• Lake Ontario Salmon Fishing Tip – Fishing Sushi Flies

    Posted on October 19th, 2009 admin No comments

    Using brass wire to fasten a Familiar Bite alewife strip to a Lake Ontario salmon fishing fly

    Using brass wire to fasten a Familiar Bite alewife strip to a Lake Ontario salmon fishing fly

    Mike DuCross and his fishing buddies from Cornwall, Canada, were excited as we headed out of Oswego Harbor in eastern Lake Ontario in early September, 2009.  They had seen the catch of 20-30 lb. kings my morning charter carried off the dock,  and heard the war stories about how we had them dialed in all morning with whole alewives and big flashers.



    With 30 years of experience fishing for fussy Lake Ontario kings, I wasn’t quite as confident.  With a hot bite all morning long, I didn’t really know what to expect on the  afternoon trip.   Two things  I did know, though, were that conditions had not changed a bit, in my eyes, since late morning, and the “X” on my chart plotter that marked the scene of the morning’s hot action was where we would start with the same hot 2-rigger spread of Kingston Tackle golden retriever Slashers and Familiar Bite alewives in sun-faded chartreuse bait heads, one rigger at 130’ and back 25’, the other at 120’ and back 15’.


    After an hour of trolling without a touch, everything looked the same in early afternoon as it had in late morning on the 10” Sitex CVS 210.  There were   plenty of kings in the area, but their mood had changed.  Altering  leader lengths between flasher and bait and switching  bait head colors had made no difference. 



    With unwavering confidence in the big  silver and gold prism taped golden retriever flashers in bright midday light for staged kings,  I had opted for changes in leader length and bait head color, to no avail, before deciding on one last change before doing something drastic. 


    Reaching into my bait cooler, I pulled out a a freshly salted Familiar Bite alewife strip, and securely wired it to the leading beak hook of a Tournament Tie on a Mirage fly with a 48” leader and replaced the whole bait with the baited Mirage fly.  After dropping the rigger back to same depth of 120’ with the same 15’ setback as before,  the rod fired in minutes.  Immediately after I reset it the second time, it fired again.  Meanwhile, the whole bait, 10’ deeper at 130’and 25’ back was just a slug.  While fighting the second fish, Mike  pulled the deep rigger, while I baited another fly, and we reset the rigger exactly as before,  130’ down and 25’ back.  Before we untangled the second king from the net, the deep rigger with the baited fly fired.


    .  Why a king salmon would select a baited fly over a whole alewife one time and do the reverse the next time  I cannot say.  What I can say is that it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen.  


    A couple hours later, as the sun dropped toward the horizon and light intensity at the riggers dropped, you guessed it.  The program changed and the kings decided they absolutely loved whole Familiar Bite alewives 60” behind an 11” glow green ProChip 11.  


    Baited flies and, before that, baited hoochies or squids, in combination with flashers have been a go-to rig for me aboard my charter boat, ever since my first trip to Alaska  in 1990.   I was fortunate to  be invited aboard several commercial salmon trolling boats,  and the first thing I noticed on deck was  buckets of 11” plastic flashers, mostly white, green, chartreuse, and red.   Hanging on the rear of the cabins were rows and rows of  3 ½” hoochies(squids) in a myriad of colors, some for kings, some for cohos.  Closer inspection of the hoochies showed a piece of light brass wire, inside each hoochie, attached to the eye of a large commercial single hook.


    The wire on these hooks was for attaching strips of herring inside the hoochie.  The bait strips are generally about 3 inches in length, and a hoochie rarely goes in the water for Alaskan kings without them.


    The commercial trollers also showed me how they rigged whole herring, herring filets, and cut plugs, all of which they carry onboard, along with spoons and plugs,  when they’re trolling. To a man, they were adamant about how fussy king salmon were and how important it was to master a variety of techniques to consistently catch fish in all conditions. 


    I never forgot that lesson, and returned to Lake Ontario with not only a new perspective on fishing bait for kings, but a new conviction to do my utmost to become as versatile as possible in fishing for them .  



