• Oswego Salmon Charters…, May 31, 2015, Report

    Posted on May 31st, 2015 admin No comments


    George Robinson with one of 10 adult kings he and his fishing buddies boated aboard the Fish Doctor on 5/30/15.

    Ask Kevin and George Robinson and their two fishing buddies, and they will tell you the king salmon fishing out of Oswego is really heating up.  You could not pick a better time in the next two weeks to fill your cooler with silvery, good eating spring kings! 

     On a 5/30/15 charter fishing trip aboard the Fish Doctor the Robinson crew never expected they would be fishing for kings.  Instead, they had booked the trip to fish for browns which generally provide plenty of action in late May.  After listening to me explain that 2-year old browns were smaller than normal with most still only 15-18 inches because of slow growth during the long, cold winter, then telling them how good the king salmon fishing had been in since early May, they quickly decided to target salmon.

     Good decision.  Our lines had not been in the water more than 15 minutes when the first king smashed a 55 Pirate on a slide diver.  A rousing way to wake up my crew as Dunkin Donuts coffee cups went flying and the first man at bat grabbed the bucking rod with the screeching reel. 

     That fish was followed by another  and another and another with steady king salmon action the entire trip, plus some steelhead and lake trout excitement.  Before trip’s end, they boated 10 adult kings and tangled with others that won the battle and swam  away.

     Bottom line is the kings have arrived with the alewives which are moving onshore to spawn.  With peak spawn generally around midJune, the kings will stage just outside the spawning masses of alewives for two to three weeks until these baitfish finish spawning and begin to move offshore. 

     Until then, you could not pick a better time to charter a fishing trip for spring kings out of Oswego.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, June the Best?

    Posted on May 25th, 2015 admin No comments

    Vinnie, with a nice king netted aboard the Fish Doctor on June 26, 2014.

    One of the most common questions I hear is, “What time of the season is the best fishing?”  Well, it would take a book to answer that one, but in a nutshell;

    1.  It all depends on what you want to fish and what type of tackle you enjoy.  If you want to fish for brown trout in shallow water, you generally must fish in April, May, and early June.  If you like  ultralight gear the answer is the same when we’re trolling on or near the surface with noodle rods and 8 to 10 lb. test line.  If you want the biggest kings and cohos of the season, you should fish in late August and early September.

    2.  Good fishing any time of  the year depends on conditions.  If weather patterns and especially winds are consistent, with no major changes, fishing is consistent.  Get a big blow and it changes everything.  Fishing can be the best all season, but one major weather change, especially high winds, can change everything.  If you’re fishing when a major cold front comes thru.  Don’t expect a good bite.

    That said,  especially over the past 5 years, I think the best fishing of the season, especially because of the beautiful weather, calm seas, and multispecies catches, occurs in June.

    On June 7, 2014, I had a plan based on what I had been seeing and catching the past few trips.  I talked Karl Schmidt and his crew into leaving the dock at 4:30 AM instead of 5:00 AM to take advantage of what I  thought would be an early morning king salmon bite.  By 6:30 AM when the sun was well up over the eastern horizon they had boated 8 kings and 1 laker, finishing their 8-hr trip with a limit of 15 kings.

    That kind of salmon fishing continued through midJune when the kings started to scatter.  As we followed them offshore and continued to check the satellite surface temp maps, I zeroed in on a major surface temperature break in about 400 feet of water where the temperature dropped quickly from the mid 50’s to the mid 40’s.  It was a honey hole, and we boated 20 to 30 steelhead,  lakers, and occasional kings  a trip there for the next two weeks.

    Does trout and salmon fishing get any  better than that?

  • Lake Ontario Trout andSalmon Fishing Charters…, King Salmon Alert!

    Posted on May 25th, 2015 admin No comments


    Glen with one of a cooler full of kings boated on 5/23/15.

    Timing is everything when you book a Lake Ontario charter fishing trip for trout and salmon.  Conditions change so much from one year to the next because of weather conditions, the type of winter we’ve had and lots of other variables, even when folks  book the same date each fishing season, fishing isn’t necessarily going to be the same.

     When it happens, though, and conditions are right, fishing can be fantastic.  That is exactly what is going on “as we speak”.  On May 23, 2015, a major change occurred just outside Oswego Harbor.  Alewives started showing up and the king salmon showed up with them, on the end of our lines and on the fish finder. 

