• 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>

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, The Science of Trolling

    Posted on March 15th, 2017 admin No comments

    Fishing a current line for salmon.

    The two anglers in the small but well-equipped fishing boat were frustrated.  Six hours of trolling in Lake Ontario had produced only two hits and no fish in the box.  Yet, as they returned to Oswego Marina they watched as other fishermen unloaded heavy coolers.

     It was a trying experience for them.  They had purchased a good fishing boat, rigged it properly and put in their time.  Their first comment to me was, “We trolled out there for six solid hours and caught nothing.”

     They didn’t realize it, but they were learning an important principle.  There is a huge difference between blindly dragging a selection of lures from a boat for what is perceived to be randomly scatterred fish, and using that same trolling boat to locate and very systematically present lures to targeted gamefish.

     The two anglers were also learning that eastern Lake Ontario holds some of the greatest  angling treasures on the North American continent for those who respect this 200 mile long lake and learn to safely reap its rewards.  This great water body has a dynamic aquatic ecosystm which changes continually due to the effects of the sun, moon, wind, and season along with changes in the aquatic community itself.  For the angler, these changes create a multitude of variables affecting fish distribution and behavior throughout the lake over the course of the entire year.   However, the successful angler deals with these variables no differently in Lake Ontario than in a small farm pond.  The principles are exactly the same.

     An experienced bass angler would not think of going out on his favorite largemouth lake or river and begin haphazardly casting a lure without keying in on light conditions, weather, weed beds and other fish-attracting features like submerged structure.  Neither would the seasoned Lake Ontario angler who seeks out offshore thermal bars favored by steelhead or deep water structure holding midsummer browns.

     The approach by both is similar.  The likelihood of catching one’s quarry increases by spending the maximum time possible properly presenting a bait or lure to it.  The big difference between the bass angler on a small pond and the angler trolling Lake Ontario is the visibility of the fish-attracting features and the factors affecting lure presentation.  A half submerged tree top along shore is no less important to the bass angler than a current line 15 miles offshore is to the steelhead troller.  The action of a salmon spoon trolled out of sight at a depth of 100 feet just off bottom is as critical as the action of a clearly visible surface plug  precisely manuvered along the edge of a weedbed for largemouths.

     Trolling is a favorite angling techinque especially useful for catching widely dispersed fish over a large expanse of water.  Yet, even though gamefish may be scattered, they are usually more concentrated in one area than another.  Locating and properly fishing these areas is the key to consistent trolling success.

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, June 21, 2015 Oswego Report

    Posted on June 21st, 2015 admin No comments

     

    Melissa, with the 19.1 lb. trophy brown she boated on June 21, 2015 aboard the Fish Doctor

    The Oswego area of Lake Ontario is famous for it’s trout and salmon fishing, but there isn’t a Lake Ontario port anywhere on this  200 miles long and 50 miles wide inland ocean that produces better brown trout fishing, especially for trophy browns.

     One of the reasons…, the Oswego River, Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, draining 5,340 square miles of central New York, enters the lake at Oswego Harbor.  With recent  rains, flow of the Oswego River has really been cranking.  T he river is raging at 20,000 cfs compared to an 81 year median flow  of just over 3,000 cfs.  Temperature of the high, muddy water has been in the high 60s and low 70s for more than a week, perfect conditions for hordes of spawning alewives. With a west to east lake shore current, the colored plume of the Oswego River stretches six miles eastward, all the way past 9-Mile Point. 

     When aldewives concentrate inshore to spawn,  so do inshore predators like brown trout, that prey on them.   Inshore surface temperature right now out to 60 to 100 feet is in the low to mid 60s, a bit too warm for brown trout, pushing them deep into cooler water.  Today, June 21, 2015, itemperature was in the high 50s down 20 to 25 feet over 40 to 60 feet of water. 

     Browns were there and biting all the way from Four Mile Point to the “Red Building” at Nine Mile Point.  As surface temperatures warm, browns will concentrate more and more as they are forced into the depths.   If you’re looking for a tasty meal of Lake Ontario browns you could not pick a better time to fish, and if you’re looking for a wall hanger, the month of June produces more monster browns than any other month of the season.

     Just ask Melissa, who fished with a crew of Adirondackers today,  she boated a magnificent, hooked jawed male aboard the Fish Doctor that pulled my Epson Salter digital scale to 19.1 lbs.

