• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, What’s Wrong with My Riggers?

    Posted on April 24th, 2015 admin No comments


    This king was boated on April 18, 2015, with three riggers in the water.

    I sent the center rigger down the 5th time to 135 feet.  Conditions had not changed in several days and I new the troll, due north at a surface speed of 2.7 mph.  Wham!!  Dr. Kerry Brown, Capt. Tim Hummel, and their first mates, Tom and John watched the 7’ Shortstick double to the water as I tightened the line to the release.  The tally was 5 kings in a row on the double pearl dodger and “king salmon” Howie Fly behind the decoy rigger weight down the center, before we could put another line in the water. 

    Kerry, and his crew had traveled from the Port of Oak Orchard in western LakeOntario to OswegoHarbor in eastern LakeOntario on July 20, 2005, to do an  on-water Howie Fly class with me.   Tom’s  comment after a half hour on the water and five consecutive kings on one rigger, “I’ve seen enough, we can go back!”

    What Dave had not seen, was what was comng next.  Instead of dropping the center rigger back down to 135’, I rigged the two corner riggers with dodgers and flies and dropped them to 130’ and 120’.  No takers!  I immediately dropped our hot item on the center rigger back down to 135’.  We watched intently.  We were still on the same hot troll…, identical speed, identical direction,  doing everything to “repeat-a-fish”.  The sonar was still showing  bait and kings from 100’ to 140’.  Nothing.  After setting copper lines, wire Dipsys, and a thumper rod, we started catching fish again, but not on the riggers.

    One week later, the scenario was similar.  As my crew approached the end of an 8-hour charter, we had boated some nice kings, but not a single one of them had come on a rigger rod.  Running three to four riggers at a time, the flashers and Howie Flies, had not  produced a nibble.  Because our copper rods, wire Dipsys, and thumper rods were all firing I had not changed the rigger spread.  As we got ready to haul lines, I purposely pulled both  boom riggers and spread out the corner riggers, one down 100’,  one down 140’.  Before I could get the second boom rigger weight out of the water, we doubled on the two green ProChips trailing  green krinkle flies.  Reducing the number of riggers in the water and spreading them out was all it took.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer in the addage that, “less is often more”when it comes to fishing riggers.  And, when I say less, think about not just dropping down to two riggers, but sometimes to only one!  One fish on one rod every 10 minutes equals 6 fish/hour, equals…  You  know!


  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing Charters…, April 24, 2015 Fish Doctor Charters Report

    Posted on April 24th, 2015 admin No comments


    A combination catch of browns and lakers boated aboard the Fish Doctor on 4/18/15.

    With an average of more than 20 trout and salmon coming aboard the Fish Doctor each charter fishing  trip since April 12, it’s hard to imagine better April fishing out of Oswego.

     Brown trout are abundant making up the bulk of the catch, but Fish Doctor anglers are also catching lake trout along with occasional coho salmon, Atlantic salmon, and king salmon.  2-year old browns from 15 to 18 inches are plentiful and despite their small size, put up a good battle on the ultralight gear we use in shallow water.    Good numbers of bigger browns up to 12-14 lbs. have also been boated.  Water temperatures in the turbid plume of the Oswego River have reached 48 degrees, with the main lake still a chilly 35 degrees and gin clear.

     Lake trout up to 12 pounds have been a welcome bonus and are being caught inshore right along with the browns.  Catching them on light tackle in shallow is a different story than hauling them up from the depths of 150 feet or more on heavier gear. 

     Spring cohos have been few and far between and they are running small.  With a 15 inch size limit, many are sublegal or just barely legal.  You can tell when you hook a coho because it spends almost as much time out of the water as in the water.  Surprisingly, feeding heavily on alewives, these cohos will grow to be 6-12 lbs. by early September.

     Fish Doctor anglers have already caught more legal Atlantic salmon than they boated on charter fishing trips all last season, catching and releasing  4 Atlantics from 25 ½  to 27 inches.  Not a lot of fish, but nice to see this once native Lake Ontario species showing up around Oswego Harbor.

     Only two king salmon, 12 and 15 lbs. have been boated on charter fishing trips so far, both on April 18, but hopefully we’ll see more moving into the Oswego area soon.  If 2015 is a repeat of the 2014 season, we should have some fantastic May and June chiarter fishing for kings not far from the Oswego lighthouse.

     See you on the water!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Finessing Spring Browns

    Posted on April 16th, 2015 admin No comments

    Jack and Jon with a limit of browns they and their buddy boated aboard the Fish Doctor on April 15, 2015.