    Today, my favorite flashers with baited flies include, 8” ProChips, 11” ProChips and HotChips, and 13” Kingston Tackle Slashers in a variety of color and finishes.  I use 36”-48”, 60 lb. mono leaders behind 11” and 13” flashers, and 19” to 30” leaders behind 8” flashers.  Flasher/fly color combos are exactly the same as for clean flies.


    Rather than the single hook used by commercial trollers, I prefer a tournament tie with a 5/0 beak hook and a #2 bronze treble.  The same tournament tie used with clean flies can be used with bait, but I prefer to extend the leader length between the beak and treble hooks about 1 ½” so the treble trails at the tail of the bait.  Although, the alewife bait strip can be hooked on the leading beak hook, even a properly prepped alewife bait strip softens quickly in fresh water and seldom will stay on the hook very long. 


    The secret to keeping an alewife bait strip secured inside the fly is to wrap it on the beak hook just behind the hook eye using soft .020” diam. brass wire.  Although the brass wire can be attached to the beak hook on a pretied Tournament Tie, I like to attach it before I snell the hook, by simply placing it through the eye of the hook, pulling the brass wire down along the shank of the hook, tying the snell, and trimming the brass wire leaving about 1 ½ inches of each end of the wire extending to each side of the hook. 


    The head end of a correctly shaped bait strip  that is tapered to about 3/8” at the head end of the strip is then laid skin down against the hook shank, and the brass wire is wrapped from opposite directions around the bait with enough tension to slightly bury the wire into the meat on the bait strip.  It is not necessary to twist the ends of the wire together to hold the strip.  Using this setup, the bait will stay attached to the beak hook as long as you fish it.  I tie my own, lightly dressed flies to use with bait. 


    From 18 years of experience fishing baited flies, I’ve found that elongated diamond shaped bait strips about 3” in length and ½” to 1” wide, tapered to 3/8” at the head and ½” at the tail  is about right.  The later in the season, the larger the bait strip, including strips with tails as large as ¾ inches in width.  Bait strips are filleted from the both sides of an alewife and trimmed to shape.


    The better the quality of the bait strip, the better it catches fish.  Availability of alewives to use as whole bait or bait strips has always limited the use of bait for Great Lakes trout and salmon.  The Familiar Bite Co., which harvests, brines, and vacuum packs freshly collected alewives in 8-packs has now solved this problem.   To properly prep quality alewife bait strips, filet them immediately when fresh or immediately after removing partially thawed bait from the vacuum pack. Trim them to shape, and place them in a ziplock bag of noniodized salt.  They will keep indefinitely refrigerated.  I carry a ziplock bag of preshaped bait strips in a small bait cooler along with a brine jar of whole alewives and an ice pack.


    Years of experience and millions of Great Lakes king salmon have proven clean flies catch kings, but I’ve found  that baited flies will outfish clean flies for unaggressive fish, whether  they are just negative,  nonfeeding staged fish, or big, lazy fish.

  • 2009 Lake Ontario Salmon Fishing – Lessons Learned, 10/10/09

    Posted on October 10th, 2009 admin No comments
    An 11" ProChip and Familiar Bite whole bait were this king salmon's undoing

    An 11" ProChip and Familiar Bite whole bait were this king salmon's undoing

    You’re never too old to learn, and even though I’ve fished Lake Ontario for trout and salmon since 1977, and operated a charter fishing business on this great fishing lake since 1982, my learning curve peaked in ’09.  Part of the reason…, I force myself to not get in a rut, and to stay as far out as I can on the edge of the developement of new Great Lakes trolling techniques and the refinement of old ones.

    One thing I learned in ’09…, 11″ flashers like Pro-Troll’s ProChips and HotChips trailed by flies and Familiar Bite whole bait are deadly for  king and coho salmon.  Luhr Jensen’s magnum dipsy divers are an essential part of my 11″ flasher program.  These magnum divers will take big flashers way downnnnn to depths.  For example, on the #3 setting a mag dipsy on 225′ of wire will fish down 90′, depending on trolling speed, current/trolling direction, etc.

    The same flasher on a standard size LJ Dipsy will fish down maybe 60 t0 70 feet.

    One of the bonuses for those fishing mag dipsys along with copper…, the sharp downward angle of your wire on the Dipsy rod is far less likely to tangle with copper coming in and out…, HUGE!