• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Selective Oswego Spring Brown Trout

    Posted on February 17th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    A selection of favorite hammered genuine silver plated Fish Doctor Flutterdevles

    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.  Each spring brown trout season and many, many experiences over the past 40 years have reinforced this fact.

     

    One such experience occurred one morning off Four Mile Point in eastern Lake Ontario.  The first couple hours the early morning bite was hot and heavy.   Everything my charter I 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 once and for all just how selective a Great Lakes brown can be.   Oh, yeah, and by the way…, it was no mistake that they were hitting that Flutterdevle barely below the surface, 100′ directly behind the boat in the prop wash!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Sunlight vs. Trolling Direction

    Posted on February 17th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    Strike Vision photo of a musky striking a lure.

    When it comes to successfully catching Great Lakes trout and salmon or any fish on the planet whether in standing or flowing water, shallow or deep, effectiveness of the presentation of a bait or lure is influenced  by  the sun.  We all know the importance of light intensity,on fish behavior and lure selection, but what about the effect of sunlight in relation to trolling direction?

    Aboard the Fish Doctor, trolling direction in relation to the sun and the angle of the sun are a major consideration.   If you aren’t a believer, hold a colored pencil up against a ceiling light.  You’ll see a black  silhouette.  Now turn around with your back to the sun light and look at the same pencil.  You will easily see the color of the pencil and the print on it. 

    Now, imagine a fish swimming up to a lure from behind and below it.  If that fish is swimming into the sun, it sees a completely different image of a lure than it sees with the sun’s rays coming from behind it.  It’s a good bet that it’s also easier for a fish to locate a lure swimming asay from the sun .  Based on many hundreds of hours trolling with an underwater Strike Vision camera at depths up to 100’, this is true whether trolling shall or deep.

    If you doubt this, ask an experienced scuba diver.  I dove for many years while working as a fishery biologist.  When diving from a boat, and returning to the  surface, swimming away from the sun, the boat’s bottom was clearly visible.  However, when swimming back up to the boat toward the sun, the sun’s rays were blinding, making it much more difficult to see.

    More than 30 years ago, when Fish Doctor Charters was still attending sport shows, I sat in the living room one evening playing some video tapes of my summer fishing trips, trying to find some good tapes showing fish being landed.  I looked at tape after tape with the sun off the stern of the boat, the glare obscuring fish coming to the surface and being netted.  The majority of the tapes I looked at showed  fish being landed with the sun off the stern, even though I was looking at midsummer tapes taken while fishing in  70 to 100 feet of water. 

    Finally it dawned on me…, duhhh!  We were definitely hooking up more when trolling away from the sun than trolling towards it!

    Years later, using an underwater Strike Vision camera pointing back toward the lure being trolled, my thoughts about the relationship between trolling direction and the sun were confirmed.  With the sun off the stern of the boat and the camera directed away from the stern to view the lure being trolled, only the black sillouhette of the lure could be seen on the  flat screen in my cabin.  When trolling direction was reverse, trolling toward the sun, the lure and it’s color could be seen in detail.

    The same is true when casting, especially when fishing on or near the surface.  Cast toward the sun and retrieve back to the boat and fish will have a better look at a lure than if you cast away from the sun.

    Lots of factors influence the effectiveness of the presentation of a lure or bait, but sunlight direction in relation to lure presentation is definitely one of them. . 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, The Loop Knot for Trolling Flies

    Posted on February 4th, 2019 admin No comments

    A Fish Doctor favorite..., the Perfection Loop Knot on a Tournament Tie

    Most fishermen know that the slightest difference in what you’re fishing can make a HUGE difference in what you’re catching.

    This is the case with the loop knot used aboard the Fish Doctor on all trolling flies and Jitterflies.  The result is a free swinging treble hook.

    So, big deal, right?  Actually, that IS right.  Here’s what a loop knot does for you compared to say a standard knot like an improved clinch or a snell.

    - No matter what happens the treble is free swinging and trails straight back behind the fly, not off to the side as is often the case with other knots.

    - The free swinging treble gives extra action to the fly, and if you’re cagey  enough to be using different colored treble hooks in different conditions, it works even better.

    - Third, a loop knot almost completely eliminates so called “bite offs”, which aren’t really biteoffs, but just mono getting jammed in the treble.

    The end result is more bites and more fish in the boat.  Simple but deadly.