    Fish Doctor anglers actually began catching the first kings of the season on April 18 this year, and they have been boating 1-6  kings on most trips since then, except for a few days in very early May.  But on the morning of Saturday, 5/23,  Bob Heimbecker, his 10 – year old son Grant and their fishing buddies Don, David, and Glen enjoyed some of the best king salmon fishing of the season so  far, boating a cooler full  of kings  from 10 to 18 lbs.  All the kings were stuffed with bait.  My 12” Garmin fish finder showed alewives and kings off and on all morning, a huge change in what we had been seeing on the fish finder.

     With this inshore movement of bait and kings just outside Oswego Harbor Fish Doctor anglers will see some of the best king salmon fishing of the spring over the next few weeks.  Let the salmon season begin!!!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, The Brown Trout Whisperer

    Posted on May 18th, 2015 admin No comments


    A Fish Doctor angler with a dandy midsummer brown.

    Brown trout talk to you, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes aloud.  They tell you what mood they’re in and whether they’re turned on or off.  How they react to any given spread fished from a Great Lakes trolling boat conveys a message to the troller with a keen ear.  “Listen” closely, react accordingly,  and your spread will catch more  and bigger browns.

     It was, 1993, a year like none other for big numbers of Lake Ontario brown trout   By early Sept., zipper-lipped prespawn browns were normally tough to come by, but fishing one of my favorite spreads on Sept. 4, Rick and Andy Morford, and their fishing buddy Phil Perry, had a cooler full of beautiful browns along with some adult kings fishing tight to bottom in 65 feet of water, well inside the fleet. With that day’s catch, the tally in my daily log kept since April 3 was 1004 browns.  The basic spread I used that day and that season for summer browns once the thermocline set up is the one I use today.

     Bottom oriented browns are seldom rigger shy like kings, and the spread I use for them, includes up to five riggers, four of them with cheaters, 2 to 6 wire diver rods, and either a thumper rod or copper rod down the chute.  If I’m fishing deep, and I’ve caught browns on bottom in 230 feet of water after a northwest blow, I scale down to three riggers.  The riggers carry a full set of spoons unless Mr. Brown Trout is cranky, and then an attractor/fly is added on the shortest setback.  When the brown trout bite is hot there is no way you can keep 12  lines in the water, but when it’s not, this spread puts fish in the cooler.

     Riggers are fished with unpainted 12 lb. salmon trackers weights set “bottom up”, that is, the weights are dropped into the depths, allowed to blow back until cable angle stabilizes, then dropped to bottom, before  adjusting them  to fish precisely at desired depths off bottom.  Riggers are set according to water temperature and depth, with the two corner rigger weights 1 and 2 feet off bottom at no colder than 47 degrees, the deepest with a setback of 15 feet, the other back 20 feet. 

     The center rigger, which carries a Fish Hawk X-4 speed/temp probe is set at 62 to 65 degrees and fished as a tail gunner, back 70 to 100 feet. 

     The depth of the boom riggers above the corner riggers depends on the width of the thermocline and what the fish finder tells me.  To start, the highest boom rigger is no warmer than 60 degrees.  If the width of the thermocline allows it,  one boom rigger is fished 5 feet above the nearest and deepest corner rigger, the other 10 feet above the nearest and highest corner rigger.  If  browns are hugging  bottom, both boom riggers are fished 5’ above the nearest corner riggers. Boom rigger setback varies, but normally ranges from 35 to 50 feet. 

     Fixed cheaters with 15 to 20 lb. test fluorocarbon leaders are fished on each rigger rod except the center one, and are rigged with  Roemer Liberators.  Length of the cheaters on the corner riggers is 8 feet and the boom riggers10 feet.  Spacing of cheaters above the main line release varies from 2 to 5 feet depending on how bottom oriented browns are.

     Custom built six to seven foot medium action rigger rods with spiral guides are my choice for browns.  When water fleas aren’t too bad and it’s possible to troll with light line, you’ll see brown trout rods on my boat fitted with Penn International 975 reels spooled with 20 lb. test.  When fleas are bad, larger capacity Penn 875LC digital line counters with 30 lb. test Penn mono work for me.  Each main line fishing a spoon is rigged with 8 feet of 8 to12 lb. test leader, depending on the type of spoon being fished.     

