• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, If You Always Did What You Always Do

    Posted on April 12th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    A change in tactics put this silver king in the boat.

    If you always do what you always did, you will always catch what you always caught.  I remember that statement by Chip Porter, one of the best fishermen on the upper Great Lakes, when he and I were touring the states of Michigan and Wisconsin a few years back giving seminars for Chip’s Salmon Institute.

     The point he was making was although an angler may catch fish using the same technique that has produced for many years, it still pays to be versatile and experiment with new techniques and fishing gear.  Conditions might change in the waters you fish or the fishing there may fizzle altogether, and you might have to seek out new waters where your old technique doesn’t work as well.  Also, if you learn new techniques, you might be even more successful in your favorite waters, catching more and bigger fish.

     Back in the 1960s on 28 mile long Lake George in northeastern New York State, a top fishing guide named Doug specialized in hooking up his clients with bottom hugging lake trout.  His technique, jerk lining 7-inch Hinkley spoons on copper line was devasting for big lakers feeding on ciscoes up to 10 inches.  But, the ciscoe population diminished and smelt showed up in the lake in 1976 changing the predator/prey scenario.  Doug consistently caught plenty of lakers in the 1960s doing the same thing he had always done,  but when conditions changed, and smelt became the primary lake trout forage, he stayed on top of his game  by switching to smaller smelt size spoons.

    At the same time, 2 to 4 lb. rainbow trout were plentiful in Lake George, but Doug never fished for them, even though I consistently caught them fishing small Mooselook wobblers on leadcore line at moderate trolling speeds and at slower speeds on leadcore using small chrome/copper cowbells trailed 18 inches back by an F-4 fluorescent red Flatfish.  If Doug had changed his ways and added a single leadcore rig to his spread his clients would have caught more rainbows.  

    In the early 1970s, downriggers first became available commercially and I started doing something I had never done, leaving my copper  and leadcore rigs at the dock and experimenting with riggers in Lake George for trout and salmon.  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. 

    Not doing what I had always done with copper and leadcore line produced consistent combination catches of lakers and rainbows on much lighter tackle than I had been using.  

     

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