  • Oswego Brown Trout Fishing Charters

    Posted on January 13th, 2015 admin No comments

     

    A limit of spring browns taken just outside Oswego Harbor

    Over the past 34 years I have fished out of most New York  ports from Wilson, just east of the Niagara River near the west end of Lake Ontario to Henderson Harbor, 180 miles to the east on the northeast corner of the lake.  Ports like Wilson, Olcott, Point Breeze, Rochester, Sodus, Fairhaven, Mexico Point and Henderson Harbor all have their strong points, but today, in spring and early summer,   I moor my charter boat in Oswego Harbor.

    Year after year the Oswego area consistently produces legendary trout and salmon fishing and the best spring  brown trout fishing in Lake Ontario.  The reasons are many, but the fact that the Oswego River , Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, flows into the lake here,  tops the list.  This river’s drainage basin is 5,144 sq. miles, encompassing some of the richest agricultural land in central New York.  Spring river flow,  usually peaking near 20,000 cfs., with its sun warmed, nutrient rich, plankton laden plume is a major attraction  for baitfish,  trout and salmon.  .  In addition, the Oswego River supports one of Lake Ontario’s  largest spawning runs of adult brown trout which  drop downstream into the forage rich harbor to feed in the spring.  This plentiful food supplies produces some of the biggest trophy browns in  Lake Ontario.

    Fishing time is limited on charter fishing trips, and travel time to fishing areas is a major consideration. This is the second reason Oswego  shines for spring browns.  In and around Oswego Harbor, minutes from marinas and public docks, hordes of baitfish like  alewives, smelt,  gizzard shad, minnows, and gobies attract browns and other salmonids.   Some mornings, my crews have their first line in the water in less than 5 minutes from the dock.  On many trips, limit after limit of browns are caught in and just outside the harbor, or in the river plume no further than a mile or so from the harbor. In contrast, when I fished out of the Little Salmon River in the spring I commonly ran from 45 minutes to an hour to get to good brown trout fishing,  Not so in Oswego,   Less travel time to fishing areas means more fun fishing on each trip.

    Any experienced Lake Ontario angler can tell you it’s one thing to locate spring browns, but another to catch them in the gin clear shallows  of the main lake, especially in bright sun.   Browns are much easier to catch in colored water .  This is another reason why the port of Oswego excels  for spring brown trout fishing.  Because of it’s huge watershed.  When the spring snow melt is over and smaller streams and rivers are running crystal clear, the Oswego River is still high and turbid.  The colored plume of the river sometimes extends for several miles east of the harbor along the shoreline,  ideal  for catching browns from dawn to dusk.   When fishing is slow everywhere else in Lake Ontario because of clear water conditions, it can be red hot in the colored plume of the Oswego River.

    On any lake finding and catching fish is only part of the equation.  Weather, especially wind, rears it’s ugly head at times, creating rough Lake Ontario seas which may keep charter boats  ashore.  Fortunately, for anglers fishing out of Oswego, the rock riprap breakwalls of Oswego Harbor, including the 2000 foot west wall,  provide the protection charters need to get on the water when fishing isn’t possible anywhere else along the New York coastline.  On many days when the main lake is a little to rough to fish anywhere else, it’s still possible  to troll for spring browns inside Oswego Harbor or in the lee of the east breakwall.

    Brown trout aren’t the only game in town in early spring for Oswego charters.  Each spring coho salmon, rainbows, steelhead, trophy walleyes, and occasional Atlantic salmon add to the excitement.  Some years, like   2012, and, 2014, fishing is also excellent for shallow water king salmon and lake trout just outside the harbor.  No Lake Ontario port can match this angling diversity in such close proximity to the harbor. 

    Add to this great nearby lodging, restaurants and diners only minutes away, and  it is tough find a better place to book a charter for early season Lake Ontario brown trout.

  • June, 2012 Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing, The Best!

    Posted on July 4th, 2012 admin No comments

    In our last blog, we answered the question we’re often asked, “What is the best time to fish Lake Ontario?”  The answer, hesitantly because of all the variables like weather, annual changes in trout and salmon behavior, and other factors…, was June.

    Well, I guess once and I while you just get it right, because fishing last month, June, 2012, for king salmon, steelhead, and brown trout may just have been the best fishing I’ve ever seen any month, any year since the first June I fished back in 1978!!