    My favorite loop knot is a modified Perfection Loop Knot, and you can see how to tie it by checking aout the “Video Tips” page on my Fish Doctor web site.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, ABU Garcia Line Counter Reels

    Posted on February 4th, 2019 admin No comments

     

     

     

     

     

    The ABU Garcia 7000i SYNCHRO aboard the Fish Doctor

    I’ve fished  either the ABU Garcia 7000i Synchro and the ABU Garcia Alphamar 20 Synchro, both with mechanical line counters, for years and more recently,  the Altum, 20, 16, and 12 Synchros with a state of the art digital line counter, and all I can say, with one exception,  is…, NICE! 

     The 7000i Synchro is now only available in Europe, as far as I know.  The Alphamar 20 and 16 have been replaced with the Altum 20, 16, and 12.  I’m still using the original Garcia 7000i Synchro onboard the Fish Doctor for rigger and wire reels, along with the Alphamar 20.   The new Altum 20, 16 and 12 have been onboard for about 3 years.    The Altum series has performed just as well as the far more expensive and unavailable-in-the- US 7000i Synchro.

     The 7000i Synchro, made in Sweden  has been fished on the Fish Doctor for thousands of hours and performed flawlessly except for one mechanical line counter that malfunctioned right out of the box.  Like any reel, the 7000i will wear out after many season of use, with the levelwind usually the first to show wear, especially if it isn’t lubed occasionally.

     The Alphamar 20 and 16 Synchro, designed exactly like the7000i Synchro, but manufactured in China, had problems in their early production and are the only exception to my “Nice” review.  Although the mfg bugs were finally worked out late in production, early production reels had a number of problems, most notably slightly uneven levelwind which was OK for use with 20-30 lb. mono but a nightmare when using wire.

     Finally, and most recently, ABU Garcia has produced the Altum series, 20, 1`6, and 12 which are, in my opinion, are the best digital line counter reels ever made for fresh water trolling.  They have been in use on the Fish Doctor for 3 or so years without a gliche. The new Altum line counter also has a lighted counter window which can be turned on as needed at night or at dusk and dawn.  Nice, especially for aging eyes!

     All of these reels have Penn’s silk smooth HT100 drag system and the Synchro feature which releases partial drag tension when the reel handle is cranked backwards ¼ turn.  The Synchro drag system is a feature that every Great Lakes troller will appreciate when fishing riggers or wire/braid Dipsys or thumper rigs for trout and salmon, especially in deep water. 

     No more flipping the free spool lever and thumbing a reel or changing the setting on the star or lever drag to lower your downrigger into the depths.   If you want to drop a rigger, let out a Dipsy, or lower a 1 lb. “meatball” into the depths, all you do is crank the reel handle backward ¼ of a turn and the drag automatically loosens up slightly, maintaining enough tension to keep a bend in a downrigger rod as a rigger weight drops or allow a Dipsy to drop back slowly.

     When you crank the reel handle back a ¼ turn, if the drag tension is too loose to suit you, you simple advance the reel handle forward slightly to increase the drag tension to whatever you like.   If the tension is a little too heavy when the Synchro is backed off a ¼ turn, you’ll need to loosen the star drag a touch to achieve the desired release tension.

     What a time saver the Synchro system is!  Now, when I’m dropping a rigger to 140 feet for lakers or kings, which takes a while, I no longer have to “stand at attention” with a reel in free spool and thumb the spool until the rigger reaches the right depth.  All I do is crank the 7000i’s handle back a ¼ of a turn, walk away, listen for the beep on my Penn rigger signaling the rigger has stopped 140’ down, return to the rigger and crank the Synchro handle forward ¼ of a turn to the original drag setting and I’m good to go.  Meanwhile, I can be netting fish, setting another rod or whatever.

     I’m using the Altum 20 Synchros for fishing 30# mono on the riggers and 30# Maline on the Dipsy rods.  The slightly smaller Altum 16 is perfect for fishing spoons on rigger rods using 12-15# mono.  The smaller Altum 12 spooled with 10# mainline is on all of my spring brown trout rods, but it holds plenty of 10# so that it can easily handle the the occasional shallow water king we tangle with,

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

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    Sushi Flies, rigged and ready with a strip of fresh brined alewife

    (reposted on 1/27/19 after being deleted from archives)

    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 for my afternoon trip, still well away from the fleet.  “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, I pointed 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…, Jitterflies for Sulky, Late Summer Browns

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    A late summer brown taken on a Jitterfly

    (reposted on 1/27/19 after beingn deleted from archives)

    Jitterflies have been in the  water on the Fish Doctor since early development in 2007 and they have been a major part of my  trout and salmon program ever since.  Yes, they are deadly for kings and cohos, but excel for other species, as well.

