• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Monster Kings Come Home

    Posted on July 17th, 2016 admin No comments

    This 38 lb. Fish Doctor king was caught on August 17 in Mexico Bay.

    Veteran Lake Ontario anglers have always said, “When the monarch butterflies start to migrate across Lake Ontario, the monster king salmon start heading.

     Home is the southeast corner of Lake Ontario where hundreds of thousands of fingerling king salmon are stocked each year and literally millions are hatched naturally in the Salmon River.  Every late summer, mature king salmon, some upwards of 30 lbs. begin to feel the urge to return to their natal streams where they were stocked or hatched.  They steadily concentrate in larger and larger numbers in late August and early Septemb er.  These silvery torpedoes have cruised the 200 mile length and 50 mile breadth of Lake Ontario all their life gorging on alewives, but the urge to spawn brings them home to the Mexico Bay.

    In August, 2015, I watched dozens of monarch butterflies flutter their way across Lake Ontario as they migrated south.  The old saying held true, as I watched Fish Doctor anglers boat kings up to 40” and 30 lbs. 4 oz.   On an  Augusts past, anglers like Henry Tharau and his fishing buddy Gordy both brought giant kings caught the same morning to  Maggie Rathje at Fish Wish Taxidermy in Port Ontario, New York to be mounted, preserving lifelong memories of monster kings.  Later, that same day in the  afternoon,  a California angler, Larry Peltz boated another monster king close to 30 lbs., the biggest fresh water fish he had ever seen.

    As I watched the action, I thought, “Yup, no doubt about it.  It is August and the big boys are definitely on their way home!”


  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Catch and Release Browns

    Posted on July 17th, 2016 admin No comments


    Dan Barry released this brown unharmed on May 13.

    As I slid the net under the struggling, hook jawed brown trout, I knew that it was well over 30 inches long.  The battle on 8 lb. test line was a test of the ultralight gear we were trolling with just east of Oswego Harbor in late April.  With the big brown in the net but still in the icy water, I turned to Jim and asked,  “What do you think?  Should we release him or do you want to put him in the box?”  Jim answered, “I don’t know.  That’s the biggest brown I’ve ever seen.  What do you think?”

    “Well”, I said, He’s a big boy, but he’s not very heavy because he spawned last fall and probably spent most of the winter in the Oswego River where food is scarce.  One thing for sure, he won’t be very good eating in that condition, especially compared to the heavy bellied 2 to 4 lb. 2-year old browns we’ve been catching.”  “That’s all I need to hear”, Jim replied. “Let’s get a quick photo of him and send him on his way.”  As I released the brown, I knew that in only 6 months, after gorging on alewives all spring and summer, this same male brown trout would easily reach 16 lbs.

    To release or not to release, that is the question many anglers ask.  My answer…,  it all depends on what you’re catching, which water you’re fishing, and what your personal outlook is.  It also depends, of course, on size and creel limits for each trout and salmon species in the water you are fishing.

    On Lake Ontario, every season, anglers who fish with me release many browns, a very few sublegals, along with some trophy brown trout.  Since we are trolling mostly with artificials, most browns are lightly hooked on spoons, stickbaits, or flies.  Because many browns are caught in the shallows in April and May when water temperature is cold, they are easy to release unharmed as long as they are not out of the water for long.  It is not uncommon to boat 20 to 30 or more browns in a 6 or 8-hour charter trip in the spring, so it’s a perfect time for catch and release fishing. If a brown inhales a lure, is bleeding from the gills or has a hook in an eye, that fish is a candidate for the cooler.  If it is lightly hooked, it’s released.

    In contrast to immature, sublegal landlocked salmon which tend to shed scales in a net, the scales of brown trout are much more durable.  It is common to catch browns with evidence of hook scars around their mouth, evidence of a previous release or close encounter.

    In the summer, when browns are deeper, it is still possible to release them unharmed.  Unlike lake trout, or other bottom fish like cod, the air bladders of browns do not balloon as they are pulled from the depths.  As long as browns don’t remain in the warmer surface water too long and are out of the water only briefly, most can be released unharmed.

    Lake Ontario brown trout, stocked in May as 8” yearlings, depending on winter conditions,  usually grow to 2-4 lbs. by the following April when the fish are 2 years old.  By fall, many of these 2-year olds are 4 to 6 lbs. and run Ontario tributaries to spawn around the first of November.  Immature 2-year old browns with bright orange flesh that haven’t yet spawned are a better choice on the table than older dropback spawners, one of the reasons many anglers release larger browns.

    With a creel limit of 3 browns per person, an annual lakewide stocking of around 600,000 browns, and the fact that Lake Ontario browns don’t reproduce, there is no biological reason for releasing legal brown trout.    That decision is more a matter of personal preference.