• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Same Old, Same Old

    Posted on March 30th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    One of many browns that fell for a new spring trolling technique in 2017.

    “If you always do what you always did, you will always catch what you always caught.” That is a quote from Chip Porter,  one of the best fishermen on the upper Great Lakes.   I heard it many times when he and I were touring the states of Michigan and Wisconsin a few years back giving seminars for Chips’s Salmon Institute.

    The point Chip was making was don’t get in a rut when you’re fishing for many reasons.  Fishing conditions can change and a consistently successful angler needs to change with them.  You may be catching fish doing the same old, same old, but changing your tactics might just catch you more and bigger fish or help you cash in on another species you haven’t been targeting.   Being versatile and experimenting with new techniques pays off sooner or later.

    It did for me when I first started guiding back in the early 1970s.  When downriggers first became available commercially,  I started doing something I had never done.  I left my old reliable copper  and leadcore rigs at the dock and began experimenting with riggers in 28,00 acre Lake George in northeastern New York  for lake trout and  rainbows. 

    There was a learning curve involved in fishing this new fangled gear, but it didn’t take long to figure things out.  Trolling medium size Mooselooks at moderate speed near bottom was all it took to catch lakers.  The only problem was most of these lakers were 5 lbs. or less and I knew as a fishery  biologist working on the lake that much larger lakers were there.

    Although I could have fished the same old way with Mooselooks and continued to catch small lakers on spoons at a moderate trolling speed, I wasn’t satisfied and continued to experiment with different downrigger techniques.  Surprise, surprise!  Yes, there were bigger, lazier, slow moving lakers there, and they could not resist an F-7 Flatfish wobbling along slowly,  inches off bottom, 4 feet behind an 8-inch chrome dodger attached to the tail of a fish-shaped downrigger weight.

    At the slow speed I was trolling for lakers, the same, small, 4-blade cowbell I used for rainbows on leadcore line caught suspended ‘bows just as well on light tackle when the cowbell was attached directly to a downrigger weight and fished with the same fluorescent red F-4 Flatfish trailing 18 inches behind the tail spinner of the cowbell at a water temperature of 61 degrees. 

    More recently, during the 2017 season, avoiding the same old, same old paid off for me big time.  Every season I experiment with a new trolling technique that I’ve never heard of or read about to  to augment my arsenal of old reliables.  Some of the new trials work out and some don’t.  In 2017, the new technique I tested for  spring browns didn’t just work out, it turned out to be one of the deadliest, most efficient spring brown trout trolling techniques I’ve ever fished.  It pays to experiment, and I’ll be trying another new technique for kings this season.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Take an Ol’-timer Fishing

    Posted on March 27th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Ol'-timer Bob Lorenzen, his nephew Dave, Dave's wife Jodi, and Fred with an early May quad on kings.

     I’ve always been a proponent of, “Take a kid fishing!”  Kids are the future of  fishing and any of us who love the sport should do whatever we can to encourage kids to participate.  On my charter boat, there is no charge for kids.  

    But what about the old-timers, the people who got us here,  the folks who took the time out of their lives to share a special experience with us when we were youngsters and teach us how to be successful anglers? Some of my most memorable charter trips have been with these elders, and I cherish the time I spend with them aboard the Fish Doctor, knowing the trip may be their last.

     So it was when old-timer  Bob Lorenzen slowly made his way with the help of a cane down the dock toward my charter boat one spring morning.  His nephew Dave, with a watchful eye, was close behind.  This was the 25th year Bob, now 81 years young,  had fished with me.  When Dave was in his early teens, Bob brought him along on a charter fishing trip with me.  On that trip, I watched  Dave land his first king salmon, knees shaking, full of excitement.  It was a fishing trip Dave never forgot, and later in his life, a favor he would never forget to repay.

     As Bob approached my charter boat, I welcomed him in the early morning darkness.  Never, ever late for the 5:00 AM dock departure, Bob was raring to go.  The only help he needed boarding was someone to hold his cane …, independent old cuss.  He seemed as excited on this trip as he was on his first.  I glanced behind Bob, and there was Dave, not too obvious, but close at hand, just in case.  Dave’s wife Jodi, and Bob’s fishing buddy, Fred rounded out the group.  Fred, a spry 77 years, is pretty much just a youngster in Bob’s eyes.

     It was early September, and the king salmon were bunched up right at the mouth of Oswego Harbor.  As usual, just off the Oswego lighthouse, when dawn broke over Lake Ontario’s east shore salmon action was wild, with almost every boat in the area hooked up to salmon after salmon.  This was what Bob lived for, and always the last in the group to take his turn on a rod, he waited patiently for the fourth salmon, his fish, to hit. There is a reason we call Bob “Hawk”, he never misses seeing a hit before anyone else, never taking his eyes off the rod tips.

