• Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout…, Fishing Michigan Stingers at Oswego Harbor, March 2013

    Posted on March 31st, 2013 admin No comments


    As Mike Furnare stood at the stern of my charter boat onMay 6, 2011, just east ofOswegoHarbor, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked down in the prop was and saw the long dark shape 2’ below the surface ofLakeOntariowith the spoon we were trolling in it’s mouth.  Before Mike could move, the 11 lb. landlock was in the air eyeball to eye ball, the hammered silver/red Michigan Stinger clearly visible in the corner of it’s jaw.  After some wild acrobatics by that big salmon and some huffin’ and puffin’ by Mike, the fish finally came to the net.         

    In early spring, Michigan Stingers are a go-to trolling spoon aboard the Fish Doctor, but not necessarily as they come out of the box.    In the 3 ¼ inch size,  it’s a perfect smelt and yearling alewife imitation. 

    It’s the 3 ¼” Stinger that ’s so deadly for early spring browns, kings, steelhead, and landlocked salmon in the Great Lakes.   This slender, ¾” wide spoon, is available in flat and hammered silver, brass, and copper finishes, plus about every conceivable painted color.   With some tuning, it can be trolled effectively over a range of speeds from 1.5 mph to over 4.0 mph.

    I fish Stingers on everything,  flatlines, planer boards, leadcore, riggers, Dipsys, and Slide Divers.  With the stock #2 treble hook and no bend, it trolls well from 2.3 – 3.5 mph.  But especially in April, when the water temperature is cold, and I’m trolling Stingers for brown trout at speeds as slow as 1.5  mph, I substitute a smaller, #4 chrome, wide bend treble for the #2 treble to produce a snappier action.  This spoon with a size #4 treble fishes best with a small #1 crosslock snap and light line.  For browns, 6 – 8 lb. leader works well.

    At faster trolling speeds, use the stock #2 treble and replace the crosslock snap with a coastlock snap swivel.  Lure action can be changed by ncreasing or decreasing the bend in the tail of the spoon.

    You’ll vind  browns will like lots of  Stinger colors, including the basics…,  Black Alewife”(S62),  “Tuxedo”,  “Bitter Lemon”,  “Rainy Day Spoon”(SH30), and many others.

    For early spring Atlantics at faster trolling speeds,  the same Stinger colors and finishes that catch browns also work for salmon, but hammered silver, copper or brass Stingers with a fluorescent orange or fluorescent lime green paint stripe or a diagonal strip of red/orange tape are effective.   In April, when landlocks  follow spawning smelt and juvenile alewives  inshore, I “match the hatch” with the 3 1/4”MichiganStinger

    Match the hatch with the 3 1/4" Michingan Stinger.


    If you’re interested in trying Michigan Stingers in your home waters, check out the Stinger web site at <www.mistinger.com>.  Don’t be surprised by the myriad of colors on the site, but focus on the basic patterns I’ve learned to use and you won’t go wrong..

  • Lake OntarioTrout and Salmon Fishing – Tweaking the Deadly Sutton

    Posted on March 23rd, 2013 admin No comments

    The #44 Sutton..., tuned properly, it's absolutely deadly for Great Lakes trout and salmon.

    As a LakeOntario charter captain with 30 years of experience under my keel, I’ve been asked many times, “If you had only one spoon to use inLakeOntario for trout and salmon, what would it be?”  Well, to answer that, I’ll take it one step farther.  If I had only one spoon to use for trout and salmon anywhere on a flatline, leadcore or copper line, or a downrigger or Dipsy , it would be an ultralight flutter spoon called a Sutton, in Size #44.  If I could select a few different sizes of Suttons, I would add the #31, #71, #88 and #38.


    The first time I fishedLakeOntarioin September, 1977, with my fishing partner Mac Collins,  five out of the six kings my partner and I caught were on a flat silver #88 Sutton.  Since then, Sutton spoons in a variety of sizes and stock finishes, plus customized versions I concoct myself, have caught every species of trout and salmon inLakeOntariofor me including, cohos, steelhead, lake trout, domestic rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, several thousand brown trout, plus walleyes and bass. 


    Suttons, by far, are the most popular trolling spoon for trout and salmon inNew York’sFinger Lakes, where they originated many years ago, unfortunately, they are no longer available.  They have one of the finest silver plated finishes on the market. 


    Suttons are available in both ultralight flutterspoons and heavier casting spoons.  They are available in a variety of finishes including flat and hammered silver, brass, copper, silver/brass, and silver/copper depending on the model and size.


    My favorite is the ultralight flutterspoon because it can be tweaked to troll properly at speeds from 1.5 – 3.0 mph.  These spoons come from the factory with a light treble hook which produces good action at slow speeds.  For my purposes onLakeOntario, I replace the treble on all Sutton spoons with a single Mustad siwash hook.  On my favorite, the  3” long #44 Sutton, I use  a Size #1, #1/0 or #2/0 depending on the speed I’ll be trolling for different species and the spoon action I’m trying to achieve.  With the factory bend and a single # 1 hook, the #44  rigged with a #1 crosslock snap on a light leader will start to spin at 2.0 mph.  Small crosslock snaps improve the action of any flutterspoon at slow speeds.  Rigged with the same small crosslock snap, but a 1/0 Siwash hook, the #44 will start to spin at 2.3 mph.  Rig a #44 Sutton with a #2/0 Siwash hook and a #2 Sampo coastlock ball bearing snap swivel it will wobble up to about 2.7 mph.  Flatten the spoon thru the middle and bend back a 3/8” length of the nose of the spoon, and it will wobble up to about 3.0 mph. 


