• 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…, 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…, 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…, Catching Early Spring Kings

    Posted on April 29th, 2018 admin No comments

    April 23, 2018..., first king of the season aboard the Fish Doctor

    On the morning of April 23, fishing with a crew willing to hunt for king salmon, the first adult chromer of the 2018 season  came aboard the Fish Doctor.  More early spring kings will follow because we fish for them.  Yes, a few boats catch an occasional early spring king while targeting other species, mostly browns this time of year.  But, if you want to catch any number of kings you have to fish for them.

    Although the mother lode may not arrive for a while, there are always some kings around in late April.  Until kings begin to stage and forget about feeding in favor of spawning, kings are looking for only two thing, to be comfortable in suitable temperagture and to keep their bellies full.

    After spending the winter in 39.7 degree water in the midlake depths chowing down on alewives, kings are comfortable anywhere in Lake Ontario right now from the shallows to midlake, surface to bottom.  Yes, a few kings are caught in shallow water near shore, but if you’re looking for numbers, look deeper.  It’s just a behavior thing.

    Feeding kings need food, in the case of Lake Ontario, alewives.  Find alewives and you’ll find kings, whether it’s April or July.  Early spring kings are easy to catch when you find them.  The best place to find them…, off the mouths of the two largest tributaries in Lake Ontario, the Niagara and the Oswego Rivers, PERIOD!

    The same techniques that catch kings later in the season catch them now, as long as you fish the temp where they’re comfortable.  Fish for them on the surface right now with the right stickbaits spoons and they will hit them.  Dodgers and flies are another early spring Fish Doctor favorite.

    The bottom line…, you have to fish for them to catch them.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Charters…, Crazy Spring Cohos

    Posted on March 17th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Spring cohos like red!

    We watched my 16” flat screen in amazement as not one, but four cohos darted around behind the red #00 dodger and green hummer fly trailing 5’ behind my underwater camera on the center rigger set 15’ below the surface. 

     As all four fish swirled around in full view of the camera, a silvery  torpedo shot forward and nailed the fly, pulling the line from the rigger release.  The 7’ Fish Doctor Shortstick sprang upward and a quick hand snatched the ultralight rod from the rod holder.  Before the excited angler could say, “Fish on!”, the mint silver coho was already airborne.

     There are lots of brown trout caught in the  spring in the Oswego area of Lake Ontario, but not many cohos, unless you’re fishing specifically for them.  Sure, you’ll catch an occasional coho while fishing for browns, but the best locations and techniques for each differ.

     For those in the know who target spring cohos, they are a great bonus, especially when conditions aren’t right for browns.   Nothing compares to their wild antics.  Absolutely fearless of boats, I’ve watched them hit a spoon less than 6’ behind a rigger one foot below the surface.  The wilder and noisier the lure action and the gaudier the color,  the more cohos like it.  Especially if it is fluorescent red!   When you find a “wolf pack” of marauding spring cohos, prepare for battle.  It’s  not unusual for  every rod in the water to fire!

     Cohos are hyper fish.  Everything they do is fast including the rate at which they grow.  Ontario’s spring cohos are 2-year old fish weighing 1-5 lbs.  By late August of the same year, when they stage in Mexico Bay before returning to the hatchery in the headwaters of the Big Salmon River, they weigh 6-12 lbs. and more.   After spawning, adult cohos die as do all Pacific salmon. 

     One of the favorite rigs for spring cohos is a fluorescent red #00 dodger trailed 12” – 14” back by a small 1” – 2 ½” green mylar fly.   Dodgers are effective trolled shallow on downriggers and Dipsy Divers,  but #00 dodgers and coho flies really shine fished behind inline planer boards. 

     To rig dodgers and flies behind inline planers, use 6’ of 20# test leader ahead of the dodger.  Between the leader and the main line snap in a 5/8 to 7/8 ounce bead chain keel sinker.  This weight helps keep the dodger from planing to the surface.  Set the dodger/fly back 25 to70 feet behind the inline board, and let the board out to the side of the boat the desired distance.  Multiple inline planers can be used off each side of the boat.  Jointed stickbaits and spoons in hot colors catch cohos, too.

    Riggers are normally set in the top 10 feet of water when surface temperatures are cold in late March, and April, then set deeper as temperatures warm and cohos move offshore.  Much like landlocked salmon, cohos are attracted to the boat, and downrigger setbacks of  6 to 20 feet are common.  My side riggers are set 3 to 5 feet down and 10 to 12 feet back with the dodger fly clearly visible from the boat as it wobbles back and forth.  Diving planers are set on 15 to 25 feet of line.  A trolling speed of 2.0 to 3.0 mph is about right depending on water temperature. 

    When a coho hits close to the boat, you usually see the fish in the air before you see the rod go!

  • 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.

     

  • 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…, Coping with Clear Water Browns

    Posted on February 3rd, 2018 admin No comments

    A monster Oswego brown trout on ultralight, clear water tackle.

     

     In the past 25 years fishing conditions have changed drastically in Lake Ontario, and so have consistently successful angling techniques, especially for shallow water browns in April and May. 

     In the early 1970’s, when I climbed aboard legendary charter captain Ron Ditch’s charter boat at Henderson Harbor to show him how to fish his new downriggers for lake trout, his  chartreuse downrigger weight disappeared 2-4 feet(that’s not a typo!) below the surface.  Those turbid water conditions persisted through, 1993, when zebra mussels showed up in the lake. 