    What fishing!  Limit catches of kings and steelhead were the rule thru about June, 25.  The steelhead scattered a bit, but the number of kings increased as they moved even closer to shore.  Because of all the attention anglers were focusing on kings, browns nearshore have gone untouched, and fishing for them has been as good as it gets.

    Alewives are wall to wall, and a Lake Ontario fishery researcher emailed this comment to me.  “Preliminary results from the alewife survey in April indicated that alewife remain in great condition, adult abundance and biomass improved and it appears that they pulled off a good year class last year.”  The condition of the king salmon and brown trout “second” that.  Steelhead are also in super shape, and there appears to be a very strong year class of 4 to 8 lb. fish, probably 3-year olds.

    We’re looking at not only “football” browns, but “football” kings.  I’ve never seen kings as healthy.

    The prospects for the rest of the season…, out of sight!  2013 prospects…, off the scale!!!

    Brandon, boated this 25.9 lb. "football" king on the afternoon of 7/2/12 aboard the Fish Doctor.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Fall Steelhead

    Posted on August 11th, 2011 admin No comments

    A September Chromer

    A September Chromer

     

     

     

    I could read Vinnie’s thoughts as he scanned the surface of Lake Ontario around my charter boat on that early November day.  “Are there really steelhead here?  If the fishing is so good, why aren’t there any other boats fishing?  Shouldn’t we have left the dock before daylight like we do for salmon, instead of heading out at 7:00 AM?”  His thoughts were rudely interrupted as one of his fishing buddies hollered, “Hey, there’s a steelhead jumping back there!”, as a noodle rod doubled over.

     

    Two months earlier right where we were off the mouth of the Big Salmon , boats were wall to wall fishing for staged king salmon.  Today, we were the only boat on the water.  Why?  Because anglers just aren’t aware of Lake Ontario’s fantastic fall for trophy steelhead  staged  off the mouth of spawning.

     

    Every year, when  the leaves start to color as fall approaches, tens of thousands of nomadic steelhead scattered the length and  breadth of 200 mile long Lake Ontario begin to feel the urge to spawn.  Homing in on ancestral spawning streams,  they make their way toward river mouths like the Big Salmon, near Pulaski, New York, in northern Oswego County.  More than a half million steelhead are stocked each year in Lake Ontario tributaries, none receiving a heavier stocking than the Big Salmon.  The fishing these stocked steelhead produces in shallow, accessible water is some of the best Lake Ontario has to offer.

     

    Before that November trip ended, Vinnie and his three fishing buddies put 8 steelhead up to 12 pounds in the cooler, and carefully released almost as many smaller fish, all on ultralight noodle rods and 8 lb. test line.  When we pulled the lines at 1:00 PM, there still wasn’t another boat in sight.

     

    Why is this fantastic fall steelhead fishery so underutilized?  The answers are simple.  First, the fishery hasn’t been publicized like the spring and summer brown trout, lake trout, chinook and coho fishery.  Most anglers don’t know it exists.  Secondly, most anglers don’t realize that the late October and early November weather along the southeast coastline of Lake Ontario is much warmer than the rest of the Northeast because of the heat sink influence of the vast expanse of warm water in Lake Ontario.  Third, anglers don’t realize how easily accessible fall lake steelhead are, and how easy they are to catch.

     

    Inshore fall steelhead trolling is as simple as you want to make it.  It’s great for the small boat  troller, because these fish are shallow, generally in 20 feet of water or less, and close to port.  In the case of the Big Salmon River, there is a public boat launch just inside the river mouth at Selkirk Shores State Park,  minutes away from the fishing.  Remember, though,  the waters of Lake Ontario can be extremely rough.  Caution and judgment should be used before taking a small boat out on the water Steelhead bite best in sunny, bluebird weather, perfect conditions for the small boater.

     

     The trolling setup for steelhead and rainbows is basic.  Trolling tight to the boat is generally not effective.  Downriggers and planer boards work best when fished 70-100 feet back.   Troll flat lines 100-150 feet back.

     

    As they say, steelhead and rainbows like fluorescent red lures no matter what color they are!  Lure color selection for autumn steelies is simple.  My favorite spoons are the size #41 and  #51 red/black Alpena Diamonds.  Stickbaits like Nils Masters, and Rapalas,  in red, orange, or orange/gold finishes are also effective.  

     

     Fine tuning your presentation is the key.  Stick to my   recipe speed of 2.5 MPH, and stay away from oversized snap swivels on lures, especially smaller stick baits.