    For brown trout, tune a Sutton to wobble.  King salmon prefer a spoon that wobbles, but will hit spinning spoons when they’re aggressively feeding.  Domestic rainbows sometimes prefer a flutterspoon that spins.  Vary the size of the Sutton you’re fishing from the smaller, 3” #44 and #31 to the larger #71 and #38 depending on the size of the bait fish trout and salmon are targeting. 


    One of my my favorite Suttons in LakeOntario’s gin-clear water when it’s sunny is the stock hammered silver/brass finish.  A 1/16stripe of fluorescent orange paint along the silver edge of a hammered silver/brass Sutton produces more fish in colored water under sunny skies.  A flat silver Sutton with a diagonal stripe of light blue lazer tape is one of my favorites for brown trout in clear water and low light.  Your own custom touches of tape and paint are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.


    I’ll never forget that firstLakeOntariotrip with Mac Collins.  As he removed a crumpled #88 Sutton from a big king’s toothy maw, I suggested the spoon was ready for the garbage heap.  “No way,” Mac said.  “This baby is just starting to get a little character!”  Mac put another “peppermint twist” in the spoon, rigged it on a downrigger and promptly caught another king on it.  If you’re lucky, you may find Suttons online.

  • Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout Fishing…, 2013 Ice-out

    Posted on March 11th, 2013 admin No comments

    On March 11, 2013, Lake Ontario and Oswego Harbor are ice free.

    If you northern New Yorkers and New Enganders are still shoveling snow, chopping thru 2 feet of ice on your lakes, and watching thermometers drop to 0 degrees or lower every other night, Cheer up!  There is life elsewhere on the planet, including Lake Ontario.


    We get lots of calls asking, “When will ice-out be so we can come fishing, Capt. Ernie?”   Well, fact  is Lake Ontario never freezes over completely and some winters doesn’t even skim over along the shoreline.  This was one of those ice free winters, and I heard recently, even Lake Champlain didn’t freeze…, unusual.  Check the Camera 9 webcam at Oswego Harbor, and you’ll see the lake and harbor are ice free.


    Questions about Lake Ontario iceout are common.  It’s hard for anglers who have been shoveling snow insubzero weather all winter and who seldom see ice-out until late April or mid-May to realize Lake Ontario never freezes over completely.  Even in the most bitter winters, shoreline ice cover, at the very most, extends out no more than a few miles out from the coastline.  The inlets and harbors on the New York side of the lake that provide boat access are normally locked in with ice until late March or very early April.  One exception is theNiagara River which is always ice free.  Another, isOswegoHarbor, which is either ice free or becomes ice free in late winter.

    The latest iceout I ever remember was April 10, and that was a situation where during a colder than normal winter, ice extending several miles out from shore, blew ashore after a heavy nor’wester, clogging the mouth of the harbor.  The earliest I’ve ever trolled from a boat on the lake wasFebruary 14, 1998, during an El Nino winter.  Extremely mild weather that year kept the water temperature much warmer than normal and produced fantastic late winter fishing for browns and domestic rainbows.

    This winter the weather along the southeastern shoreline ofLakeOntariohas actually been relatively mild with less snow and slightly warmer temperatures than normal.  Accumulated snowfall inFulton,NY, just south ofOswegoandOswegoHarbor, where I moor my charter boat, was 149 inches onMarch 5, 2013, compared to some years when snowfall totals exceed 300 inches.  Average temperature from December thru March is normally around 29 degrees and subzero weather is rare. 

    The Oswego area has missed the nasty 2013 snow storms which have hammered parts of New England.  On March 5, NOAA weather satellite maps showed midlake surface temperature of Lake Ontario was as high as 35 degrees in midlake.  The long term average this time of year is about 34 degrees.   According to  www.weatheroffice.gc.ca, Environment Canada, on March 5, 2013, LakeOntario is “Ice free except…, lake ice in the Bay of Quinte and in the bays along the northeastern shore.”  Oswego Harbor is already ice free, but most other ports may be iced in until late March.  Water temperature in the Oswego River on March 11, after a weekend of snow melt was 38 degrees.  You can bet that baitfish and the trout and salmon predators that follow them have already started to concentrate around this warmer water off the mouth of the Oswego River.

    No matter what the weather does from now until spring, there will no be no ice cover onLakeOntariothis winter.  Our spring charter fishing season will start in early April, as usual.   As we speak the brown trout fishing in Oswego Harbor is already beginning to happen, with reports of a few anglers catching late winter browns casting from the harbor walls.



    No matter what the weather does from now until spring, there will no be no ice cover onLakeOntariothis winter.  Our spring charter fishing season will start in early April, as usual.   As we speak the brown trout fishing inOswegoHarboris already beginning to happen, with reports of a few anglers catching late winter browns casting from the harbor walls.