• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Fishing Shoreline Currents for Early Spring Browns

    Posted on December 28th, 2017 admin No comments


    A triple on browns boated in the Oswego River plume on 4/21/17.

    As I sat on the bluff overlooking the New York shoreline of Lake Ontario in Mexico Bay one sunny afternoon in the spring of  1990, I noticed a huge log to the west drifting toward me.  In just minutes, it passed in front of me, just offshore, riding the current to the east. “Wow, that current is cooking!” I thought to myself.  The next morning as I eased my charter boat from the dock, I could still picture that log drifting by, a reminder of the vital part current plays in catching early spring browns. 

     Having fished the lake in the spring since  1978, I was well aware of what limnologists call the cyclonic or counterclockwise spring and summer flow of Lake Ontario that has such a huge effect on fishing.  In spring in the shallows, the lake is more like a river than a typical lake.  Speed of this current is affected by wind speed and direction.  The heavier the wind from the west, the faster the current.  When the wind switches to the east and blows hard, it actually reverses shoreline flow to clockwise.

     This, of course has a major influence on the outflow or plume of tributaries like the Oswego River which empty warm, nutrient filled water into icy Lake Ontario in early spring.  This warm inflow is like a magnet to bait, trout, and salmon.  With tributary flow more turbid or colored than the lake water it is obvious how lake currents affect the plumes of these rivers and streams when they enter the lake.

     In the case of the Oswego River, when winter snow pack is deep, spring runoff high, and winds westerly, the warm colored river plume is stretches up to 5 miles east of Oswego Harbor.  Yet, when the wind switches, it reverses shoreline current and pushes the river plume to the northwest.

     Limnological studies of Lake Ontario report shoreline currents up to .62 miles per hour, and I believe currents are even stronger after heavy  blows.  With a westery flow like this, when you troll to the east along shore with the current, it seems like you’re flying.  Troll to the west, into the current,  and you seem to be standing still.  This is where a trolling speedometer which measures speed thru the water is critical in maintaining desired trolling speed. Comparing water speed with GPS speed, which measures speed over land, clearly shows how much current you’re dealing with.

     With a river of current flowing along the shoreline, it’s easy to understand how points jutting sharply out into the lake, affect bait and brown trout distribution.  Each point deflects current out into the lakeincreasing current speed pff the end of the point and an eddy of still water on the leeward side of the point.  When shoreline current is strong, especially in very early spring when the main lake is icy cold, bait and browns tend to concentrate in the calmer, warmer water in the lee of these points.

     For early spring brown trout trollers, fishing warmer shoreline waters, especially river plumes where bait and browns concentrate is key to good catches.  Ditto for maintaining proper trolling speed. A working knowledge of early spring shoreline currents will definitely put more browns in your boat.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, A Sushi Fly Lesson

    Posted on December 27th, 2017 admin No comments


    Sushi Flies baited with a fresh frozen alewife strip

    As I stood at the rigging table in the stern of the Fish Doctor wiring a strip of fresh frozen alewife to a Sushi Fly I just unhooked from the mint silver king lying on the cockpit deck, I could only shake my head.  “Why would a king salmon with a brain the size of a pea select a baited fly over a whole alewife?”

    Earlier that day, on  my morning charter, I had located a concentration of active king salmon well away from the fleet and messed with them with different presentations for a few hours until I found the hot item…, a simple 2-rigger spread of  Kingston Tackle Slashers trailed by whole alewives. 

    It was like clockwork…, mark a king or kings on the fish finder and a rigger rod would pop as a big, adult salmon inhaled the real McCoy behind the flasher.  At trips end, we couldn’t close the two coolers onboard.

    Soo…, having figured things out, I thought, I headed back to the same spot, 4 miles east of Oswego,  for my afternoon trip.  “We’ve got it made.”, I thought, with what turned out to be way too much confidence.  Fortunately, one of the things I’ve learned over 40 years of charter fishing is to keep that overconfidence to myself, just in case.