     Two to 6 wire divers, depending on the bite, are added to the spread.  They are fished on  7 to 9 foot wire diver rods and Daiwa 47SG-LCA reels with power handles spooled with 30# Mason wire.  Diver rods are set in horizontal rod holders.  Divers are rigged with Wolverine clear snubbers, Maxima fluorocarbon leader, 15 to 20 lb. test with spoons, and 20 to 30 lb. test with attractor flies, depending on the number of adult kings in the area.  Leader length ranges from 8 feet with attactor/flies to 10 feet with spoons.   For browns, spoons are my first choice, but I also fish up to two attractor/flies on divers, one on each side of the boat.  Target temperatures ranges from the deepest, just off bottom in 47 degree water to the shallowest as high as 65 degrees 

     Typical diver spreads include either, two divers with spoons, one on each side of the boat; four divers, one deep with an attractor/fly and one shallower with a spoon, on each side of the boat,  and occasionally, when browns want multiple divers with spoons, 6 divers with spoons, three on each side of the boat.  Luhr Jensen’s Size 0 Dipsy Divers with rings are my choice green or metallic purple, unless fish are shallow enough to reach without the ring.   Depth of the deepest diver is fine tuned by letting it contact bottom.

     Down the chute, you’ll find either a thumper rod or coded copper rod.  On the thumper, I’ll fish a dodger/fly with a 6-foot leader, with a 1 lb. ball on an 18” dropper so the dodger/fly won’t hang up or snag zebra mussels if the weight contacts bottom.  The copper fishes either a spoon, dodger/fly or ProChip-8 and fly.  I use either Sushi Flies or tie my own flies in sparse patterns. 

     No  fish in the Great Lakes is pickier about lure selection than a brown trout.  My go-to summer brown trout spoons include some that have fallen to the bottom of many tackle boxes.  Importantly, if they are not true silver plate, with only a rare exception, the only place you will find them on my boat is in the trash can.  Evil Eyes in 3F and 5F sizes in either silver/black, ham. silver/green, and ham. brass/green are in the water most of the time.  Another personal favorite, especially on cheaters and Dipsys is the Eppinger hammered silver lemon/lime 3200 Flutterdevle.  If I could use only one spoon for summer browns, it would be a hammered silver/brass Sutton in Sizes #44, #31, #71, and #38, either plain or doctored with a thin fluorescent orange paint stripe.  Michigan stingers in the standard or Scorpion sizes are high on the list, and definitely the most popular brown trout spoons in Eastern Lake Ontario, with the black alewife, Tuxedo, NBK, Dirty White Boy, Green Wiggle and others popular. 

     Trolling speed is critical.  Using my 840 Fish Hawk with the fantastic X-4 probe, I’m usually trolling from 2.0 to 2.5 mph for browns.  If you want to select for really big browns, don’t be afraid to troll even slower. 

     Because Great Lakes brown trout tend to found in “The Zone”, where they orient to bottom along the thermocline intersect, especially around structure keeping riggers tight to bottom is a must.   Because sharp turns are necessary to follow bottom contours, and because copper on a board on the inside of a turn  sinks like a stone, copper on boards is usually not a part of my summer brown trout spread.

     There is no question it takes a lot more hustle to fish a summer brown trout spread tight to bottom along a twisting contour than to cruise open water for suspended steelhead and salmon, but when you consider the size of most chinooks, pales in comparison to a monster Great Lakes brown trout, the effort might just be worth it.


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Multiple Copper on Megaboards

    Posted on May 18th, 2015 admin No comments


    Capt. Ernie has fished copper line aboard the Fish Doctor in Lake Ontario since 1978.

    I was uneasy, sitting next to float plane pilot “Buss” Byrd, engine roaring, aluminum pontoons skimming the water as we attempted to take off from Terror Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  My fishery biologist partner and I had just completed a fisheries survey of the remote 25 acre pond, and it was time to head back to civilization.  Circling over the pond on our arrival, I had looked down at the hour-glass shaped pond with it’s narrow, boggy, spruce lined channel separating the pond’s two sections and naively asked “Buss”, “Can we get in there?”.  Buss replied, “No problem getting in.  It’s getting out that’s the problem!”  As we addressed the “getting out” problem, the plane roaring toward a wall of spruces near the narrow neck of the pond, pontoons still on the water, I blurted out, “Buss, can we make it through the narrows?” “Only if we have to”, “Buss” calmly replied, as the rickety old biplane jumped from the water, pontoons brushing the spruce tops.

