• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Rigging Whole Bait

    Posted on January 24th, 2014 admin No comments

    Few anglers question that trolling with meat, whether whole bait, cut bait, or Sushi Flies, is one of the deadliest techniques for catching monster Great Lakes Chinook salmon.  Each of these meat rigs catches fish, but “matching the hatch” with whole alewives, the primary salmonid forage in the Great Lakes, makes a lot of sense.  The secret to success with the “real McCoy” is properly rigging and tuning it.


    You can buy fresh frozen vacuum packed alewives and whole bait rigs directly from Great Lakes Tackle Supplies. Contact Walt Thompson <greatlakestacklesupplies.com>. You’ll find the bait heads are easy to use, but there is a learning curve involved with rigging and tuning it.   Here are some rigging tips you might find helpful;


    1. You’ll need bait, rigs(prettied plastic heads/leaders/hooks), flat toothpicks, a coil of .019(or so) wire, and wire cutters.
    2. before you do anything, just behind the eye of the alewife, you’ll feel a bony bump…, crush that slightly so the bait slides into the bait head easily and all the way…, no space between nose of bait and end of head.


    1. slide the head of the bait all the way into the bait head, take the end of the wire and insert it thru the hole in one side of the bait head, thru the bait, and out the other side. Slide/twist the wire back and forth to “open” the hole in the bait. Remove the wire without moving the bait inside the baithead…, insert the toothpick in the hole you just made with a pushing/spinning motion, and it will easily follow the hole you just made with the wire right thru the bait head. Snug it up, break it off.



    1.  use a flat toothpick that will fit easily thru the holes in the bait head.


    1. Now the key to tuning whole bait and keeping it tuned…, slide a section of wire thru the bait along the backbone, on the side of the backbone toward the outside of the bend. Push the wire right up into the bony head of the bait. You want the bait to be straight when you do this. The straighter the bait when you get done, the easier it will be to tune(bend) it properly. The wire helps maintain the correct bend in the bait as you fish it. Pic shows inserting wire after hook is placed, but I like to do it before hooking bait.


    1. Hook the leading beak hook thru the bait as shown in the pic, with the tail treble swinging free at the tail of the bait.



    1. Check the tune in the water boatside, and adjust the bend according to your trolling speed. You want the same basic corkscrew rolling motion as with cut bait.


    With time, you’ll be able to tune a whole bait from a tight roll to a wide roll. Get it right, and a whole bait is very speed tolerant. Also, you can tune them to troll at almost any speed, i.e., fished clean, you can rig them as part of a spoon spread, etc. The bend you see in the attached pic is for a slow troll.


    Once you’ve done this a few times, it won’t take long to rig/tune whole bait. The rigging/cleaning table mounted permanently at the stern of my boat is invaluable for this. I precut wire sections and keep toothpicks handy. I carry my whole bait in a separate cooler in a plastic contair of salt brine…, thaw the bait in the morning when I get up, place it in the salt brine, and carry it aboard in the cooler. I place a ziplock of a few frozen bait in my cooler, and early in a trip fish them fresh as they thaw.


    I like clear heads for running clean bait and the standard color(as with cut bait) for fishing with attractors.


    When the fish are aggressive and biting spoons, flies, etc., I don’t fish bait unless I’m fishing for a derby winner. When the bite slows, the bait goes in the water. Familiar Bait alewives are also deadly for everything else that eats alewives, including big lakers and browns.

    A properly rigged whole Familiar Bite alewife

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Snow Baby, Snow!

    Posted on January 10th, 2014 admin No comments

    This April brown was caught in the colored plume of the Oswego River on a "dirty water" plug.

    Most of us like to look on the bright side, especially folks who fish.  If the fish aren’t biting, they should start any minute.  If they don’t start biting, well, it’s a nice day to be outside.  If it really isn’t a nice day outside, well, your garden needed the rain anyway.  You know, like we’ve all heard before, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work!”


    Well, those of you in northern New York may be having a little trouble looking on the bright side this winter.  What weather swings…, frigid cold, lake effect, more cold, more snow, then a January thaw that may cause flooding.  What’s next?   More snow and rain?    If the weather pattern we’ve been seeing continues, you can count on it, since we’ve got over 2 ½ months of winter left.  This is bad news if you’re tired of shoveling snow and shuffling around on ice, but for the  spring brown trout fisherman on Lake Ontario, it couldn’t be better.


    The Oswego and Niagara Rivers are New York State’s two largest Lake Ontario tributaries emptying directly into deep water areas of the lake..  I moor my charter boat at the mouth of theOswegoRiverinOswegoHarbor, right in the city ofOswego, NY.  .  The river’s watershed is huge, stretching all the way south to the southern drainages of the largestFinger Lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, and others.  It also includesOneida Lake, one of the largest inland lakes inNew York, as well as theSyracusearea, and tens of thousands of acres of farm land.  When the snow melts in the spring runoff from this drainage basin funnels down theOswegoRiver, increasing the flow into the lake.  The spring runoff, warmed by the sun, carries with it nutrient laden water, the food of plankton, which attracts baitfish like smelt and alewives as it enters the lake.  Following the baitfish…, predators like brown trout, rainbows, chinook and coho salmon, and Atlantic salmon.


    Since the year, 2000, the two winters with the highestSyracusesnowfall were 2000-01 with 191.9” and 2003-04 with 181.3”.  I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that my two best springs for chinook salmon fishing offshore of Oswego Harbor were 2001 and 2004, when flow in the Oswego River was high from the huge snow melt.  I didn’t keep an accurate log of my salmon catch in 2001, but I did in 2004…, 201 chinook salmon in 31 trips.  The only reason these fish were just outsideOswegoHarbor…, the attraction of theOswegoRiverand it’s plume of warm water that extends out into the lake, like a magnet to baitfish, trout, and salmon.


    High river flows have the same effect on brown trout fishing in the Oswego Harbor area, but for a different reason.  Spooky,  browns are much easier to catch in colored water.   When river flow is high and the discharge plume outsideOswegoHarboris turbid with visibility as little as 3 to 5 feet, baitfish aren’t as easy for brown trout to locate and chow down on so browns feed longer.  In addition, light penetration thru turbid water is reduced, so the sun doesn’t shut down light sensitive browns.


    If the cold, snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York continues, we should be looking at and some super fishing for kings and browns out of Oswego Harbor.  Sorry folks, but from where I am in South Carolina, I’m joining the chorus singing, “Snow Baby Snow!”