    Well, it turned out to be one of those just-in-case situations. As I slowed the Fish Doctor to trolling speed, Ipointed out to Val Ducross and his Canadian fishing buddies the waypoint where we had found fish in the morning.   The fish finder showed us the kings were still there.  Again, I thought to myself, “No problem!”, as I rigged the two hot golden retriever Slashers with whole bait in a clear bait holder and dropped them to the magic depth, one set back 15’ the other 25’, spread 10 feet apart.

    Sooo…, we were ready and the rods were popping, right? Wrong!  With absolutely no change in conditions, same sunny sky, same westerly chop, and plenty of kings at the  same depth, I could not believe it…, ZERO!  After 45 minutes of trolling through king salmon, not a touch.  I pulled each rigger several times to checkfor tangles, make sure the bait was rolling properly, and even changed bait, but nothing.  Because the spread had been so good on my morning trip, and conditions had not changed, I probably  left the flashers and whole bait in the water longer than I should have.

    Finally, I had to make a change.  I  pulled the shallowest rigger and without removing the line from the release,  handlined the Slasher to the boat,  replaced the whole bait with a freshly baited Sushi fly, and lowered the same Slasher I had been using, with the same 25’ setback, back to the exact depth where it had been fishing.

    Long story short…, the Slasher and Sushi fly fired in less than 5 minutes and continued to fire nonstop while the Slasher and whole bait next to it never budged.  Once the whole bait behind the Slasher on the  second rigger was replaced with a Sushi fly, that rigger also continued to fire nonstop.

    Are we talking fussy, or what???  Moral of the lesson the kings had given me and many other anglers including some commercial salmon trollers I know in Alaska…, never get hung up for too long on one technique when you’re trolling for fickle king salmon!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Custom Painted Lures

    Posted on December 16th, 2017 admin No comments


    Custom painted stick baits can make your day when browns are finicky

    As I looked at the3-inch Smithwick Rogue hooked solidly in the brown trout’s jaw, I thought, “Thank the Lord for custom lure painters!”  The deadly metallic  perch stickbait bait pattern that had lured  the 6 lb. brown into striking was once available from Smithwick in a special Walleye  Series, but  no longer made.  The one I was fishing was was not an original, but a custom painted replica of  one of the deadliest stickbait patterns on my charter boat for spring browns.

    Earlier in the morning  the brown trout bite had been steady under a solid cloud cover and flat calm seas.  Black and silver spoons and stickbaits were firing on the riggers and planer boards.  At about 9:00 AM conditions changed as the sun peeked through the clouds,  the sky turned to clear blue, and a warm southerly  breeze rippled the water.

    It was like throwing a switch.  Action went from feast to famine…, lock jaw!    Knowing we were on fish, it was time for a lure change.  With browns in 5 to 10 feet of water feeding near the surface on 2 to 4-inch alewives under sunny skies, there was no question in my mind that we should be fishing a shallow running stickbait on our planer  board lines, and that bait, which is no longer made,  but tops the list of deadly spring brown trout lures, should be a custom painted 3” metallic perch. Just minutes after it went in the water, the brown trout switch tuned back to “ON”!

     Many anglers are in the same boat.  You have a favorite lure for trout and salmon or whatever you fish for.  It is a fish catcher.  The problem, it is no longer made.  Either the company has gone out of business or  your favorite pattern was discontinued.  You are down to the last one in your tackle box.  You are holding back, hoping you can catch them on something else.  You’re desperate for a fish.  “Old Reliable” that has seldom failed you goes in the water, and the next thing you know it is gone, either in the jaws of a fish or hung up on bottom.  Grrr…. 

