• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Targeting Early Spring Cohos

    Posted on March 16th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    An early April coho that could not resist a red dodger and green fly

    Plenty of late March and Early April cohos are caught by brown trout trollers, but if you really want to fill the cooler with delicious spring “silvers”, you need to target them.  And, that’s exactly what we were doing just outside Oswego Harbor aboard the Fish Doctor in early April. 

     On my 16” flat screen,  we watched in amazement as four cohos darted around behind a red #00 and Little Green Hummer fly 5’ behind my Strike Vision camera on the center rigger down 15’.  As all four fish swirled around in full view of the camera, one of the  silvery torpedos shot forward and nailed the fly, pulling the line from the release.  The 7’ 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.

     All 13 rods in our coho spread of riggers, Dipsys, and inline planers were rigged with red #00 dodgers and L’il Green Hummer flies.  We were definitely targeting cohos

     Coho salmon are an early spring bonus in inshore waters of  Lake Ontario, and are often in the  same water around Oswego Harbor as brown trout or just outside them in the ice water.   Nothing compares to their wild and wooly antics when hooked close to the boat.  Absolutely fearless of boats, and very surface oriented, I’ve seen them hit lures many times that were in full view, less than 6’ behind a down rigger weight and not more than one foot below the surface. 

     The wilder and noisier the action of a lure and the gaudier the color, the more cohos like it.  As they say, cohos like any colored lure as long as it has fluorescent red.  When you find a “wolf pack” of marauding spring cohos, prepare for action, because it’s not unusual for  every single rod you have in the water to double over with a fish on it.

     Cohos are hyper fish.  Everything they do is fast including the rate at which they grow.  The cohos that make up Lake Ontario’s spring fishery are 2-year old fish that weigh 2-3+ lbs.  By late August of the same year, when they stage before returning to the hatchery in the headwaters of the Big Salmon river in Mexico Bay they will weigh 6-12 lbs. and more.   After spawning, adult cohos will die like all Pacific salmon. 

     Unlike Chinook salmon that migrate back to the lake from spawning streams as spring fingerlings, young cohos remain in rearing streams in for a year or more.  To mimic this behavior, the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation stocks 5”-7” yearling cohos each spring.

     Needless to say, my favorite spring coho rig  is a fluorescent red #00 dodger trailed 12” – 14”(or shorter) back by a 2 -2 ½” green mylar fly.    The smaller dodgers are effective trolled shallow on downriggers and Dipsy divers.  The icing on the cake for any spring coho spread is a set of red #00 dodgers fished behind inline planers port and starboard.

     To rig dodgers and flies for trolling 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 keel sinker helps keep the dodger from planing to the surface.  Set the dodger/fly back 25 to70 feet behind the inline planer board, and let the planer board out to the side of the boat the desired distance.  Multiple inline planers can be used off each side of the boat,with the nearest inlineno more than 25’ out. 

     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 between the rod tip and the Dipsy until surface temps warm.  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!

     Although I rarely target cohos with them, high action jointed plugs like the J-9 orange and gold Rapala or  standard size Michigan Stingers in hot colors, especially in fluorescent red and silver or brass combos will also catch cohos.

     Interestingly, the one salmonid species that likes dodgers and flies almost as much as a coho is the landlocked salmon. 

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