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

    Posted on April 15th, 2018 admin No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See you on the water!

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

    Posted on April 10th, 2018 admin No comments

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

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

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

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

     

     

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

    Posted on March 30th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on March 27th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on March 23rd, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

     

     

     

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

    Posted on February 28th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on February 27th, 2018 admin No comments

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

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

     

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

    Posted on February 19th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on February 18th, 2018 admin No comments

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on February 17th, 2018 admin No comments

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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