    Many anglers new  to brown trout trolling inLake Ontario travel here each year with great expectations.  Despite all the publicity and photos of monster “football” browns in brochures and travel guides, it’s not as easy as it might seem.   Here are a few tips from Capt. Ernie Lantiegne about leaders and main line that will help you catch spring browns on your first trip to Lake Ontario.

    First a little background…, It was only a few years ago when filter feeding zebra mussels invaded Lake Ontario and water clarity increased unbelievably.    In the old days, a chartreuse downrigger weight disappeared 3-5 feet below the surface.  Today, I’ve seen the same weight as deep as 36 feet.  Clear water has had a major impact on fishing inLakeOntario and the otherGreat Lakes, especially for shallow water browns.

     But, on theGreat Lakes, fishing conditions are changing constantly, especially in the shallows.  A day or two of heavy west or northwest wind will muddy shoreline waters reducing visibility to almost nothing.  Following heavy rains, areas of the lake off  the mouths of tributaries will change from clear to cloudy.

     Like many other successful eastern Lake Ontario charter captains who specialize in early spring brown trout, I’ve learned to cope with gin clear water to consistently produce good brown trout catches.   Finesse and attention to details are two of the keys.

     Here are a few leader and main line rigging tips that will help you boat more shallow water browns when you can  count every pebble on the bottom in 10 feet of water.  It’s the system, a combination of each of the parts, that’s important.  One without the other will only get you part way there.

    1.  Leaders – Using light leaders for browns in clear shallow water has put many hundreds of brown trout aboard my charter boat, the “Fish Doctor”.  The clearer the water, the more critical the leader.   Although fluorocarbon line wasn’t abrasive enough to suit my needs when it first came on the market, recent improvements are convincing.  Not only is light leader  less visible to brown trout, it doesn’t restrict the action of ultralight spoons and small stickbaits unnecessarily.   When I say “light”, I’m talking no heavier than 8# leader and sometimes in gin clear water, 6#.  My favorite leader material is Maxima Ultragreen with fluorocarbon a close second.

    2. Spool prerigged 8# leaders in 6 lb., and 8 lb. test on leader spools.   Rig 8# leaders with a chrome or black Size #1 Duolock crosslock snap on one end and a Size #7 barrel swivel on the other. “Chain” 8 or 10 leaders together on a spool by  snapping  crosslock snaps to the barrel swivel on the next leader.  Whenever a brown stresses a leader or knot, or abrades the monofilament, change the leader.

     2. Main Line -  Light, abrasion resistant monofilament is a must when trolling browns in clear water using downrigger and planer board releases.  Some of these releases are tougher on line than others, but they all cause abrasion.  No matter what your preference is in line, do your homework and select tough 10# test mono.   Surprisingly, high visibility mono like the Maxima Fibre Glo I fish on my charter boat doesn’t  spook clear water browns when fished from planer boards.





  • Oswego Fishing Charters…, April, 2015 Report

    Posted on April 16th, 2015 admin No comments


    Greger and Christiana from Sweden about to release a 2-year old brown trout

    Fisherfolks aboard the Fish Doctor trolling for trout and salmon this April will tell you the brown trout bite has been great, plus they are seeing occasional cohos,  Atlantics, and lake trout.  An average of about 20 browns per trip have been boated in my first four charter trips.  A big plus is the gorgeous weather we’ve had each day since my first charter on April 12, much enjoyed by Fish charter customers from New Jersey, New York, Sweden, and Texas.

     In the four charter trips fished so far from April 12 through 14 seas have been calm and skies sunny.  A heavy flow of turbid Oswego River water has the lake colored up all the way east to Four Mile Point, and just beyond as of 4/14/15.  Water temperature in the river plume reached 44 degrees on 4/14/15, but my surface temp gauge read 35 degrees on 4/15/15 further offshore over 200 feet of water.

     Fishing for brown trout has been very steady with browns up to 12 lbs. hitting both stickbaits and spoons.   We’re catching browns in both the turbid river plume and clear water of the main lake, with brightly colored spoons and plugs working in the turbid water and natural finish spoons best in the clear water.

     2-year old browns look good with fish running from about 15 – 20 inches in length.  Older browns from 4 – 12 lbs.  are stretching the lines.  Spring cohos usually run 2-3 lbs., but are smaller than that this spring.  Atlantic salmon up to about 6 lbs. are a welcome bonus, along with occasional shallow water lakers.

     From here on out, weather permitting, there is no question that with what appears to be an abundance of browns this spring, charter fishing should continue to be excellent. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Dialing in on Water Temp

    Posted on April 5th, 2015 admin No comments

    This 19.5 lb. domestic rainbow was caught in 61 degree water.

    Temperature, temperature, temperature…  If you  are a Great Lakes angler who fishes trout and salmon, you’ve heard it time and time again.  Water  temperature is the key  to locating various species of salmonids with a preference for a particular  temperature and a temperature range that may be very narrow in certain conditions.

