• 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…, Atlantic Salmon, Resident or Migrant ?

    Posted on February 15th, 2017 admin No comments


    A sample from this Lake Ontario Atlantic salmon skin mount at the Royal Ontario Museum was used in the study


    Lake Ontario historically supported an Atlantic salmon population that was apparently sizeable.  Historic accounts include tales of early pioneers at river crossings pitch forking barrels full of spawning Atlantics into their horse drawn wagons. These native Atlantics reportedly reached sizes up to 47 lbs and were an important human food source.   

    A decline in spawning stream quality, probably due to pollution, i.e., saw mills, etc., plus dam construction limiting access to spawning areas, compounded with  overharvest resulted in  extinction of native  Atlantics.  The last record of an  Atlantic salmon from Lake Ontario was in 1898, reportedly caught by angling. 

    According to researcher Eric Guiry and his colleagues, since the 1860s there have  been efforts to determine if Lake Ontario’s original Atlantics migrated to the ocean and returned to the lake and its tributaries to spawn or if they stayed in the lake year round, as today’s Pacific salmon do.

    In an effort to determine this, researchers conducted stable isotope analyses of archaeological bones and specimens of Atlantics still available at the Royal Ontario Museum.  Isotope analysis reveals the type of food an animal eats and can distinguish between marine and fresh water forage.  This analysis showed  conclusively that the  Atlantics studied lived their lives completely in fresh water. 

    Lake Ontario Atlantic salmon remains were actually available from nine Iroquois Indian archaeological sites dating from 1300  to 1550 and from two European settlement sites dating from 1790 to 1900 AD along the northwest shore of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River.

    Results of this study could be helpful to Province of Ontario, Canada fishery biologists in the effort to restore Atlantic salmon to Lake Ontario.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Catch and Release Browns

    Posted on July 17th, 2016 admin No comments


    Dan Barry released this brown unharmed on May 13.

    As I slid the net under the struggling, hook jawed brown trout, I knew that it was well over 30 inches long.  The battle on 8 lb. test line was a test of the ultralight gear we were trolling with just east of Oswego Harbor in late April.  With the big brown in the net but still in the icy water, I turned to Jim and asked,  “What do you think?  Should we release him or do you want to put him in the box?”  Jim answered, “I don’t know.  That’s the biggest brown I’ve ever seen.  What do you think?”

    “Well”, I said, He’s a big boy, but he’s not very heavy because he spawned last fall and probably spent most of the winter in the Oswego River where food is scarce.  One thing for sure, he won’t be very good eating in that condition, especially compared to the heavy bellied 2 to 4 lb. 2-year old browns we’ve been catching.”  “That’s all I need to hear”, Jim replied. “Let’s get a quick photo of him and send him on his way.”  As I released the brown, I knew that in only 6 months, after gorging on alewives all spring and summer, this same male brown trout would easily reach 16 lbs.

    To release or not to release, that is the question many anglers ask.  My answer…,  it all depends on what you’re catching, which water you’re fishing, and what your personal outlook is.  It also depends, of course, on size and creel limits for each trout and salmon species in the water you are fishing.

    On Lake Ontario, every season, anglers who fish with me release many browns, a very few sublegals, along with some trophy brown trout.  Since we are trolling mostly with artificials, most browns are lightly hooked on spoons, stickbaits, or flies.  Because many browns are caught in the shallows in April and May when water temperature is cold, they are easy to release unharmed as long as they are not out of the water for long.  It is not uncommon to boat 20 to 30 or more browns in a 6 or 8-hour charter trip in the spring, so it’s a perfect time for catch and release fishing. If a brown inhales a lure, is bleeding from the gills or has a hook in an eye, that fish is a candidate for the cooler.  If it is lightly hooked, it’s released.

    In contrast to immature, sublegal landlocked salmon which tend to shed scales in a net, the scales of brown trout are much more durable.  It is common to catch browns with evidence of hook scars around their mouth, evidence of a previous release or close encounter.

    In the summer, when browns are deeper, it is still possible to release them unharmed.  Unlike lake trout, or other bottom fish like cod, the air bladders of browns do not balloon as they are pulled from the depths.  As long as browns don’t remain in the warmer surface water too long and are out of the water only briefly, most can be released unharmed.