     The answer is the same when someone asks me about using multiple copper lines.  I fish up to a 7-copper spread, but only when I have to, and only with  megaboards, for suspended fish IN NO BOAT TRAFFIC!  If the bite is hot using my standard spread of 2-5 riggers, 2-4 diving planers, a thumper rod and a couple of copper lines off the boards, there is neither the time nor the need for rigging multiple copper lines.    If the bite is slow, and suspended fish are very scattered vertically and horizontally,  a 7-copper spread goes in the water, 6 lines on the megaboards, and one down the chute.  It’s a lot of work, especially fishing solo most of the time without a mate, but multiple copper lines catch fish.  Done properly, it’s no problem.  Mess up, and it’s a copper calamity!

     On eastern  L. Ontario,  2008,  was one of those only-if-I-have-to salmon seasons. Much of the time, kings, steelhead and pitifully few cohos were scattered to hell and gone in nasty seas.  Never before, aboard the “Fish Doctor” were multiple copper lines fished as much. 

     Far from shore and boats, on a July, 2008,  afternoon, my son Jeff rigged in the cockpit as a charter crew of 5 waited for their first fish.  Desperate times call for desperate only-if-I-have-to measures.  With no action on riggers and Dipsys and almost nothing showing on the Sitex CVS210, Jeff looked satisfied with the 7-copper spread.  It didn’t take long as I eased the 28’ Baha to port, letting the copper lines slow and settle.  The center rod on the port megaboard  snapped from the release, and a 10 lb. laker with a silver/chartreuse NK28 in it’s mouth came to the net, far from a red hot bite, but a more than welcome start for another trip when copper saved the day. 

     Without using megaboards, oversized triple planer boards, trolling up to 7 copper lines without eventual tangles is impossible.  The triple megaboards I use with up to 500’copper sections run nearly straight out boatside and don’t drop back  like inline boards.  Inline boards replace megaboards only in very rough seas, when only two inlnes are used.    Copper shines in rough seas

     My multiple copper line trolling technique evolved over the past 41 years, influenced by some of North America’s most innovative anglers.  In 1967, Adirondack guide, Doug Canaday taught me to fish .037” diameter twisted copper line on the bottom for Lake George lake trout.  In 1978, on LakeOntario I learned that  tuned #38 brass/silver Sutton spoons on copper were deadly medicine for bottom hugging prestaged kings.  Later trips to Lake Michigan with Tim Dawidiuk  and Chesapeake Bay with Capt. Bill Williams paved the way for the multiple copper line spread I use today aboard the Fish Doctor. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Diversity, the Key to Lake Ontario’s Great Fishing

    Posted on May 8th, 2015 admin No comments

    A Lake Ontario king salmon caught aboard the Fish Doctor on April 29, 2015.

    As a charter fishing captain with 34 years on Lake Ontario, plus a New York State fishery biologist who spent 22 years managing lakes throughout New York, I have always been amazed at how good the trout and salmon fishing continues to be here year after year. What makes the fishery in this 200 mile long lake click? How can the fantastic fishing be so consistent?

    The answer is many things. One of the first is foresight by the fishery managers and scientists who recognized the potential of the Lake Ontario as a salmonid fishery, laid out the plan and sold it to license buyers and government bureaucrats. Following that initial step, an international management team involving New York State, the Province of Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was crucial to the program. Air and water pollution abatement by the US and Canada, sea lamprey control, the basic productivity of the lake itself, plus sound fishery management and consistent stocking, all contributed to today’s multimillion dollar salmonid fishery.

    One of the most important parts of the fishery management program and a primary reason for the consistent world class fishing, year after year, is the diversity of the stocking program. Each year six species of trout and salmon, totaling 3.5 million, are stocked by New York State. 1.7 million of those are king salmon. The province of Ontario, Canada stocks about half that. In addition, in recent years millions of wild fingerling king salmon have added to the fishery. New York’s stocking of close to a half million each of lake trout, steelhead, and brown trout, along with domestic rainbows, coho salmon and landlocked Atlantic salmon adds to the fishery. It is this combination of salmonids that is so important to, high quality fishing year after year

                               Each year six species of trout and salmon, totaling

                                   3.5 million, are stocked by New York State.

    Since fishery biologists first began to manipulate fish populations through management and stocking, these populations have fluctuated up and down for lots of reasons. In Lake Ontario back around 2000, the lake trout population was thriving. That ended abruptly

    when a variety of hatchery problems reduced stocking drastically for several years. The population crashed, but has now recovered after successful management efforts. If lake trout were the only species managed in Lake Ontario, the lake’s salmonid fishery would have completely collapsed. As it was, fishermen continued to enjoy great fishing in the lake, the slack taken up by healthy pupulations of king and coho salmon, steelhead, and brown trout.