    If you have read the book, “Great Lakes Salmon and Trout Fishing” by Captains Dan Keating and Chip Porter, you’ve seen statements like, “The peak feeding range for kings is a chilly 42-44 degrees.  In the chapter on steelhead behavior, these veteran Great Lakes captains agree that, “During the spring months 42-44 degree water is the hot zone.”  From my own experience fishing inland waters and Lake Ontario for over 30 years, I’ve found that the preferred water temperature for domestic rainbow trout is even narrower, precisely 61 degrees.

    If you believe, as I do, that finding the right water temperature is gospel for locating trout and salmon, you probably have one or more temperature sensing units installed on your boat.  I have four, monitoring temperature at the surface and/or at the downrigger weight.  

    Sooo…, it’s as simple as turning on your surface temperature gauge, Fish Hawk X-4, Canon Speed-N-Temp, or some other unit, locating a specific water temperature and homing in on the fish, right?  Well, maybe not. 

    Am I the only one on the Great Lakes who has noticed the temperature readings on the units on my boat have not always  agreed with each other?   I doubt it.  Years ago, when I first installed a fish finder with a built in surface temperature sensing unit in the transducer, I noticed that the reading was 2.5 degrees higher than the surface temperature reading on my Fish Hawk.  What?  To find out which one was correct, I took the water temperature with a hand held , calibrated Taylor thermometer I had used for years when I worked as a fishery biologist.  It turned out that neither temperature reading was correct.  The Fish Hawk surface temp was 1.5 degrees high, and the surface temp of my fish finder was 4 degrees high.  I have checked downrigger probes that were off even more.

    Just for the heck of it, I once walked around the marina where I moor my boat, and asked 5 different captains what the surface temperature reading was on whatever unit they were using to record it.  The readings they gave me varied 5.5 degrees, and none of them had ever accurately calibrated the units or compared them to an accurate reading on another calibrated unit or thermometer. 

    If the experts are correct, and preferred water temps for individual salmonid species are as narrow as 1 to 2 degrees, in certain conditions, then a unit which is 3-5 degrees off, can mislead you, and possibly cost you some fish. 

    The solution is to carefully calibrate your temperature sensing units, and here is the way to do it.  The first thing you need is a standard hand held thermometer like the stream thermometer  in Cabela’s Fly fishing catalog.  These, and most other hand held thermometers may not be accurate right out of the box, so you will have to calibrate it.  Just fill a glass with crushed ice, add water, and insert the thermometer.  After  a couple minutes, the thermometer should read 32 degrees.  If it does not, note the difference in temp of your thermometer, and you’ll have an accurate starting point with which to compare  your other temperature sensing units.  It’s as simple as that.

    Once you have an accurate starting point, adjust the temperature reading of your other units, if possible, or note how far off they are.  The temperature reading on my 12” Garmin fish finder can’t be adjusted, but my X-4 Fish Hawk can be calibrated with the adjustment screws on the back of the machine.  

    To calibrate my Fish Hawk downrigger probe, first I use my handheld thermometer to get an accurate surface temp reading, then adjust the surface reading on the Fish Hawk.  Now,  at whatever time of the season I know the surface temp is the same down at least 10 feet or so, I calibrate the down temp by lowering the X-4  Fish Hawk probe on my rigger just far enough below the surface, usually 2 or three feet, to get a constant down temp reading.  Then, I adjust the down temp reading so it matches the surface temp reading.  Voila!

    It’s worth a little effort to assure your temperature readings are accurate.  Don’t let incorrect water temperatures keep your cooler clean!

  • Lake Ontario Salmon Fishing Charters…, Spring Kings!

    Posted on April 4th, 2015 admin No comments

    May 2, 2004..., 12-yr old "Jackson" and crew with part of a limit of 12 spring kings.

    Many anglers booking eastern Lake Ontario fishing charters don’t realize that just outside Oswego Harbor there is some excellent spring fishing for  king salmon.  In 2014, king salmon fishing was super  here from late April thru midJune.  In April and early May the kings were not much more than a long cast from the Oswego lighthouse, and no other charter boats were fishing them there!   Some years spring kings are a little further offshore but never more than a 5 minute run from the harbor.

    Here’s an article I wrote 10 years ago that will give you the scoop on spring fishing charters for king salmon in Lake Ontario.  Nothing has changed since then, except spring salmon fishing has been even better some years.  You’ll find more info on spring salmon charters on “Captain Ernie’s Blog” on my web site www.fishdoctorcharters.com.