    Sure enough, even though I wondered if Bob could safely navigate the slippery cockpit deck to get to the rod, when the next king hit, he was there, his cane forgotten.  With experience from many years on the water, and muscles not as young as they used to be, Bob fought the unseen king salmon in a give and take battle.  Minutes passed and we still hadn’t seen the big king. I started wondering if we might have accidentally foul hooked the fish.  Finally the monster surfaced in the wash of the inboard, and I could see the trebles of the glow green #5 J-plug buried deep in it’s mouth.  A quick swipe of my oversized landing net and the fish was Bob’s, a 36 lb. hen on my Sampson digital scale.  It was Bob’s biggest ever Lake Ontario king salmon, and a real thrill. 

     As my eyes met Dave’s, I could see the whole story…, a little payback for an old-timer who took the time to bring him along fishing years ago. Where are these ol’ timers  like Bob Lorenzen now?  In their later years they are often unable to handle their own boat, or maybe even unable to drive to a fishing spot? Take a look around my friends.   It’s great to think about taking a kid fishing, but just don’t forget the old- timers.

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing Charters…, Fussy Spring Brown Trout

    Posted on March 23rd, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Some butt kickin' Flutterdevles for spring browns, including the Blue Lazer, second from left.

    If any species of fish on earth is more selective than a spring brown trout in shallow,  crystal clear Great Lakes water, I don’t know what it is.  On every spring brown trout charter out of Oswego Harbor Mr. Brown Trout reinforces that.  No other Lake Ontario salmonid is fussier or more fickle. 

    One such experience occurred during a spring charter trip one morning off Four Mile Point east of Oswego Harbor.  The first couple hours the early morning bite was hot and heavy and my charter was having a ball.   Everything we did was right, with brown after brown coming to the net until the rippled lake surface went flat calm.  Browns were actively feeding on the surface, but we couldn’t get a hit.

     

    I tried a repertoire of favorite lures, lighter leaders, longer setbacks, erratic trolling speed, and did everything else in my spring brown trout book, but nothing.  Then, on my lure hanger snapped to the transom, I noticed a hammered silver Eppinger Flutterdevle, freshly doctored with a strip of blue sparkle laser tape a friend had sent me two weeks before.  It hadn’t been in the water since I taped it up.  With nothing else firing, and browns rolling on the surface all around us,  in desperation it was worth a try. 

     With the spoon 100 feet back behind the boat, I started to attach the line to a planer board release and a 4 lb. brown ripped it from my hand.  The next try with the same spoon was an exact repeat except this brown weighed 10 pounds.  We couldn’t keep that spoon in the water, and the other nine lures we were trolling weren’t getting a touch. 

     That incident proved to me  and some happy charter custommers just how selective a Great Lakes brown can be.

     

     

     

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Charters…, Crazy Spring Cohos

    Posted on March 17th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Spring cohos like red!

    We watched my 16” flat screen in amazement as not one, but four cohos darted around behind the red #00 dodger and green hummer fly trailing 5’ behind my underwater camera on the center rigger set 15’ below the surface. 

     As all four fish swirled around in full view of the camera, a silvery  torpedo shot forward and nailed the fly, pulling the line from the rigger release.  The 7’ Fish Doctor Shortstick sprang upward and a quick hand snatched the ultralight rod from the rod holder.  Before the excited angler could say, “Fish on!”, the mint silver coho was already airborne.

     There are lots of brown trout caught in the  spring in the Oswego area of Lake Ontario, but not many cohos, unless you’re fishing specifically for them.  Sure, you’ll catch an occasional coho while fishing for browns, but the best locations and techniques for each differ.

     For those in the know who target spring cohos, they are a great bonus, especially when conditions aren’t right for browns.   Nothing compares to their wild antics.  Absolutely fearless of boats, I’ve watched them hit a spoon less than 6’ behind a rigger one foot below the surface.  The wilder and noisier the lure action and the gaudier the color,  the more cohos like it.  Especially if it is fluorescent red!   When you find a “wolf pack” of marauding spring cohos, prepare for battle.  It’s  not unusual for  every rod in the water to fire!

     Cohos are hyper fish.  Everything they do is fast including the rate at which they grow.  Ontario’s spring cohos are 2-year old fish weighing 1-5 lbs.  By late August of the same year, when they stage in Mexico Bay before returning to the hatchery in the headwaters of the Big Salmon River, they weigh 6-12 lbs. and more.   After spawning, adult cohos die as do all Pacific salmon. 

