• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Trolling Speed Ruts

    Posted on March 23rd, 2016 admin No comments

     

    May 5, 2004..., four kings at once on a rainy morning

    It was May 11, 2006, and the spring king salmon bite out of Oswego Harbor had been vicious since May 2, when the kings first moved into the area.  My  charter for the morning was 89-year old Bob Shepard, his wife, 81-year old Jeanette, and their so called “younger” cousin, Norm, the youngest of my crew.  With just a ripple on the water and no other boats in the area,  conditions were ideal for my “experienced” anglers as we trolled eastward at 2.3 – 2.5 mph.  The eastern sky was lightening over Tug Hill Plateau.

     Because of their age and the fact that action had been fast and furious just at day break every morning, I decided to abandon my 7-rod spread in favor of three rods, two riggers and a thumper rod, to keep onboard action under control.  Fifteen minutes went by and nothing.  Hmmm???  Then the digital clock on my dash said 30 minutes without a nibble.  I added two Dipsys and two copper lines to the spread, not quite as confident as a half hour earlier.  Now the sun was thinking about poking above the horizon.  I could not believe what was happening.  I continued trolling at 2.3 – 2.5 mph, my standard spring trolling speed. 

     Then I realized I was violating one of my cardinal Fish Doctor rules…, AVOID TROLLING AT THE SAME SPEED STRAIGHT AS AN ARROW(unless its working!).  As I turned the boat slightly to port, finally, the copper rod with the Casper(flasher/fly) fired, the drag on the Penn 330 GTI reel screeching.  As I sprang for the rod, Bob threw his hand up with a, “I’ve got it, Ernie!”.  I watched in agony as the aged old boy very, very slowly made his way to the rod…, backing now streaming from the reel. 

     A hefty fish, Bob could barely hang on to the rod, not to mention battling the fish.  The hand writing was on the wall.  As much as I hated to slow the boat from what I considered ideal spring trolling speed(even though it hadn’t been working so far), I dropped the port trolling bag into the water, slowing the boat to 1.8 mph.  The king kept running and I feared the old man would either fall overboard or collapse on the deck of my cockpit.  That was it.  I hit “Auto” on the Simrad and dropped the second bag in the water slowing the boat to just over 1.0 mph.

     That is when 5 other rods fired, all with kings on them, one on a spoon, two on dodger/flies and three on Caspers.  Long story short, my crew eventually landed all 6 of those kings, two on riggers, one on copper, two on dipsys, and the sixth on a thumper rod.  Although, I feared any of the three might expire right there in the cockpit, the only one with elevated blood pressure was the captain, as I eyeballed wire lines, a copper line and a mono line criss crossing behind the boat.!

     Five kings hitting at once trolling at just over 1.0 mph and the third hitting off the board on the inside a turn???  The moral of this story is do not get stuck  in a speed rut.  If kings are hitting at what you consider the optimum speed, don’t change it.  If they are not, mix it up, changing trolling direction and speed, even if it’s way slower or way faster than you normally troll.  Oh, yeah, and bring some blood pressure meds with you, just in case J

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Dodgers and Flies for Spring Kings

    Posted on March 18th, 2016 admin No comments

    It was the morning of May 14, 2014, and the south wind had changed the spring king salmon pattern. On recent light westerly winds the kings were stacked up in the plume of the Oswego River as the west to east shoreline current carried the colored river water eastward. Now, the southerly wind pushed the plume straight out into deep water. As Jerry Haqquist and his family stepped aboard the Fish Doctor, I wondered if we would find them.

    It didn’t take long to find out when the tip of the center rigger rod dove toward the water, reel screaming. Minutes later our first king, a 13-pounder came to the net, victim of a chrome dodger and home spun silver/purple Fish Doctor fly. That’s right, a dodger/fly combo, one of the deadliest spring king salmon items on my charter boat, and one seldom used by others.

    As we continued to troll our newly found honey hole in the plume of warm water jutting out straight north into the lake the salmon action was steady with fish liking our program, a combo of dodger/flies and spoons.

    As I brought the boat around to the south in a slow turn, I saw the other charter boat that had been fishing browns in shallow water heading toward us. As we continued enjoying our success, the other charter boat made a wide circle around us, and trolled back to shore. I knew the captain, a good salmon fisherman had been close enough to see the salmon coming to our net mostly on dodgers and flies, and wondered why he hadn’t stayed on the salmon we had located. After filleting 7 nice kings up to 20+ lbs., plus some lakers, and steelhead, we returned to the dock at Oswego Marina.