    If you’re like me, you’ve tried to-it-yourself paint jobs to try to duplicate a lure pattern, but at least in my case, the end product was a dismal failure.  Then, through fishing buddies, one in Wisconsin and one in New York, I learned about two fantastic custom lure painters whose custom painted lures are works of art.  Jay Hunter from Hunter Boys Outdoors in Indiana is a master painter.  Jay produces the finest replicas on the planet, PERIOD!  You can contact him through his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Hunter-Boys-Outdoors-754122868010025/  He can copy your favorite stick bait or crank bait patterns or create new patterns for you.  The many color photos of Jay’s work on his Facebook page are nothing less than amazing.  For the best results mail Jay the lure you want replicated, but he can also work from photos.

    When it come to spoons, Crazy Ivan Lures www.crazyivanlures.com/  in Vermont gets my nod for custom painted spoon patterns.  Pat Church  another fantastic artist with an air brush, duplicates color tones and patterns  exactly.  Many of my favorite Chinook salmon and brown trout spoons on my charter boat were painted by Pat.   Pat strips the finish from the spoons sent to  him to be replicated, paints them, and then clear coats them.  The finish is indestructible.  

    If you have a favorite spoon or stickbait in your tackle box that is no longer available, and don’t have the artistic ability to reproduce it your self, contact a custom lure painter.  These folks are unbelievably talented artists.  They can reproduce color tones exactly and copy color patterns precisely.  On my charter boat, often save the day.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Fishing Multiple Copper Lines

    Posted on December 15th, 2017 admin No comments


    Penn Reels's Fathom 60LW spooled with 300' of .037" twisted copper

    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 skimming  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 3  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 copper lines on the megaboards, and one down the chute.  It’s a lot of work, especially fishing solo without a mate, but multiple copper lines catch fish.  Done properly, it’s no problem.  Mess up, and it’s a copper calamity!

    Thinking back, 2008,  was one of those only-if-I-have-to Lake Ontario salmon seasons.  The 7-copper spread has saved the day for Fish Doctor anglers  that season and many times since when  salmon and steelhead are scattered far and wide, espeically in nasty seas. 

    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.  The time an effort saved not having to haul an inline board back to the surface after a big king has submarined it is a blessing.   

    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 in 2001 with Tim Dawidiuk  and Chesapeake Bay in 2004 with Capt. Bill Williams paved the way for the multiple copper line spread I use today aboard the Fish Doctor. 

    Fishing multiple copper lines from megaboards is as basic as fishing multiple flat lines from a  standard size planer board.  My  oversized triple boards  are built with 3’ x 10” boards with Styrofoam flotation to keep them from diving in rought seas.  They are rigged on  200 feet of 300# test mono tether line on Great Lakes Planer System  masts and rod holders.  The heavy mono is stron, and  because of it’s stretch, has built in shock absorption, important when fishing in heavy seas.

    Scotty Power Grip Plus 1170 releases  save time and missed fish.  To prevent chafing the tether line, a spring loaded  ¼” diam. carabiner is substituted for the stock crosslock snap.  Release tension is perfect with 35-50 lb. Cortland Spectron braided backing. 

    Reels for fishing copper are a matter of choice.  I prefer Penns, the 330GTI  0r Fathom 40 for 200’ sections with 35” Spectron backing, the 340GTI or Fathom 60 for 300’ sections with 50# Spectron, and the 345GTI for 400, 500, and 600’ sections with 50 braided backing.  Six hundred foot sections are coded with shrink tubing and reserved for fishing down the chute.

    Up to six 7’ copper  rods on the boards are stacked in the rod holders and a 9’ copper rod is used   down the chute All the copper rods  are custom built from E-glass blanks with oversized aluminum oxide guides and  tip tops. 

    Fifty feet of 30# Berkley Big Game leader on the copper is attached directly to flashers. An 8’, 20# leader added for spoons. 

    A typical midsummer, 7-copper spread aboard the “Fish Doctor” when steelhead and kings are suspended from 80 to 110 feet looks like this.  3 to 4 riggers with tuned 12 lb. salmon tracker weights are set at 41- 62 degrees, normally with a combination of spoons mixed with flashers or dodgers and flies. An X-4 Fish Hawk probe on the shallowest rigger monitors temp and speed, usually 2.5-3.0 mph.  Two to four wire dipsy rods fish the same temps.  Six copper lines, 400’, 450’, and 500’,  are set out 200’, 150’, and 100’ from the boat on each  tether line, with spoons on the outside four rods and 8” flashers on the shorter lines on the inside.  A 9’ Chute Rod with coded copper and a dodger/fly finish the spread.   Later in the season,  J-Plugs or Orcas are substituted for spoons.

