• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Tyrant Hook Hones

    Posted on August 19th, 2015 admin No comments


    6-year old Trent with a king salmon needle sharp hooks put in the cooler!

    Ask any Great  Lakes troller who consistently  fills  the cooler with trout and salmon and they will tell you sharp  hooks  are absolutely critical,.


    Sure, we have come a long way with hook design and  performance, especially with the new  chemically sharpened hooks, but many hooks on store bought spoons, flies, and  plugs come from the factory with standard hooks.  These need to be sharpened, and even chemically sharpened hooks  that have been driven into enough bony jaws get dull.


    A good hook hone is a necessity to keep a needle  point on hooks, if you’re fishing many trips on the water,  This wasn’t a problem for me when  the yellow handled Luhr Jensen hook homes were on the market.  Sure enough, though, LJ quit selling them.  Arrggghhh!


    The ones I had been using eventually rusted or wore out and I started searching for an equal.  After trying a few including one   from Berkley(thumbs down !), I ordered some Tyrant hook hones from the Musky Shop.  With over 150 charters a season on my schedule, a good hook hone was sorely needed.  I say sorely, because struggling with a dull hook  hone in 3-5 footers was doing just that to my fingers and thumbs…, Ouch!!!


    Alas, another great hook hone.  If you’re in the same boat I was, try a Tyrant hone.  A little larger than the Luhr Jensen hone, but they work great!!!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…,, Meat and Mylar

    Posted on August 7th, 2015 admin No comments

    A 29 lb. king that hit a mirage fly baited with a strip of herring on 8/4/15

    An hour into their afternoon trip, Mike Ducross and his buddies from Cornwall, Canada, were not quite as optimistic as they had been after watching my morning charter carry heavy coolers of 20–30 lb. Lake Ontario kings off the dock.  They had heard the war stories about how we had them dialed in all morning with whole alewives and big flashers, and knew we were returning to the very same “X” on my chart plotter.  The Sitex fish finder showed the kings were still there, but they were turning their noses up at our 2-rigger spread of 13” Slashers and whole alewives down 120 and 130 feet.

    With unwavering confidence in the big  silver and gold prism taped golden retriever flashers in bright midday light for staged kings,  I had opted for changes in leader length and bait head color, to no avail, before deciding on one last change before doing something drastic.

    Still firm in my belief that when a big king bellies up to the sushi bar he’s looking for one thing, alewives, I reached into my bait cooler for a freshly salted alewife strip and  replaced the whole bait with a baited fly.  Minutes after dropping the rigger back to same depth of 120’ with the same 15’ setback, the rod fired.  Immediately I reset it the second time, and it fired again.  Meanwhile, the whole bait, 10’ deeper at 130’and 25’ back was just a slug.  While fighting the second fish, Mike  pulled the deep rigger, while I baited another Mirage fly, and we reset the rigger exactly as before,  130’ down and 25’ back.  Before we could untangle the second king from the net, the deep rigger fired.

    Four hours later, as the sun angled toward the horizon and light intensity at the riggers dropped, you guessed it, the program changed and the kings decided they absolutely loved whole alewives in a glow green bait head 60” behind a glow green splatterback HotChip 11.

    Why a king salmon, with a brain the size of a pea,  would select a baited fly over a whole alewife one time and do the reverse the next,  I cannot imagine.  What I can say is it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen, and I’ll be ready when it happens again.

    Baited flies and, before that, baited hoochies or squids, in combination with flashers have been a go-to rig for me aboard my charter boat, ever since my first trip to Alaska  in 1990.   Fortunate to  be invited aboard several commercial salmon trolling boats,  the first thing I noticed on deck was  buckets of 11” plastic flashers, mostly white, green, chartreuse, and red.   Hanging on the rear of the cabins were rows and rows of  3 ½” hoochies(squids) in a myriad of colors, some for kings, some for cohos.  Closer inspection of the hoochies showed a piece of light brass wire, inside each hoochie, attached to the eye of a 6/0 single hook.

    The wire on these hooks was for attaching 3”- 4” herring strips inside the hoochie, which rarely go in the water for Alaskan kings without bait.

    The  trollers also showed me how they rigged whole herring, herring filets, and cut plugs, all of which they carry onboard, along with spoons and plugs, during an king salmon opening. To a man, they were adamant about how fussy king salmon were and how important it was to master a variety of techniques to consistently catch fish in all conditions.

    I never forgot that lesson, and returned to Lake Ontario with  a new perspective on fishing bait for kings and  a conviction to do my utmost to become as versatile as possible in fishing for them .

    Today, my favorite flashers with baited flies include, 8” ProChips, 11” ProChips and HotChips, and 13” Kingston Tackle Slashers in a variety of colors and finishes.  I use 36”- 48” leaders on 11”- 13” flashers and 19”- 30” leaders on 8” flashers.  Flasher/fly color combos are the same as for clean flies.

