom substrate using their oversized pectoral fins, 3) only leave bottom when alarmed, and then only momentarily rise up off the bottom, 4)reach a length of 8 inches or so, and, 5)according to what I’ve been told, move offshore in the winter and then back inshore when shoreline water temperature warms.

    Think bottom!  When actively feeding on gobies,  early spring browns are bottom oriented nd muching bait up to 7 – 8 inches long.  Surprisingly, many early season brown trout trollers ignore this, and fish small lures well up in the water column with no regard to rocky bottom substrate.