    Jitterflies will catch browns any time of the season, including early spring when I’ve seen many come aboard that hit straight Jitterflies trolled with no flasher.  But, it’s in late summer, when Mr. Brown Trout gets sulky as the spawning season approachesthat Jitterflies tolled behind 8” ProChips really come into their own.  From the 1st of August until the end of the brown trout bite, Jitterflies outfish any other fly on the Fish Doctor for browns.

    Sparsely tied Jitterflies in standard patterns create vibration and turbulence that actionizes the mylar on this fly like no other.  The combination of sound and flash produced behind a rotating 8” ProChip enhances the effectiveness of a flasher/fly presentation for late season browns. 

    My rule of thumb for flasher/Jitterfly color  combos is, “If it works for kings, it works for browns.”  In low to moderate light, a stock green Chip with a stock glow green Jitterfly is one of my favorites.  In bright sun with a chop, a stock chartreuse Chip with a Pretty Jane(silver/glitter/green) Jitterfly is deadly on browns.  Other combos work, depending on light intensity, depth, water color, and surface conditions.

    Leader length is basically the same as standard lengths fished for kings, although I use even longer leaders at times.

    If browns are hitting spoons, there is no need to fish anything else, but when they are sulky any time during mid to late summer,  there is always at least one flasher/jitterfly in the water.  Not only does it catch browns on it’s own, it will also rev up the spoon bite.  If there are any kings in shallow with the browns, you could not have a better late summer item in the water.

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Jitterflies, Best Kept Secret on the Great Lakes

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    The absolutely deadly Pretty Jane Jitterfly

    (Reposted on Jan. 27, after being deleted from archives)

    If any Great Lakes troller who fishes trout and salmon in any of the Great Lakes is not fishing Jitterflies behind ruddered, rotating flashers like ProChip8s and 11s or the larger 13” Kingston Tackle Slashersor Okis, , find some, buy some or steal  some from your best buds in the dark of night!  If you have some that you’re willing to part with, call me!

    Why?  Because Jitterflies are absolutely, definitely, without question one of the deadliest items onboard the Fish Doctor, for every species of trout and salmon in the Great Lakes…,PERIOD! …and they should be OUTLAWED FOR COHOS! 

    My thoughts about Jitterflies are  based on 17 years(since 2001) trolling flies in Lake Ontario and 11 years fishing Jitterflies since I  first got them wet in 2007.  JItterflies catch fish all season long, but become increasing deadly late in the season.

    Stepping  back a bit, Jitterflies first produced in 2007 and after some fine tuning were available to anglers in 2008.  Long story short without going into the gory details, production was eventually discontinued after a few years.  Having done the original field testing with Jitterflies and being involved with their design and development, I knew the unbelievable potential of this unique, actionized fly, and took it from there, improving the original.

    What’s different about them? ACTION and NOISE!  Watch them in the water boatside and you’ll see.  Sparsely dressed, they vibrate in the water and the turbulence of the water as it passes around the plastic disc at the head of the fly actionizes the mylar skirt.  This vibration and turbulence produces a “hperaction” fly unlike any other.  Just stimulus it takes to flip the switch of negative trout and salmon and generate the response you want.  Speaking of stimuli, the large eyes of a Jitterfly,unavailable on any other fly,  add to it’s effectiveness.

    Look at the reviews online and you’ll see positive and negative comments.  One of which, I’ll call a whine, “I don’t like  them, because the  mylar skirt gets ripped off after it  catches  4 or 5 fish.”  The mylar material of a Jitterfly is exactly the same as that used in a Howie Fly and no more delicate. I’ve caught many hundreds of kings, browns, steelhead on Jitterflies and never had one “destroyed” by just 4 or 5 fish.  When the mylare does get a bit chewed up, like most other flies, they often work even better than new ones.  When the mylar gets completely shot, if you tie your own flies Howie Fly style, it takes only a coupleof minutes to retape new mylar on a Jitterfly body.

    A couple negative reviews are correct.  Trout and salmon will occasionally or finally rip one or both eyes off.., “Oh, well!”  Also, the single fixed hook on a Jitterfly is a little light and will occasionally straighten enough to lose a fish if a release is set extremely tight or too much “oomph” is put to a big king.  I rarely have had one of these fixed single hooks open up, but it has happened.  