    After my charter for the morning left, I walked over to the mate spoke with him, commenting that the dodger/fly bite had been good for us that morning, and wondering why they had not fished the honey hole. His comment surprised me…, they had seen the dodger/fly action, but had only fished a spoon program, which produced only one small king. He also said they did not have a dodger or flasher on board, but would have the next morning.

    The moral of this story is…, do not overlook dodger/flies for spring kings on riggers, Dipsys or copper(or leadcore), especially when fished in combination with spoons in a rigger program. Because spring kings are aggressively feeding, shorten leader lengths on flies to 19 – 21 inches. Plain old chrome/silver prism dodgers and an aqua fly or silver glo dodgers with a green crinkle fly are usually all you need.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Dodgers and Flies for Spring Kings

    Posted on March 17th, 2016 admin No comments

    It was the morning of May 14, 2014, and the south wind had changed the spring king salmon pattern. On recent light westerly winds the kings were stacked up in the plume of the Oswego River as the west to east shoreline current carried the colored river water eastward. Now, the southerly wind pushed the plume straight out into deep water. As Jerry Haqquist and his family stepped aboard the Fish Doctor, I wondered if we would find them.

    It didn’t take long to find out when the tip of the center rigger rod dove toward the water, reel screaming. Minutes later our first king, a 13-pounder came to the net, victim of a chrome dodger and home spun silver/purple Fish Doctor fly. That’s right, a dodger/fly combo, one of the deadliest spring king salmon items on my charter boat, and one seldom used by others.

    As we continued to troll our newly found honey hole in the plume of warm water jutting out straight north into the lake the salmon action was steady with fish liking our program, a combo of dodger/flies and spoons.

    As I brought the boat around to the south in a slow turn, I saw the other charter boat that had been fishing browns in shallow water heading toward us. As we continued enjoying our success, the other charter boat made a wide circle around us, and trolled back to shore. I knew the captain, a good salmon fisherman had been close enough to see the salmon coming to our net mostly on dodgers and flies, and wondered why he hadn’t stayed on the salmon we had located. After filleting 7 nice kings up to 20+ lbs., plus some lakers, and steelhead, we returned to the dock at Oswego Marina.

    After my charter for the morning left, I walked over to the mate spoke with him, commenting that the dodger/fly bite had been good for us that morning, and wondering why they had not fished the honey hole. His comment surprised me…, they had seen the dodger/fly action, but had only fished a spoon program, which produced only one small king. He also said they did not have a dodger or flasher on board, but would have the next morning.

    The moral of this story is…, do not overlook dodger/flies for spring kings on riggers, Dipsys or copper(or leadcore), especially when fished in combination with spoons in a rigger program. Because spring kings are aggressively feeding, shorten leader lengths on flies to 19 – 21 inches. Plain old chrome/silver prism dodgers and an aqua fly or silver glo dodgers with a green crinkle fly are usually all you need.

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

    Posted on March 12th, 2016 admin No comments

     

    Another Slide Diver "victim".

    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 on 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  Lake Ontario the past few seasons.

     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 use 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 #3.5 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.

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

    Posted on March 6th, 2016 admin No comments

     

    Attention to detail like leaders puts big browns in the box

    Many anglers new  to brown trout trolling in Lake Ontario travel here each year with great expectations.  Despite all the publicity, videos, and photos of monster “football” browns it’s not as easy as it might seem.   Here are a few tips 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 in Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes, especially for shallow water browns.

    But, on the Great 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.  A slight wind direction change, and the next day it’s back to  crystal clear conditions.

    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-foot leaders in 6 lb., and 8 lb. test on leader spools.   Rig  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.

    3.  Main Line -  Light, abrasion resistant monofilament is a must when trolling  for 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. 

    Many anglers new  to brown trout trolling in Lake Ontario travel here each year with great expectations.  Despite all the publicity and photos of monster “football” browns, it’s not as easy as it might seem.   Attention to lines and leaders can make all the difference.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Ultraheavy Lakers on Ultralight Gear

    Posted on March 2nd, 2016 admin No comments

     

    Lake trouut liike this are a challenge on ultralight gear.

    Lake trout up to 20 lbs. on 4 lb. test line and ultralight downrigger rods on cowbells in 200 feet of water?  Someone must be kidding, right?  Wrong! 

    Every spring on eastern Lake Ontario, when lakers from 5 – 20+ lbs. blanket the bottom in certain deep water areas, producing catches of 30-50 laker trout per trip.  anglers aboard my charter boat, the “Fish Doctor”, land dozens of big lakers on ultralight gear, using cowbells trailed by F-7 Flatfish.  Ultralight rods are usually rigged with 8# test line, but a few  lakers have been landed on as light as 2# test line. 