     One of the favorite rigs for spring cohos is a fluorescent red #00 dodger trailed 12” – 14” back by a small 1” – 2 ½” green mylar fly.   Dodgers are effective trolled shallow on downriggers and Dipsy Divers,  but #00 dodgers and coho flies really shine fished behind inline planer boards. 

     To rig dodgers and flies behind inline planers, use 6’ of 20# test leader ahead of the dodger.  Between the leader and the main line snap in a 5/8 to 7/8 ounce bead chain keel sinker.  This weight helps keep the dodger from planing to the surface.  Set the dodger/fly back 25 to70 feet behind the inline board, and let the board out to the side of the boat the desired distance.  Multiple inline planers can be used off each side of the boat.  Jointed stickbaits and spoons in hot colors catch cohos, too.

    Riggers are normally set in the top 10 feet of water when surface temperatures are cold in late March, and April, then set deeper as temperatures warm and cohos move offshore.  Much like landlocked salmon, cohos are attracted to the boat, and downrigger setbacks of  6 to 20 feet are common.  My side riggers are set 3 to 5 feet down and 10 to 12 feet back with the dodger fly clearly visible from the boat as it wobbles back and forth.  Diving planers are set on 15 to 25 feet of line.  A trolling speed of 2.0 to 3.0 mph is about right depending on water temperature. 

    When a coho hits close to the boat, you usually see the fish in the air before you see the rod go!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, 2017 NYSDEC Creel Census Results

    Posted on March 10th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    One of the largest king salmon ever boated on the Fish Doctor

    Whether it’s the Atlantic or a small New England pond, fishing is much the same everywhere.  Ask one angler how they were biting and you might here, “Never had a nibble all day!”  Ask another fishing the same water the same day, and you might  see a limit of beautiful brook trout in their creel.  So it is on Lake Ontario where success on any given day or during any given season may vary from boat to boat or location to location.

    Fortunately, to paint an accurate picture of the Lake Ontario fishery, each season the NYSDEC conducts a lake wide creel census, interviewing hundreds of anglers and sampling thousands of trout, salmon, and other species. 

    The 2017 lake fising census estimates are for April 15 to Sept. 30.  Although there are many variables involved and some of the census results, i.e., angler use, are estimates, much of the data, i.e., average size of each species harvested and success rate of charter boat anglers, is hard data. 

     Several  important factors dramatically affected fishing in 2017 for trout and salmon.  1) record high spring water levels, with only one public boat launch at Wright’s Landing in Oswego open for boat launching and many private marinas were struggling to operate with some permanent docks submerged. 2) excessive floating debris, i.e., large trees, docks, etc. which caused concern about boating safety. 3) Record high king salmon catch rates resulting in less fishing pressure for other salmonid species, particularly brown trout and lake trout.  

    Here are a few creel census highlights from the 2017 season;

    • Angler effort for trout and salmon declined to an estimated 35,856 boat trips, a reduction of  21% compared to the previous 6-year average
    • Trout and salmon fishing success rate was high.  Combined catch rate for all salmonids increased 45% from 2016 and 16% compared to 2003-2016 highs.
    • King salmon catch rate reached a record high of 0.14/hr., a 54% increase in the 2003-2016 average catch rate
    • Coho salmon catch rate was among the highest in 33 years surveyed
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    • Estimated total trout and salmon catch was 162, 341, including 96,226 kings, 10,630 cohos, 22,556 rainbow/steelhead, 17,092 brown trout, 15,44 lake trout, and very few Atlantic salmon
    • Brown trout and lake trout catch catch declined from previous year as anglers targeted king salmon(this does not reflect the excellent April and May brown trout fishing in the Oswego area)
    • Catch of rainbow/steelhead, commonly boated while fishing offshore in mid-summer for king,  was one of the highest on record
  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Snow, Baby, Snow!

    Posted on March 9th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    After a Feb., 2007, lake effect storm in Oswego Co., with the roof of Gone Fish Inn only partially shoveled, our goldens joined my wifeon the roof for a pic!

    Most of us like to look on the bright side, especially folks who fish.  If the fish aren’t biting, they should start any minute.  If they don’t start biting, well, it’s a nice day to be outside.  If it really isn’t a nice day outside, well, your garden needed the rain anyway.  You know, like we’ve all heard before, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work!”

     Well, those of you in northern New York may be having a little trouble looking on the bright side this winter.  What weather swings…, first frigid cold, lake effect, more cold, more snow, then a midwinter thaw, and now, three Nor’easters in a row?   More snow and rain?    If the weather pattern we’ve been seeing continues through March, you can count on it.  This is bad news if you’re tired of shoveling snow and shuffling around on ice, but for spring brown trout fisherman on Lake Ontario, it couldn’t be better.