    As we backed my charter boat into the narrow slip at Oswego Marina, my buddy Bob, standing on the dock, asked 12-year old Jackson Davis, “How’d they bite, young man?  Jackson couldn’t wait to spit the words out, “We limited out!” “Aha, said Bob, the browns are a lot of fun this time of year, aren’t they?” “We didn’t catch any browns”, Jackson blurted out, “We caught king salmon.” Jackson flipped open the big cooler, heaping with 8 to 19 pound mint-silver kings.  Bob’s jaw dropped, because not another charter boat in the marina was fishing for kings.  The date was May 2, 2004, and we couldn’t have had a better day of spring salmon fishing.

    I had located the fish the day before, figured out a pattern, and Jackson, his Dad, and Bob Jones had cashed in. The seas were calm and the skies sunny, but the best part…, we were the only charter boat on eastern Lake Ontario fishing kings that morning. Since 2004, spring fishing for king salmon  just outside Oswego Harbor, has been fair to fantastic, but very good most years.  In recent years in 2012 and 2014 we were catching kings beginning in April and most years in early May.   Just in the month of May in 2004 and 2005,  anglers aboard my charter boat landed  more than 400 king salmon and 150 cohos, this in an area much better known for spring brown trout fishing. Fishing for king salmon continues on through June and July as these sleek predators stay just offshore while hordes of alewives move shallow to spawn.

    Experience has shown that high spring flow in the Oswego River is a major attraction for baitfish and spring kings and cohos. Since 2001, another great year for spring kings, the pattern seems clear, high flows produce the hottest spring salmon fishing, BUT, no matter what the flows, there are always kings outside Oswego Harbor beginning in early May.

    In the past few weeks, the Oswego River has been flowing at around 10,000 cfs,, not high, but still laden with nutrients from thousands of acres of rich farmland in the watershed, the greenish colored plume of water off Oswego Harbor is like an oasis in the Sahara to fish in eastern Lake Ontario. With snow and rain predicted every day for the next week, expect increasing flows in the Oswego River, a magnet for both baitfish and predators like browns, cohos, kings, and rainbows.
    If youユre thinking about booking a spring salmon fishing charter out Oswego, on a typical sunny day the early bird definitely gets the worm. Leaving the dock at Oswego Marina at 5:00 AM or earlier, it’s only a short 5-minute ride(less in 2012 and 2014) to the fishing grounds in 90 to 100 feet of water. Most mornings I try to have my rods in the water just before daybreak. At that time, almost no fish or bait can be seen on my 10” color Sitex video fish finder(now a 12” Garmin) below 30 feet.  Some calm mornings, salmon can be seen porpoising right on the surface…, exciting. All the early morning action is in the top 30 feet of water, and I mean action. Triples and quads are not unusual. One morning, my crew of three ranging from 79 to 85 years old, including one lady angler, hooked and landed six kings at once from 13 – 19 lbs. Whew!

    Even though the surface water temperature in early May is 39-40 degrees, on sunny days, kings start to move deep by 7:00 -9:00 AM and are often flat on bottom in 120 feet of water by late morning. ProChip Flashers and dodgers trailed by Howie Flies are standard fare for spring kings aboard the Fish Doctor. My favorite in low light is the Casper, a stock white ProChip 8 with a Little Boy Blue fly trailing behind it. Spoons like Maulers, Northern Kings, and Michigan Stingers are also excellent spring king medicine. My top spoons, depending on the light conditions, are the NK28 spook, “Venom” Mauler, black alewife and monkey puke Stingers, NK 28 Diehard, Plain Jane Mauler in brass/green, Orange Ruffe Mauler, and Blue Dolphin Silver Streak. Downriggers, Dipsey Divers, and copper line fished from planer boards get lures down to kings. The first 10 minutes after daylight, you can catch kings right on the surface with spoons and stickbaits. Flasher/flies and spoons on copper off the boards are solid producers for spring kings after the sun rises.

    One of the most consistent early morning rigs on my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, is a thumper rod down the chute with a 10 oz. weight, 80’ of 20# wire, and a chrome/glow dodger with a glow baby purple/silver fly. As the light conditions brighten, you’ll find a chrome/silver prism dodger with an aqua fly on the thumper rod.  Later, in brighter light, I opt for a trash can dodger with a green crinkle or Pretty Jane fly. The hottest bright light flasher/fly combo for me in May, especially when the kings have dropped down deep, my Fish Doctor “Late Riser”(char/double glow) ProChip 8 with a Pretty Jane(glitter/silver/green) Fly with chartreuse beads.
    If youユre waiting until August to book a charter  for king salmon in eastern Lake Ontario, you might want to rethink your plan. Oh, and the other thing…, there is no better eating fish in fresh water than a spring king salmon dripping with oil after chowing down on alewives all winter…, yum, yum!!!