    Lake Ontario brown trout, stocked in May as 8” yearlings, depending on winter conditions,  usually grow to 2-4 lbs. by the following April when the fish are 2 years old.  By fall, many of these 2-year olds are 4 to 6 lbs. and run Ontario tributaries to spawn around the first of November.  Immature 2-year old browns with bright orange flesh that haven’t yet spawned are a better choice on the table than older dropback spawners, one of the reasons many anglers release larger browns.

    With a creel limit of 3 browns per person, an annual lakewide stocking of around 600,000 browns, and the fact that Lake Ontario browns don’t reproduce, there is no biological reason for releasing legal brown trout.    That decision is more a matter of personal preference.



  • Lake Ontario Fishing Report…, Major 2009 Alewife Year Class

    Posted on May 25th, 2010 admin No comments

    Wow!!!  Great news about Lake Ontario’s alewife forage base…, lots of 3-4 inch alewives from the 2009 hatch.  Perfect chow for 2-year old browns, spring cohos, and young lakers, kings, and steelhead. 

    We’ve seen brown trout stomachs stuffed with them in 10 fow, young lakers on bottom in 190 fow bulging with them, and cohos, steelhead, and kings in the top 30 fow over 200+ fow chowing down on them.  This strong 2009 year class could carry the Lake Ontario fishery for several years, even if subsequent year classes, i.e., 2010, aren’t as strong.  Nothing saying they won’t be, though, conditions for alewife spawning/hatching this year are good.

    This brown was stuffed with yearling alewives hatched in 2009.

    This brown was stuffed with yearling alewives hatched in 2009.

  • Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Fishing…, A New Era?

    Posted on May 9th, 2010 admin No comments
    Leeanne with one of 8 sublegal landlocked salmon boated aboard the "Fish Doctor" this season.

    Leeanne with one of 8 sublegal landlocked salmon boated aboard the "Fish Doctor" this season.

    It was back in 1983 when the NYSDEC stocked 45,000 surplus landlocked salmon(LLS) smolts from the Adirondack Hatchery in northern New York into three different tributaries of Lake Ontario(L.O.).  In a lake 200 miles long and 50 miles wide, surprisingly, anglers started catchingLLS and quite a few of them.  In just a few years, I saw LLS up to 13.5 lbs.  come aboard my charter boat, and heard of LLS up to 16.5 lbs. caught, but the fishery soon fizzled, despite expanded stocking by the NYSDEC.

    Interestingly, a variety of different LLS and Atlantics, some from the Tunison lab in Cortland, were stocked over the next few years.  Once in a while a decent landlock(call them Atlantics, if you like) would be caught.  I saw one LLS  in about 2001 that weighed 22.5 lbs.  A NY record  was set by a L.O. fish weighing 24.5 lbs.

    The potential of L. O. to produce trophy LLS was obvious, but it wasn’t happening.  Survival of stocked fish was poor.  No serious research was being conducted, at least by NYS, to determine the problem and find a solution.  The basically insignifigant LLS  fishery continued for years with DEC’s lake wide creel census summary for a number of seasons showing a LLS catch/harvest of “O”.

    Then, after averaging about one LLS per year caught aboard my charter boat, in 2008 that changed.  In April that year there were lots of reports of LLS around 18″ being caught.  During the 2008 season, my charters boated 8 fish that by midsummer had grown to 21″.   But few larger LLS were reported.  Then in the spring of 2009, more reports of LLS…, a number of verified reports of fish in the 10 lb. class, plus numberous reports of smaller fish from 20-21 inches.  By May 1st, this season, my charters had boated 8 sublegal salmon, as many as we caught during the entire 2008 season, and probably more than we caught in the five years together prior to ‘o8.

    When I inquired about this, I heard that the Province of Ontario had changed their landlocked salmon stocking and management program with a rumor that stockings of spring fingerlings in tributaries might be doing the trick.  As I collect more info, I’ll report on it here.

    Whatever the reason for the drastic increase in LLS we’ve been catching, one thing is very obvious.  There is potential for producing a major LLS salmon fishery in L.O.  We’ve seen that it is possible to successfully stock LLS in L.O.  We’ve also seen that the growth rate of L.O. LLS may be some of the best on the planet.

    Sooo…, if it is Ontario, Canada that is producing the LLS we’re seeing, if their success continues, if they expand their program, and if NYS follows suit successfully, we may be looking at one of the finest if not the finest future trophy LLS fisheries on the planet. 

    Very, very exciting!