     The Oswego and Niagara Rivers are New York State’s two largest Lake Ontario tributaries emptying directly into deep water areas of the lake..  I moor my charter boat at the mouth of the Oswego River in Oswego Harbor, right in the city of Oswego, NY.  .  The river’s watershed is huge, 5,070 sq. miles,  stretching all the way south to the southern drainages of the largest Finger Lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, and others.  It also includes Oneida Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in New York, as well as the Syracuse area, and tens of thousands of acres of farm land. 

     When the snow melts in the spring runoff from this drainage basin funnels down the Oswego River, increasing the flow into the lake.  The spring runoff, warmed by the sun, carries with it nutrient laden water, the food of plankton, which attracts baitfish like smelt and alewives as it enters the lake.  Following the baitfish…, predators like brown trout, rainbows, chinook and coho salmon, and Atlantic salmon.

     Since the year, 2000, the two winters with the highest Syracuse snowfall were 2000-01 with 191.9” and 2003-04 with 181.3”.  This winter, in the first 9 days of March, Syracuse has gotten 17.4 inches of snow.  Whew!

     I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that two of the best springs for chinook salmon fishing offshore of Oswego Harbor were May, 2001 and April-May, 2004, when flow in the Oswego River was high from the huge snow melt.  I didn’t keep an accurate log of my salmon catch in 2001, but I did in 2004…, 201 chinook salmon in 31 trips. 

     The main reason these fish were just outside Oswego Harbor…, the attraction of the Oswego River and it’s plume of warm water that extends out into the lake, like a magnet to baitfish, trout, and salmon. 

     High river flows have the same effect on brown trout fishing in the Oswego Harbor area, but for a different reason.  Spooky,  browns are much easier to catch in colored water.   When river flow is high and the discharge plume outside Oswego Harbor is turbid with visibility as little as 3 to 5 feet, baitfish aren’t as easy for brown trout to locate and chow down on so browns feed longer.  In addition, light penetration thru turbid water is reduced, so the sun doesn’t shut down light sensitive browns.

     The  snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York is continuing with recent nor’easters dumping 17.4 inches of snow on the area in just the first 9 days of March.  The high spring runoff that will result, will produce some super fishing for kings and browns out of Oswego Harbor. 

     Sorry folks, but Lake Ontario anglers are praying, “Snow, Baby, Snow!”

     

  • Oswego Brown Trout Charters

    Posted on March 8th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A mid-May catch of Oswego brown trout

    You may have heard “April showers bring May flowers.”, What about, “A winter whiteout brings April brown trout”.  That’s always my wish for Oswego brown trout charters in early spring.  Many other Lake Ontario anglers who have booked brown trout charters for the past 40 years agree. 

     Why, you ask?  Because there is no other port on the New York coastline that produces better spring and summer brown trout fishing.  The Reason…,  the inflow from Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, the protection offered by Oswego Harbor when browns are inshore in the spring, and perhaps most importantly, an experienced charter fleet that specializes in spring and summer brown trout fishing. 

     Spring brown trout charters are all about winter weather’s influence on spring water conditions.   The more snow in Central New York, the higher the flow in the Oswego River with it’s 5,070 square mile watershed during the spring thaw.  High, warm flows  into frigid  Lake Ontario, attract hordes of baitfish, followed by hungry brown trout, plus cohos, Atantics, rainbows, lake trout, and king salmon.

     Not only is spring a great time to catch Oswego brown trout on light tackle, but because of cool water temperatures and the shallow depths at which browns are caught, it is also a great time to release them.  Aboard my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, charter customers keep many prime eating browns, but many are released to grow to world class size and thrill another angler another day

     If you’re interested in booking an Oswego brown trout charter, you should know that spring isn’t the only time to book a trip.  Great brown trout fishing continues thru mid-August.  It’s just a matter of charter captains tracking brown trout movement as browns follow preferred water temperatures of 47-65 degrees inshore in the spring to the same cool temperatures in deeper water offshore in mid-summer. 

     If you’re following online brown trout fishing reports from the Oswego area, hot April brown trout fishing usually means good fishing for browns the rest of the season. 

     Veteran spring and summer brown trout charter customers will tell you that on occasion, it is not unheard of to land 20 to 30 or even more browns on a single charter, but on other days, browns come a lot harder.  It’s all about fishing when conditions are optimum, and Mother Nature controls that one.

     If you’re thinking about an Ontario brown trout trip, be sure to to do your homework, plan ahead, select a personable, experienced captain, and have realistic expectations

     A very few Lake Ontario charter captains have the experience and  passion for fishing brown trout that you will find aboard the Fish Doctor.  These are the captains with whom you want to fish.