     In mid-May of 1995, on a glassy calm day I dropped a chartreuse rigger weight into the depths, and it disappeared at 36’.  Now that’s a major change!  Subsequently, to cope with the gin clear water conditions and catch fish consistently new fishing techniques have evolved that will help first time spring brown trout trollers catch more fish.

     Although we still fish turbid water after westerly or northerly blows and around the mouths of rivers like the Oswego during high spring runoff, much of the time  water conditions are gin clear.  This is especially true during calm weather and when spring tributary flow is low.   Coping with these clear water conditions for shallow water browns in April and may can be especially challenging.  This is when finesse combined with an understanding of brown trout behavior becomes  the name of the game. 

     Before the introduction of zebra mussels, in turbid water conditions, to catch browns you  simply had to chuck almost anything chartreuse over the side and tow it around on as heavy a line as you wanted. It was “Heave, ho, and away we go!” Today, try the same tactic in shallow clear water, and you will end up whining back at the dock.   One way to avoid that is the use of a stealthy presentation with light line and terminal tackle matched with a light action rod and reel.

     My spring brown trout rods are spooled with 10# test main line, hi-vis Trilene  Solar on the planer board and flat line rods and clear Berkley Big Game on rigger rods, each terminating with 8’ of lighter leader.   Some captains I know effectively use main line as heavy as 15# mono, plus a lighter leader.   The more durable main line, along with a less visible, lighter leader results in a deadly brown trout combination.  I personally like the finer diameter main line, especially on planer board and flat line rods,  because without adding any weight, thin diameter line allows  stick baits and spoons to fish deeper than larger diameter line. 

    For light  lining spring browns on planer boards, flat lines, and riggers, I use two different rods with the same reels.  I build my n planer board rods on a 9’ graphite, 3-4 weight, slow action St. Croix fly rod blank  and my rigger rods on 6-7 foot moderate action e-glass blanks.  Both styles of rods are built with non-slip EVA foam grips, quality reel seats and Fuji casting guides for use with levelwind reels.

     In the past, I’ve used either Penn 855LC digital line counter reels or, more recently, ABU Garcia 5500LC line counter.  This season I’m switching to ABU Garcia Altum 12 digital line counter reels, because of their greater line capacity and improved digital line counter.

     When using terminal leaders as light as 6# – 8# test, levelwind reels  must have a silk smooth drag or or you will curse your ultralight gear as a hog brown heads for the horizon with your lure and only part of your line trailing from hit’s toothy maw.   Fill your reel to the brim with quality line.  You’ll need it when you hook  a monster. 

    Yes, times have changed when it comes to fishing for shallow water brown trout in Lake Ontario.  Heave- ho techniques with heavy line and terminal tackle are a thing of the past.      

  • Lake Ontario Trout andSalmon Fishing…, ABU Garcia’s new Altum digital line counter reels

    Posted on January 28th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A lunker brown boated on a 6' Fish Doctor Short Stick and 10# line.

    If you’re in the market for a new line counter reel, take my advice and check out ABU Garcia’s new Altum digital line counters.  I fished the Altum 20, largest of the Altum series,  with 30# mono on rigger rods for salmon last season, and it never skipped a beat. 

    My thoughts…, smooth as a Swiss watch and built  like  a tank!  It has features currently unavailable in any other  line counter reel.  It is programmable for different line diameter, has a large digital  display, has a lighted display at the push of a button, and resets to zero, if necessary, with a push of a button.  These aged old eyes really appreciated the large digital  readout, and especially liked the lighted readout in low light at dawn and dusk.

    Altum reels also have ABU Garcia’s Synchro feature found in their 7000 Synchro which has not been available in the U.S. and also the Alphamar 16 and 20 series.  I’ve used the 7000 Synchro for 1o or so years and the Alphamar 20 for 4 or 5 years.  They, along with the Altum 20 are the nicest reels I’ve ever fished on rigger rods and wire rods.

    Here’s the deal with the Synchro feature…, crank the reel handle backward 1/4 turn and it lightens the drag, perfect for setting riggers.  Rig your line in the release, crank the Synchro handle back and it lightens the drag just enough to maintain a bend in the rod as your rigger weight descends.  When the rigger stops, flip the free spool lever and you are good to go.  If you need a bit more  tension on your drag to maintain the proper bend/tension in your rigger rod don’t crank the handle back quite as far.  The 1/4 revolution in the reel handle controls the drag tension.

    As you already guessed, this feature is perfect for setting wire/braid/mono Dipsys.  Place your diver in the water, adjust the tension on the rod tip by cranking the reel handle back to the proper drag tension and walk away as the Dipsy descends into the depths.

    For the upcoming season, I just spooled up 10 Altum 12s, smallest of the Altum series,  with 10# hi-vis Trilene/Berkley Solar mono on ultralight planer board and rigger rods.  Line capacity is 320 yds of 12# mono.  The Altums replace my Garcia 5500 LCs, which hold 205 yds. of 12# mono.

    When someone finally hooks  that monster brown on ultralight gear, there isn’t anything much worse than  looking  down at an empty spool with almost no line left on it.  The extra 100 yds. of mono on the new Altum 12 brown trout reels will be a welcome “cushion” this season.

     

  • 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.