    Rather than the single hook used by commercial trollers, I prefer a tournament tie with a 5/0 beak hook and a #2 bronze treble.  The same tournament tie used with clean flies can be used with bait, but I prefer to extend the leader length between the beak and treble hooks about 1 ½” so the treble trails at the tail of the bait.  Although, the alewife bait strip can be hooked on the leading beak hook, even a properly prepped alewife bait strip softens quickly in fresh water and seldom will stay on a hook very long.

    The secret to keeping an alewife bait strip secured inside the fly is to wrap it on the beak hook just behind the hook eye using soft .020” diam. brass wire.  Although the brass wire can be attached to the beak hook on a pretied Tournament Tie, I like to attach it before I snell the hook, by simply placing a 3” length of wire midway through the eye of the hook, pulling the brass wire down along the shank of the hook, and tying the snell, leaving about 1 ½ inches of each end of the wire extending to each side of the hook.

    The head end of a correctly shaped bait strip,  tapered to about 3/8”,  is then laid skin down against the hook shank, and the brass wire is wrapped from opposite directions around the bait with enough tension to slightly bury the wire into the meat on the bait strip.  It is not necessary to twist the ends of the wire together to hold the strip.  The wired bait will remain in the fly as long as you fish it.  I prefer lightly dressed flies for use with bait strips.

    From 18 years of experience fishing what have now become know on my charter boat as sushi flies, I’ve found that elongated diamond shaped bait strips about 3” in length and ½” to 1” wide, tapered to 3/8” at the head and ½” at the tail are about right.  The later in the season, the larger the bait strip, including strips with tails as wide as ¾”.  Bait strips are filleted from both sides of an alewife and trimmed to shape. The better the quality of a bait strip, the better it catches fish.

    Availability of alewives to use as whole bait or bait strips has always limited the use of alewives for Great Lakes trout and salmon.  The Familiar Bite Co., which harvests, brines, and vacuum packs fresh alewives in 8-packs,  has now solved this problem.   To properly prep quality bait strips, filet alewives when fresh or immediately after removing partially thawed bait from a vacuum pack, trim them to shape, and place them in a ziplock bag of noniodized salt.  They will keep indefinitely refrigerated.  I carry  ziplocks of preshaped bait strips in a small bait cooler along with a brine jar of whole alewives and an ice pack.

    Years of experience and millions of Great Lakes king salmon have proven clean flies catch fish.  When it comes to inactive kings, though, especially staged fish or big, lazy fish, I’ve found that sushi flies are just what the doctor ordered

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Preferred Water Temps for Trout and Salmon

    Posted on August 3rd, 2015 admin No comments


    Grant and Capt. Ernie, with one of a cooler full of kings boated on July29, 2015.

    Any Great Lakes angler who trolls the midsummer depths  for trout and salmon will tell you that temperature is one of the keys to locating and catching trout and salmon. 

     In early July this season as surface water temperatures increased, trout and salmon dropped deeper into cooler water.  On July 11, when the Winot family filled coolers with salmon aboard the Fish Doctor, most of the kings were caught between 40 and  60 feet below the surface.  Two weeks later, when Bob Heimbecker and his  son Grant and fishing buddies Glen, Donnie, Rick and Heather fished with me on July 29, kings had  dropped to 75 feet and  deeper.

     Most fishing books and articles list preferred water temperatures for locating kings, browns, steelhead,,  and lakers, but experience has shown me that these so called optimum temperatures may be close to meaningless most of the time.

     As for optimum water temperatures, read the “Good Book” and remember what it says, but don’t use the info as the “Bible”.  In my “Fish Doctor Book”, preferred water temperature  for  various salmonid species falls into two categories, 1) resting temperatures, and 2) feeding temperatures.  These, I find, are far different. Sure, when steelhead are dormant, they may be found resting in 42 – 52 degree water, suspended in the depths in midlake with their eyes closed(not literally).  Why then,did we catch one setting a rigger, 30 feet behind the boat, 6 inches below the surface in 72 degree water on a bright, sunny afternoon in early July?  Answer…, because it was actively feeding, looking for bugs or whatever it could  find right on the surface, 100 feet above cold water.

     A hungry fish isn’t much of a reader and it doesn’t always follow the rules.  Put some baitfish a few feet above or below it’s so-called preferred water temperature, and it will ignore the written word in favor of hunger pangs.  Chinook salmon and steelhead, both transplants from the Pacific, have rewritten the book in Lake Ontario on preferred temperature for these species, probably as a result of evolution and natural adaptation to the colder waters of Lake Ontario.  Thirty years ago, we usually caught chinooks in 50 to 60 degree water.  Today, they are common found feeding in water temperature as warm or warmer than 60 degrees, but resting in the ice where it’s a chilly 41 degrees.  Brown trout may be even more temperature  tolerant, and I have boated many in water temperatures from 65 to 71 degrees.  Steelhead once common in water temps from the mid40’s to mid50’s and low 60’s, are now bending rods in surface breaks at 38-41 degrees.

     My rule of thumb…, when trout and  salmon are aggressively feeding, fish warm.  When  their guts are bulging with alewives and other forage, don’t be afraid to  drop ‘em deep and fish the ice.