    If you have trolled multiple blade cowbells, you know the resistance of the heavy gauge blades spinning in the water creates tremendous dragthat would double over an ultralight rod.  The drag from 7-blade “bells” like the Les Davis Odd Ball is so great, it’s tough to tell when a small lake trout hooks up.  Landing just the “bells” on ultralight gear from 200’ down would be a chore in itself.  How then, can a troller be using such light line on ultralight rods with cowbells and plugs to catch lake trout on bottom in 200 feet of water?

    It’s simple.  First, I use a new type of ultralight cowbell with large 5 ¾” by 2 ¾” prism taped blades made from thin aircraft aluminum.  Similar “bells” with smaller blades are also available.  Secondly, rather than attaching the bells to the line, they are fastened to the tail of the downrigger weight.  The Flatfish is then fished separately off a downrigger release attached far enough above the bell so it does not tangle in the blades. 

    In deep water, using the ultralight blades attached to the weight is critical because it reduces drag and  minimizes the angle of the downrigger cable,  allowing better depth control.  My three favorite cowbell finishes are the silver prism blade with a diagonal dark blue prism stripe in the sun, and a light chartreuse prism blade with a diagonal silver prism stripe or glow blades with a fluorescent green stripe when it’s overcast.  I usually start fishing with at least one of each color and let Mr. Lake Trout decide which he likes best on a given day.

    Each rigger is set up with a Flatfish behind the ‘bells” and a spoon on a cheater, 4’ above the Flatfish.  The F-7 Flatfish is fished on an 8 foot, 10 lb. test leader.  A small, size #1 crosslock snap on one end of the leader attaches to the eye of the Flatfish and a barrel swivel is tied to the opposite end.  Midway up the leader I tie in a small ball bearing swivel to prevent line twist if the Flatfish spins.    A Roemer stacking release with a heavy tension Offshore release attached to it is locked to the rigger cable about one foot above the weight.  After attaching the leader to the Offshore release, the Roemer release is adjusted so the F-7 Flatfish, which dives slightly, is  3’ behind the tail spinner of the cowbell and just inches off the bottom when the rigger weight contacts bottom.      The downrigger weight is then fished as close to bottom as possible, touching occasionally. 

     If the Roemer release is adjusted at the proper height above the weight, and the length of leader to the Flatfish is correct, the Flatfish will wobble  along enticingly, just a few inches off bottom, when the downrigger weight touches.  Fasten a 1/2 oz. bead chain keel sinker to the tail of the spinner to keep it from tangling in the leader.

    A chrome  or chartreuse/fire dot #0 dodger can be rigged in the same way, attached to the tail of a downrigger weight.  Make sure it doesn not spin by attaching a 3/8 oz. keel sinker.   Fish the F-7 Flatfish about 4’ behind it, with the release 8” above the weight.  If you arere fishing two downriggers, try a cowbells attached to one weight and a dodger attached to the other, both fished right on bottom.

    Some days lake trout seem to prefer the Flatfish, but on other days, for reasons I’ve always wondered, the icing on the cake is a spoon fished on a 6’ cheater leader attached with a Roemer Liberator about 4’  above the release.  The combination of the plug behind the cowbell and the spoon fluttering along 4’ above the attractor and plug, can be deadly, and often results in a double on the same rod.

    Lake trout can be extremely color selective.  Here are some colors that work;

                                                             Sunny

     F-7 Flatfish Color                                                         Spoon Color

    Chartreuse Dalmation                           ham. slv/lemon-lime #3200 Eppinger Flutterdevle

    Purple/black/glow                                 char/fire dot  #41 Alpena Diamond, or 3F Evil Eye

     Glow/chartreuse                                      ham. silver/brass  #88 Suttön,

                                                             Overcast               

     Purple/black/glow                                     glow  green #3F Evil Eye             

    Coach Dog                                                 black/silver or brass/green 3F Evil Eye

    Silver/Red Head                                    purple//bk diamond/white #41 Alpena Diamond   

    Because lake trout tend to follow slowly trolled lures more than any other trout or salmon species, using scent is important.  Onboard the Fish Doctor, every lure that goes in the water has been doctored with Smelly Jelly in either anchovy, herring or smelt flavor. 

    There you have it, an ultralight lake trout system that has worked for me in every New York State lake where I have ve guided, including Lake George, Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes, and Lake Ontario.

    Capt. Ernie Lantiegne operates Fish Doctor Charters on Lake Ontario and itÕs tributaries and has 27 years of experience in the business on a variety of New York State waters.  He also worked as a fishery biologist/manager for the NYSDEC for 22 years.  315-963-8403  <fishdoc@dreamscape.com>