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

    Posted on November 20th, 2016 admin No comments


    Copper..., deadly for scattered, suspended kings

    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!”  A few days later, 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 Lake Ontario 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…, Controlling Voltage Output

    Posted on November 20th, 2016 admin No comments

    Since my last blog, “What’s Wrong with My Riggers”, was published I’ve had several emails asking about the value of the Black Box for controlling voltage output by your boat.  My response is that if tests(multimeter) show your boat is producing positive 0.5 to 0.7 volts, you’re good.  Mine produces 0.56 volts.  If voltage output from your  boat is not within that range, you should bond/ground everything(rudders, metal thru-hull intakes, shaft if inboard, etc.).  If that doesn’t get your boat tuned electridcally, think about a Black Box.

    Also, I’ve learned an awful lot about trolling for salmon from Alaska’s commercial trollers.  Here’s what one of them commented about the Black Box.


    by Salty » Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:49 am

    I agree with both wild card and carojae. So here is a story. The second year I was power trolling I finally bought a black box for my old wooden troller that should have been fishing better in my mind. The next trip was my best ever, smoked my partners. One of my partners came by to visit and said,

    “So, the black box really made a difference?”

    I replied, “Must have, never caught like this before. I wonder how good I would have done if I had hooked it up.”

    I have had the cheap black boxes, I have invested in the voltage guru VIP box, and had him go through the boat several times. I have added metal to the bottom of the boat as recommended. Here is what I think:

    1. There is something to this whole voltage-magnetic field theory;
    2. While complex, it boils down to this, you need your field in tune, .5-.8 tenths positive between your grounding system and your wires, but that is not the whole story. You also need to make sure you don’t have any voltage leaking into your field. Twice I have had transducers with speed indicators malfunction and start pumping noise into my system, undetected by the blackbox. We picked it up because it didn’t just reduce my fishing, it killed it. A friend suggested trying an alternate transducer. The next day I was number one in my group with 49 kings. During the slump my best day was 4.
    3. I think there are three stages of this electronic-magnetic field business:
    a) You have a problem or problems and you aren’t catching worth poop;
    b) You are ok and are catching ok;
    c) You have dialed in your boat and gear, to a magical level where you are smoking hot.

    4. A bigger boat with more metal underwater, ideally a big steel or aluminum boat, that is in tune has a larger field than a smaller boat, will catch more, everything else being equal.

    I have spent most of my career in b. I use a black box to tell me immediately if there is a short, and sometimes I follow instructions and fool with the voltage. There have been occasions when I got everything dialed in and was amazed at the difference in production.

    On the other hand I have partners and know people who never fool with any of this voltage business, who have not diligently bonded their boats, never check the voltage of new leads, and catch just fine.
    I had a problem last spring and spent hours trying to find it. Remounted my gurdies with plastic bolts, rewired all the wires going to the cockpit, and found some suspicious items but no silver bullet.

    Once you experience the magic it haunts you forever trying to find it again.

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

    Posted on November 12th, 2016 admin No comments


    A catch of 9 kings in 4 hours in Sept., 2016, on two downriggers

     Conditions hadn’t changed in several days and I knew the troll, due north at a surface speed of 2.7 mph.  I sent the center rigger down the 5th time to 135’.  Wham!!  Dr. Kerry Brown, Capt. Tim Hummel, and their first mates, Tom and John watched the 7’ Shortstick double to the water, reel screeching.  If we landed the king(and we did)  the tally would be 5 kings in a row on the double pearl dodger and king  salmon fly behind the decoy rigger down the center 135 feet and back 20 feet..  This, before we had put another line in the water!


    Kerry, and his crew of charter captains had traveled from the Port of Oak Orchard in western Lake Ontario to Oswego Harbor in eastern Lake Ontario on July 20, 2005, to do an  on-water Howie Fly class with me.   After the 5th king was flopping on the deck, Tom commented,  “ OK, Ernie, I’ve seen enough.  We can go back!”   


    What Tom hadn’t 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 130Õ and 120Õ.  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.  My 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 after the first two hours of the trip, 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 late in the trip hadn’t  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 pull lines and head back to Oswego Marina, 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’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… !!!!!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Electrical Reception in Fish

    Posted on November 12th, 2016 admin No comments


    A properly grounded electrical system in your boat is critical in catching electro-sensitive fish like this musky boated aboard the Fish Doctor.

    Do a quick search on the  internet for  “elecrical reception in fish”, and you’ll quickly learn that all organisms give off electrical pulses.  The tiny voltage they generate results from the interaction of nerves and muscles, like that of a bait fish trying to escape from a predator.  You’ll also learn that all fish have varying abilities to find prey by  sensing that prey’s electrical discharge.  Studies  shown  many species like sharks have special electro receptor pores in their head allowing them to locate prey at distances up to 30 feet, and reportedly sense as small a change in electrical current as 3 billionths of a volt.  Research has shown that sharks, sturgeon and other species using electrical receptors can detect food like crabs buried in the sand on the ocean floor because of the electric pulse these food organisms discharge.


    Studies show that the lateral line of a salmon not only can detect vibrations but also electric pulses.  Fishery scientists theorize salmon find their way back to spawning streams by their sense of smell, and, perhaps,  similar to sharks, by also sensing the electromagnetic forces of the earth.  Because salmon are repelled by excessive negative electrical charges, biologists on the west coast have found if salmon have to pass through metal structures like culverts on their spawning run,   these structures become barriers if they have a negative charge that is too high.