    Since I first began fishing Lake Ontario in 1977, there have been fluctuations up and down in all of the populations of trout and salmon in the lake.

    Not every stocking is 100 percent successful every year. Size and health of stocked fish varies year to year. Forage conditions for stocked fish vary. For many years a burgeoning population of cormorants took a toll on brown trout and steelhead stockings. That has now changed after the introduction of gobies, a bottom dwelling exotic that studies show now comprises 96% of the cormorants’ diet. The improvement in brown trout and steelhead fishing has been obvious.

    Fortunately for anglers, with six different species of trout and salmon stocked in Lake Ontario, when one particular population decreases, experience has shown one or more others is usually doing the opposite or holding it’s own. The world class fishing that results is one of the reasons Lake Ontario is considered one of the finest, accessible trout and salmon fisheries in North America.


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Slide Divers for Trout and Salmon

    Posted on May 8th, 2015 admin No comments


    This Atlantic Salmon hit a Stinger fished behind a clear Slide Diver in April, 2015.

    If you troll for trout and salmon, and haven’t tried the Slide Diver or the Lite Bite Slide Diver you should.  It is a real fish catcher onboard my chart fishing boat, the Fish Doctor, and has really been smokin’ during the fantastic April-May king salmon fishing we’ve been enjoying  in the Oswego area of  LakeOntario this spring.


    Anglers who troll for trout and salmon are familiar with directional diving planers like the Dipsy Diver.  These planers attach directly to monofilament,  braided, or wire line and take your bait or lure down to target depths. The adjustable rudder on many of these  diving planers directs them to port or starboard of the boat.   These types of planers use water pressure against the angled surface of the diver to take the diver and the attached leader and lure to depth. 


    A drawback to standard diving planers…, the length of the leader training them is limited to a maximum of about eight feet or whatever length an angler can handle when the planer is reeled to the rod tip while landing a fish.  This is where the Slide Diver parts company with all other available directional and nondirectional diving planers.


    Slide Divers differ from all other diving planers and  are a major part of my trout and salmon arsenal aboard the Fish Doctor for one reason.  They are inline planers, that is the line passes through them and can be locked in place any distance ahead of the lure.  This allows a lure to be fished at any distance behind the Slide Diver, a huge advantage when trolling for boat shy trout or salmon just below the surface.  In many cases, a trout or salmon in the top 30 feet or less of water won’t hit a lure fished on a 6’to 8’ leader behind a diving planer.  Set that lure back 20’ or more and lock your line in place in a Slide Diver, though, and you’ll catch fish. 


    The Lite Bite Slide Diver is an improved version of the Slide Diver that has a different trigger mechanism, allowing even the smallest trout or salmon to release the trigger, avoiding dragging small fish behind the planer undetected.


    The setup I’ve used this spring on Lake Ontario to fish Lite Bite Slide Divers is a 9’ medium heavy rod with standard guides, and an ABU Garcia 7000 Synchro line counter reel spooled with 40” test Berkley braided line. The braided line is slipped through an 8 mm. bead and attached to 6’ of 15# to 20# test fluorocarbon leader with a barrel swivel.   The rudder on the Slide Diver is adjusted to the #3 setting taking the diver as far away from the boat as possible.  Spoons are normally fished 20 to 40 feet behind the Slide Diver.  When any size fish hits the spoon, the trigger on the diver releases and the diver slides back to the bead ahead of the swivel, 6’ ahead of the spoon.


    You will appreciate one of the greatest  advantages of the Slide Diver when a steelhead or landlocked salmon hits and goes aerial, leaping across the surface.  Instead of dragging a solidly attached diving planer along with it, increasing the chance for the hook to pull free, the inline Slide Diver  slides freely on the line, never allowing the fish to pull directly against the diver.


    Chris Dwy and Bill Purcell will attest to the effectiveness of Slide Divers after fishing them aboard the Fish Doctor on May 7, 2012, to boat a limit of king salmon and brown trout.  With the last king of their limit thrashing in the net, three more kings hit.   Chris and Bill had a triple on, two on Slide Divers.  All three kings were released unharmed to thrill another angler another day.


    There is a bit of a learning curve involved with using Slide Divers, but they are so effective for trout and salmon, the time it takes to learn to use them is well worth it.