    Yes, there are definitely a lot of lines in the water at once and every once in a while when you contact a feeding cluster of kings all hell can break loose with multiple hookups.  Up to 10 on at once, is the record aboard the Fish Doctor.  And, yes, tangles can occur.  But, if you’re concerned about that, all I can say is NGNG(no guts no glory)!!!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Pro-Troll’s New Pro-Flash Flasher

    Posted on December 9th, 2017 admin No comments


    Another king salmon that fell for a Proflash flasher and fly

    In early August when the package arrived with the new ProFlash flashers from Pro-Troll, I was anxious to check them out.  Hmm, a water activated blinking light in the time tested and deadly ProChip8 and ProChip 11 flashers, a gimmick or a fish catcher?

    The colors of the flashers were right, white, green, and chartreuse, all proven to catch trout and salmon.  But the water activated light???   The next morning when I climbed aboard the Fish Doctor before daylight the first thing I did after carefully stowing that all important travel mug of strong, black coffee was to fill a bucket with a few inches of water and place an 8” ProFlash flasher in it.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!

    The water activated light kicked in the instant the flasher hit the water blinking red, white, and green and lighting up the white bucket beyond my wildest expectations!  No question about it…, we’re talking some serious light here.

    The next step was to get the new Proflash attractor in the water and see what the kings we had been catching every trip thought of it.  The white on white flasher/fly combo that went in the water before daylight did not produce and had me wondering???  Just before the early morning sun edged above the horizon, the green 11” Proflash flasher with a glow/green Sushi Fly baited with a strip of fresh alewife answered my questions when a mature king nailed it!  Yesss!!!

    Later in August either green or chartreuse 8 or 11-inch Proflash flasher and Sushi Flies produced king salmon, cohos, brown trout, and even a nice Atlantic, more than proving themselves.  This text message from a charter captain friend of mine on 8/29/17 when the demand for Proflash flashers sky rocketed and they were in short supply in local shops. 

    “Would you happen to have any of the 11” green lighted protrolls?  None of the shops have  them in stock, if you have some lying around, name your  price.”

    Name your price???  My answer…, “If I had an extra one, I would give it to you.”  He later found the hot item and ordered it online.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, King Salmon Satellite Tagging Study

    Posted on December 5th, 2017 admin No comments


    graphs of taged king salmon "Super Dives" and night time foraging

    In 2018, Cornell fisheries researchers, fished aboard the Fish Doctor in July and August to collect king salmon for marking with satellite tags.  These so “called “pop-off” tags are programmed to physically pop off a salmon at a predetermined time, floating to the surface to be tracked by satellite.  Recovered tags provide a wealth of information.

    Not only do recovered tags show location relative to the tagging site, they also record every second depth, water temperature, acceleration rate.

    Although most of the tagging results have yet to  be released, one of the first tags placed on a king collected on the Fish Doctor off Oswego showed up at the mouth of Coburg Ck. in Canada four months after tagging, yielding both expected and unexpected information.

    Yes, this particular king salmon, as expected, inhabited cool water, generally in the high 40 to low 50 degrees F., whichput it around 60 to 80 feet deep most of the time.  However, it made some surprising instantaneous dives to as deepas 300 feet for no apparent reason, and also made routine forays to the surface at night where temps were often +/- 70 degrees F., presumably in search of alewife forage.

    There is much more to come on the results of this forage, so stay tuned!  Check out this link to a video taken onboard while collecting and tagging kings aboard the Fish Doctor <http://www.greatlakesboating.com/2017/11/hightech-salmon-in-lake-ontario>