    When it comes to catching Great Lakes trout and salmon, the electrical charge produced by your boat has a huge effect on your success.



  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Lady Luck!

    Posted on November 1st, 2016 admin No comments


    Myrna, with her 30 lb. Lady Luck king!

    It was 5:00 AM on July, 4, 2015, and Myrna Littlewort and her family stepped aboard the Fish Doctor for their  first time to fish an 8-hour morning charter in hopes of catching a king salmon.   Myrna didn’t know it at the time, but she should have stopped on the way to Oswego Marina that morning to buy a lottery ticket!

    The 4th dawned calm and clear, with no threat of rough seas which can ruin a family trip.  As we left  the dock at Oswego Marina, Myrna’s kids were still  machine gunning questions…, “How are they biting?  How big do the king salmon get? How far away are they?”  when  we passed the Oswego Lighthouse and I put the boat up on plane.

    Minutes later, in 300 feet of water, the fish finder showed a concentration of alewives and salmon 90 to 120 feet below us.  I  marked in a waypoint, and slowed the boat to trolling speed, the sun just peeking above the Tug Hill to the east.  In flat calm seas, four downrigger rods went in the water quickly, the Fish Hawk probe on the #4 rigger reading 60 degrees down 90 feet and 42 degrees at 120 feet.  Two wire Dipsy rods were added to the spread, riggers and Dipsys fishing 90 to 120 feet down , all with spoons.  I circled back toward our waypoint marking the bait we had found.

    As I was giving my crew instructions on how to set the hook on downriggers, the #4 rigger rod doubled over and the drag started screaming.  Myrna’s youngest son snatched the rod from the rod holder, just as I had showed him, set the hook hard, and was locked with our first king of the trip.

    The riggers were hot for the next two hours and we had a good start on a cooler full of delicious, slivery kings.  But then the rigger action slowed, a typical scenario after an early morning king salmon bite.  This is when copper line fished from megaboards, 150 feet from the boat, start to prove their worth.

    During the morning action, I had set out my two megaboards and stacked them with three copper lines each, fishing from 90 to 110 feet down using 400’ to 500’ sections  of copper.  The copper lines had not twitched during the downrigger bite, but I knew that would change, and it did.

    T he first copper rod that fired was a 400 footer, but when it did, contrary to my instructions that you never set a hook with wire line that doesn’t have any stretch, one of my crew mistakenly did an adrenalin fired power set, and the backing broke right where it joined the copper, 400’ of copper and a spoon no doubt still attached to a big king salmon.   Arrrggghhh!  

    One hour later, as we closed in once again on our hot waypoint, I noticed an odd movement of the rigger boom on our deepest downrigger, possibly a small lake trout?  Hitting the up switch on the rigger, I pulled the 12 lb. rigger weight up to check it.  When the weight surfaced,  I was shocked.  A  copper line that looked a lot like mine was looped over the rigger cable.  When I pulled it free of the cable, I could feel a fish on one end.


     Carefully letting out the line, I slowly worked the free end of the copper line to the boat and quickly reattached it to the backing on the same rod on which we had originally hooked the fish.  Five minutes later, Myrna boated our first 30 lb. king of the season.  It had stayed in the same area at roughly the same depth at which we had hooked it, dragging the copper behind it until Lady Luck had stepped in.

    Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, More on Slide Divers

    Posted on November 1st, 2016 admin No comments


    This early May king hit a Stinger rigged 30 feet behind a slide diver

     All it takes is one hot rod to put all the fish you want in the boat, and when trout and salmon are in the top 30 to 40 feet of water,  a slide  diver rod is often the hottest.

     I mix Slide Divers with riggers plus flatlines and short leadcore sections off the planer boards and let the fish decide which presentation they like best.   Some days the riggers, lead core or flat lines work best, but day in and day out,  Slide Divers catch a lot of fish.

    Despite their effectiveness, slide divers  are probably one of the most underutilized trolling techniques by trout and salmon fishermen in the Northeast.   Most trollers use  directional diving planers like the Dipsy Diver, which  attach directly to monofilament,  braided, or wire line. Water pressure against the angled surface of the diver  takes the trailing lure target  depth, and an adjustable rudder directs them to port or starboard.  

    When using standard diving planers, the length of leader from the planer to the lure trolled behind it 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.  A lure can be trolled any distance behind it, the reason it is part of the arsenal on my charter boat.

    The fishing line, either braid or monofilament, actually  passes through a Slide Diver and can be locked in place any distance ahead of the lure.  This allows a lure to be fished 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, though, and you’ll catch fish. 

    I fish Slide Divers on a 9’ medium heavy rod with standard guides, and an ABU Garcia Alphamar 20LC line counter reel spooled with 40 lb. test Berkley braided line. The braided line is threaded through an 8 mm. bead and attached to 6’ of 15# 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.  Bait or artificials are normally fished 20 to 40 feet behind the Slide Diver. 

    When a fish hits the spoon, the trigger on the diver releases and the diver slides back to the bead and swivel, 6’ ahead of the spoon.  The fact that the diver slides on the line is a huge advantage 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.

    Learn to use Slide Divers, and you WILL catch more early season trout and salmon.