• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Hunts for Healing Warriors

    Posted on June 29th, 2011 admin No comments

    They had traveled north from Pennsylvania to Oswego, New York, where my charter boat is moored.  This trip with Hunts for Healing was very special, the second year in a row that Fish Doctor Charters donated a trip in appreciation of the sacrifice warriors like Chance and “Al” are making to safeguard our nation’s freedom. 

    U.S. Marines Chance and "Al" with two nice browns they boated on June 28, 2011.

    U.S. Marines Chance and "Al" with two nice browns they boated on June 28, 2011.


    Chance and “Al” showed up at the dock just before 5:00 AM on June 28, 2011, with Mike, and Mindy.  As I sized up my anglers for the day walking down the dock toward me,  I noticed the braces on Al’s wrist and knee.   Chance was stoic.  Not unexpected for two wounded Marines who would be fishing with me that day with their friends and mentors from Hunts for Healing, an organization dedicated to helping returning armed services members readjust from battlefields to a more normal life back here in the U.S. 


     As we planed out of Oswego to the northeast, our conversation was all fishing…, how had they been biting, what the chances were for the day, what would we be catching.  The weather was perfect…, south winds, calm seas.   I knew conditions were changing rapidly and expected the huge concentration of spawning alewives that had been tucked in close to shore to be scattering toward deeper water. 


    We started where the action had been hot the day before, found no fish there, and trolled eastward on our “locate and capture” mission.  After checking the water temperature,  getting some lines in the water, and some small talk about the weather and fishing, it wasn’t long before the bait we were looking for started to show up on the fish finder.  Moments later, a copper rod rigged on a planer board doubled over and the line pulled free from a release.  Fish on!


    That was the moment I was waiting for.  When a fish is on and the air is full of anticipation, it’s hard to think about anything else, including the pain from an IED wound in a shattered wrist and knee, the trauma of being a prisoner of war, or the emotional drain of the transition from  the battlefield to home life.  This is the ultimate form of what we at Fish Doctor Charters like to call “water therapy”.  After boating a nice catch of browns, lakers,   kings, and a bonus steelhead, we headed back to the dock…, another great trip on Lake Ontario. 

    Chance and Al, the courageous Americans who fished aboard the Fish Doctor on June 26, 2011, fought on war torn battlefields miles apart, but were like brothers.  The bond between them cemented by experiences in war that only they could understand.  I heard nary a whine or complaint while they were aboard.   The opportunity for Fish Doctor Charters to host these trips is a privilege and a humbling experience.


    There have been many special charter fishing trips aboard the Fish Doctor on Lake Ontario since 1982 when my wife Carol and I earned our U.S. Coast Guard licenses and started charter fishing on the big lake.  None, however, have been  more special than the past two trips donated to the Hunts for Healing program whose volunteers and sponsors dedicate time and dollars to support, set up, and mentor hunting and fishing trips for brave soldiers.


    Hats off to Hunts for Healing , the dedicated volunteers who make the nonprofit organization work, and the companies and folks who donate dollars to sponsor the program.  Hunts for Healing offers selfless heroes a stepping stone through  hunting and fishing to aid in the transition  from intensive care units back to the outstretched arms of friends and loved ones.

    If you would like to sponsor a “Hunts for Healing” event or warrior, as we have go to www.huntsforhealing.org/sponsorship 

  • Monster Browns of June

    Posted on June 13th, 2011 admin No comments

    June is the time for bigggg browns, our boat record..., 25 lbs.4 oz.

    June is the time for bigggg browns, our boat record..., 25 lbs.4 oz.

    Bob Heplar had always wanted to catch a 10 lb. brown trout  to hang on the wall of his hotel in Trumbauersville, Pennsylvania.  A gracious host, Bob had watched his guests boat browns up to 16 lbs., but had never boated the big one he wanted for his wall.  That was about to change.



    The morning of June 10, 1992, was a big brown trout day, overcast, windy, and a steady drizzle, with hordes of alewives spawning along New York’s Lake Ontario shoreline east of Oswego.  As we trolled eastward in my charter boat in 30 feet of water, we weren’t hammering the browns by any means, but the fish we had been catching were good ones up to 12 lbs.   The one monster brown we had hooked had crushed a 4 ½” Rebel stickbait and wedged it in it’s jaws with enough leverage to open up the split ring, the lunker brown swimming away with the treble hook stuck fast.  The angler reeling in a plug minus a treble hook.


    There were still a few long faces aboard after losing the big fish when the next brown hit a Fastrac Rebel in a jointed brown trout finish and swam steadily away.  As we watched the 10 lb. test line peel from the spool of the Penn 930 reel, I knew we were into another big brown.  Forty-five minutes later, after pulling the planer boards, riggers, and all the lines, and backing down on the big brown with both engines into a 3’ sea, the big brown showed itself for the first time.  It took my breath away!


    As I readied the net, I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping the 9’ ultralight noodle rod and 8 lb. test leader would hold together for just a few more seconds.  The thrashing brown came aboard with a chorus of gasps, oooohs, and ahhhs.  Later, on a certified scale, it weighed 25 lbs. 4 oz., and Bob Heplar had landed the largest brown ever boated on my charter boat.


    The secret to catching that fish was timing.   Yes, timing, fishing for browns in the first half of June.  Fact, from June 1 to June15, there have been more monster browns caught over 20 lbs., including the current state record 33 lb. 2 oz. brown, boated on June 10, 1997, than any other time of the year.  Sure, one of my Fish Doctor customers boated a 19 lb. 4 oz. brown in April, and another boated a 21 lb . 3 oz. brown in late June,  but the records show that early June is unquestionably your best bet if you want to fish Lake Ontario for a real wall hanger brown.


    The reason is simple, food!  Big browns need lots of baitfish to maintain all that body weight, and alewives are their food of choice.  Not coincidentally, the peak alewife spawn occurs around June 15, when this nutritious baitfish concentrates in huge numbers in the shallows along New York State’s Lake Ontario coast line.  Big browns follow this food source inshore.  Most of the time these heavy bellied predators are gorged with alewives and could care less about hitting a bait or lure, but catch them when they are actively feeding, and your chances of landing a monster could be no better.


    If you’re planning on fishing Lake Ontario with your own boat,  fish the area from Oswego Harbor east to Nine Mile point, where anglers caught all three of the most recent record browns, 30 lb. 6 oz., 30 lbs. 9 oz., and 33 lbs. 2 oz.  Take note that at least two of these record browns were caught on stickbaits, a Rebel Fastrac and a Smithwick Rogue, fished from planer boards well away from the disturbance of the boat.  I use no heavier than 8 lb. test leaders on 10 lb. test main line when fishing stickbaits.


    Thirty-one years of Lake Ontario brown trout fishing has proven to me that big browns like deeper water than smaller browns, so focus on depths of 20 -30 feet and deeper, especially near structure.  In these depths, downriggers, diving planers, especially Slide Divers, and leadcore line, all are effective for catching bigger fish.


    New York’s state brown trout record has been uncontested now for over 10 years.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit, if that record was broken in the first half of June,2009.