• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Spring Trollers…, Pay Attention to COD!

    Posted on February 19th, 2012 admin No comments

    Trolling for staged king salmon in 12 feet of crystal clear water off the mouth of theSalmon River, my son Randy hollered to me from the cockpit, “Dad, come look at this!”  As I peered over the gunnel in the direction he was pointing, I could clearly see the sandy bottom under the boat.  Then I saw what he had, a huge school of  kings we were trolling through, moving about 25 feet away from the boat as we passed through them, almost as if we had an invisible plow attached to our hull.  Every time we trolled through the school, the fish moved away from the boat exactly the same distance.  Although I had seen similar fish behavior before, that was the day the concept,  “cone of disturbance”, finally sunk in.


    Cone of disturbance or COD for short, is a term you don’t hear much about fromGreat Lakestrollers.  A few savvy anglers, though,  use it to consistently boat more trout and salmon.  It’s the area of disturbance around a boat that pushes surface oriented fish away vertically, and horizontally a certain distance to what I like to call the “sweet spot”.   Reverse this concept, and the same factors can actually attract fish from a distance to the outer edge of theCODaround a boat.    Things like boat visibility, engine and outdrive noise, prop disturbance and flash, hull vibration, and electrical charge all repel fish a certain distance from a boat.  That particular distance depends on other factors like species behavior, light conditions, and lake surface conditions.  From experience, I’m convinced that even subtle things like engine lifter noise, affectsCOD.


    For some species like the crazy, fearless coho, with a definite attraction to motion and noise, outer limits of theCODmay be within arm’s reach.  But other more sensitive or wary species like chinooks and browns behave differently, and are seldom caught as close to the boat.   For each individual boat, each species has it’s own sweet spot.


    The bottom line for anglers is about taking advantage of fish concentrations when presenting baits and lures.  As a boat “plows” through the water and pushes fish out to the edge of theCOD, fish tend to concentrate a certain distance from the boat.  Theoretically, if that distance was 25’ off the beam, and steelhead were equally distributed just under the surface,   the  concentration of fish in the sweet spot would be 150% or 1 1/2 times greater than the average distribution on the lake surface.  Not a bad spot to target, eh?


    Effective rigger, Dipsy, sinking line, and planer board setbacks are as much a part ofCODas are the perpendicular distances vertically and horizontally from from the hull of the boat.  As a boat moves past fish,  pushing them perpendicularly away from the path of the boat, some of them eventually move directly astern, back into the wake of the boat.   Fish a Dipsy Diver with 6 – 10 feet of leader on 15 feet of line to the rod tip for spring browns in clear water and you’ll likely draw a blank.  Fish a Slide Diver, one of my favorites, on 15’ of line but with a 20 feet or longer setback to a lure, and you’ll  likely hook up.


    The other important factor affectingCODis fish activity level.  We all know fish are not active 24-7.  I saw a good example of this at a major sporting goods retail store recently where I was doing a seminar and talking with anglers near the store’s huge aquaria for several hours.  While there, I noticed a landlocked salmon, constantly swimming around the aquaria for a couple of hours.  Then, for no apparent reason, it suspended motionless, hardly gilling, in a corner of the aquaria, and stayed there for several hours.  It reminded me of a scene in an instructional video by master flyfisherman Jim Teeny where he unsuccessfully cast flies to several inactive steelhead lying almost motionless in a shallow run, then chucked a rock at them to break the dormant “spell”, moving them to another location, and then hooked up on his first cast, all filmed from 50 feet above. Anyone who has spent much time fishingGreat Lakessteelhead offshore has seen these fish, lying motionless, just barely below the surface, seemingly dormant.  That changes when a boat passes close to them and “kicks them in the butt”.  You’ll often find more active fish at the sweet spot along the edge of theCOD.



    TheCODvaries from boat to boat.  My 28’ twin engine Baha, with oversized mufflers on V-8 engines, catches fish much closer to the boat than a 26’ 4-Wynns I/O I operated years ago.   BZ(before zebra mussels) when water visibility was 3-5 feet in Lake Ontario, my son Jeff tipped me off to one of the hottestCODrecipes I’ve ever used for surface oriented steelhead, a green size #1 Dipsy Diver on the #3 setting with no ring, on 20 lb. test mono, 25 feet from the rod tip.  It not only took more steelhead than any other rod on the boat, the fish caught on it averaged larger.  The same recipe was deadly on inshore browns.  Thinking vertically rather than horizontally, one of the deadliest recipes I ever used BZ for staged kings off the mouth of the Salmon River was a tuned #88 Sutton 15 feet behind the weight and 18 feet down over 20 feet of water.