    Sooo, there is a time and place for every rig and lure in your tackle box, including Jitterflies.  When fish are slurping everything in sight, it’s no trick to catch them on most anything, including standard flies trolled behind a variety of flashers.  It’s when trout and salmon are lazy, negative, or just plain fussy that Jitterflies come into their own.   This might be during early and mid season when feeding fish are inactive or later in the  season, midAugust through September,  when staged browns and salmon are off their feed.

     In late season from midAugust through September, Jiterflies along with Sushi Flies are always in the water behind 8”, 11”, and 13” flashers. The deeper you’re fishing and the later in the season, the better the larger flashers work.  When cohos move into Mexico Bay and the Oswego area and charter customers want them, at least two 8” Hot Tamale Chips with Silent Assassin Jitterflies get wet.

    Like every other technique, there is a Jitterfly learning curve.  They catch fish “as is”,  right out of the box, but there are ways to improve their effectiveness.  One important way,  because they have their own action, is to fish them on a longer leader than standard flies.

    Check the “Fishing Hotline” page on my Fish Doctor web site for more details and photos on fishing this deadly item.

     

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Can Fishing Be Too Easy?

    Posted on January 25th, 2019 admin No comments

     

     

     

     

    Karl Schmidt hangs on in 3-5 footers to show off a spring king on June 4, 2018.

    As I pulled into dock #21 in Oswego Marina with my afternoon charter, I could see long time customer Karl Schmidt and his crew waiting for me.  It was their turn the following morning, a trip they had done with me the first Saturday in June for what would be their 20th year.

    Karl and his crew stood back politely, not wanting to interfere with offloading customers and ziplock bags of salmon filets.  After the goodbyes, thank yous, and we’ll-be-backs, Karl and his crew walked out on the dock to say hello. 

    I told Karl the salmon fishing had been good both morning and after noon, but the early morning bite had been sizzling along a current line well inside where other boats were fishing.  Now the question, “Could you boys leave the dock tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. rather than the normal departure time of 5:00 a.m  to cash in on the early morning action?”

    “Absolutely!”, Karl replied.  “You know the deal.  We’re all hunters and fishermen and hear to catch fish.  See you at 4:15 a.m., tomorrow morning.”  Sure enough.  The next morning they all were onboard as we eased out of the marina, just before 4:30 a.m.

    With the electronics available today, locating and catching fish is easier than back when I was a kid rowing a wooden row boat around an Adirondack lake jerk lining a single hook spoon for lake trout.  But, in Lake Ontario, with trout and salmon spread out over 7,660 sq. miles, it’s not always easy. I wondered, as we left the marina.

    With my 24 mile radar guiding  us safely out of the harbor, the waypoints on my chart plotter marking the spot I had been fishing, and the fish finder and speed/temp unit dialing us in, it would  be no problem locating the early morning honey hole, but would those kings still be there and biting?

    It didn’t take long to find out.  Just minutes out of Oswego Harbor in 70 feet of water, we could see the scattered kings and schools of alewives on the Garmin 3500 fish finder below us 35 to 65 feet. But, would they be biting?.

                                  Appreciate those fantastic everything-goes-right days,

                           because for every great trip there will eventually be a tough one.  

     Our simple spread of Venom Maulers on three riggers would be set at 35, 45, and 65 feet.  Slide divers would be set to fish 35 and 45 feet down with the same spoon.

    I dropped the starboard rigger to 35 and turned to reach for the second rigger ride.  Behind me I heard, “Fish on!”  Yes, they were biting.

    By 6:30 a.m., Karl and his crew landed 10 kings and 1 laker!  Whew, they definitely were biting!  It could  not have been easier.  Although the bite slowed a bit as the sun rose higher in the east, Karl and his crew limited out on 3-year old kings and released the smaller ones. 

    Standing at the cleaning table at the stern of the boat filleting kings on the way back to the dock, Karl chatted about the great trip.   Smiling, I said, “Hope you don’t expect this kind of action every trip!”  Karl smiled back and said, “Well, do you remember last year in the pea soup fog when the south wind had dropped surface temp to ice water and we fished 8 hours for 2 fish?”  I did, and also  remembered some of the more than 20 good, bad, and ugly trips Karl and his crew had fished aboard the Fish Doctor.

    On some of those trips the stars had lined up and catching fish seemed almost too easy…, fish on!   On other trips, definitely not. 

    Appreciate those fantastic everything-goes-right days, because for every great day there will eventually be a tough one.   It’s called pay back, and that’s what keeps us all coming back.

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

    Posted on May 11th, 2018 admin No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on May 5th, 2018 admin No comments

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

     

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