    Today, AZ(after zebra mussels), with water visibility greater than 30 feet at times, those recipes have changed, and are more variable, especially as water turbidity varies.  Fishing in early spring in the turbid plume of theOswegoRiverin 20-30 feet of water, I still catch browns on Dipsy Divers 25 feet from the rod tip, but in clearer water 40 feet of line to the rod tip is a better recipe.  Short rigger setbacks in 20 feet of  crystal clear water no longer work for me for staged kings.


    I’ve always said that all it takes is one blistering hot rod to make a fishing trip successful, and on many trips on my charter boat, that rod is fishing the sweet spot on the edge of theCOD.  If your way out rods that are often deadly don’t seem to be working, tuck things in a bit, because chances are, revved up trout and salmon may be eyeballing you boatside as you troll by.

    Rev. Mike with an early spring brown trout that hit a spoon trolled in the "sweet spot".

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Early Brown Trout Season, Feb. 14 Report

    Posted on February 14th, 2012 admin No comments

    What an unbelievably mild winter we’ve had in northernNew Yorkthis year.  On February 11-12, inMexico, NY, there was just a dusting of now on the ground.  Except for a few localized lake effect snow squalls, that’s pretty much been the rule all winter long , very little snow, quite a bit of rain, and warmer than normal temperatures.


    With such an unusually mild winter, a question I’ve been getting lately is, “Do you think we’re going to have an early  brown trout season?” and, “Should we book our brown trout trip earlier this year?” 


    It’s tempting to predict earlier than normal spring fishing for browns, cohos, domestic rainbows and Atlantic salmon in shallow water, and it definitely will happen if our mild winter continues.  With little or no snow pack and warm air temps,  by midMarch, sun warmed tributaries like theOwegoRiverwill be warmer than normal.   Near shore waters like those aroundOswegoHarborwill start to warm, attracting bait fish and predatory salmonids, and fishing will be hot and heavy by late March.  Key words here…, if the mild winter continues.


    If it doesn’t, and we see the worst of Old Man Winter’s wrath, we could still be in for a lot of winter, and a normal start to our spring brown trout fishing.  Remember, it’s only midFebruary with plenty of time for horrendous lake effect storms along the southeasternLakeOntariocoastline.  What was it, about 6 years ago, when a lake effect storm starting around Valentine’s Day in midFebruary dumped 120 inches of snow on northernOswegoCountyin just 4 or 5 days?  Something like that would definitely set back our spring fishing season., 


    Being a typical fisherman and an eternal optimist, i.e., “Just one more cast!”, I like to think positively.  Let’s bet the mild winter continues.  What will the brown trout fishing conditions be like, especially if we don’t get much rain?  One word sums it up…, TOUGH!!!  With low flow in the tribs, we’re looking at ultraclear water conditions along the shoreline of the lake, except for a short period after heavy blows.  Clear water will separate the “men from the boys” this spring.  If you know how to cope with clear water, you’ll catch fish.  If not, you’ll struggle.


    A few things that will help;


    1)      The early bird gets the worm.  We all know by now to get on the water early before the sun gets up while the bite is still on.


    2)      Fish areas of turbid water, if you can find them.


    3)      Go ultralight, with the lightest leaders you can get away with.


    4)      Don’t be afraid to fish deeper than normal once the sun gets up.


    5)      If you have a choice, fish when it’s overcast


    6)      Think natural, when it comes to lure finish.


    7)      Go the extra distance to put the odds in your favor, that includes a quality scent on lures.


    8)      Learn to fish the “Real McCoy” for browns…, bait.




    Whatever the conditions, following last year’s banner brown trout fishing, and the good growth and survival of yearling browns stocked last year, we should be looking at another great brown trout season.  Last November, 2011, Fish Doctor anglers were catching yearling browns, stocked only 6 months earlier, that were already up to 18 inches in length and almost 3 lbs. in weight.  With warmer than normal winter temps in the lake, these fish, as 2-year olds should reach 4 lbs. in April.  Combined with some real lunkers that carried over from last season, anglers should be in for plenty of early season brown trout action