     

    Have you felt the nip in the air lately?  It won’t be long before the leaves start to turn.  Fall will be here soon, and with it will come some of the best Lake Ontario steelhead fishing of the year.  I plan to be on the water every day from mid-October to mid-November and would love some company!  Bring some of those fluorescent red lures with you.  Close-in autumn steelies love ‘em.

  • Lake Ontario Brown Trout Fishing Tips from the Fish Doctor

    Posted on January 23rd, 2010 admin No comments

    Here’s a simple lure color selector  that will help you catch more spring browns, and it probably won’t cost you more than 10 cents, if you happen to have a spray can of fluorescent paint around.

    Fishing Lake Ontario for spring brown trout can be a challenge at times, especially when it comes to lure color selection.   Variable water color and turbidity complicate the matter even more.  Your favorite spoon or stickbait may be deadly, but if you don’t have the right color in the water, you’ll probably end up going home with a nice clean cooler.

    There are some basic recipes for lure color selection based on water clarity, which generally revolve around the rule of thumb…, natural colors like silver, black/silver, black/gray, Tenessee shad, and others in clear water, and lures with more color, with some chartreuse, green, or fluorescent orange in the color pattern, in more turbid the water.  The more turbidity and less visibility, the more color, until you reach near solid chartreuse or orange colors.

    That’s fine, if you can figure out exactly what the turbidity is.  If you’re fishing the mouth of a large river like the Oswego, where I do much of my brown trout fishing, the water is commonly turbid or colored most of the time.  If it has been dry and river flow is low, the water in the plume of the river mouth is fairly clear.  If it has been rainy or there is a lot of snow melt, flow is high and the water color can be quite muddy.

    Look over the side of the boat on a clear, sunny day with a slight ripple on the lake surface, and the color of the water on an average day might not seem too turbid.   An hour later on the same day, with no actual change in the water color, under overcast skies and a glassy surface, the water will probably look more turbid to you.  Sometimes, it’s just difficult to eyeball this and figure out exactly what the conditions are.

    To make life easier(MLE) for myself, and make my lure color selection more effective when I’m fishing spring brown trout, I paint one of the five 6 lb. cannonballs I use on my riggers in the spring fluorescent red.  This give me a water turbidity indicator when I lower it down in the water and check my depth indicator on the rigger when the brightly colored ball disappears from sight.  I call it my COLOR-SEELECTOR.

    I have my favorite color patterns, just like you do, and have developed my spring brown trout color selection formula around a combination of what I see with my COLOR-SEELECTOR, overhead light conditions, and what the fish tell me after I put lures in the water.  If my COLOR-SEELECTOR READS(fl. ball disappears) 6-8 feet, and it’s moderately overcast,  I’m going to fish my favorite silver/blue Flutterdevle.  If it reads 3-5 feet, I’m going to fish a silver/blue/green Two-Tone Flutterdevle. 

    It works for me, and for 10 cents, how can you go wrong?  The bonus…, if there are any cohos around, they love to snuggle right up close to that red ball and hammer a brightly colored spoon or plug 3 or 4 feet behind it!

    A fluorescent red 6 lb. cannon ball, the perfect Color-Seelector for spring Ontario brown trout

    A fluorescent red 6 lb. cannon ball, the perfect Color-Seelector for spring Ontario brown trout

  • Lake Ontario Charter Captain’s Vacation!

    Posted on September 30th, 2009 admin No comments
    My English Setter retrieving a Hungarian partridge on the Schauer ranch in South Dakota

    My English Setter retrieving a Hungarian partridge on the Schauer ranch in South Dakota

    What’s a Lake Ontario charter captain do when the lake fishing season for salmon and trout is over?  Well, he goes hunting!

    And that’s just what I did in late Sept., 2009, when I headed west with my English Setter, Bandit, to South Dakota to hunt sharptail grouse, prairie chickens, and Hungarian partridge on tens of thousands of acres of rolling grasslands and ranches in endless prairie country.

    With experience scouting and hunting these great game birds in South and North Dakota, plus north central Montana in the fall of 2008, I knew eactly where to go…, the Pierre National Grassland, Grand River National Grassland, and the 27,000 acre Schauer Ranch near the community of Faith, population 789, in Northwest S. Dakota.

    The national grasslands are a public treasure where hunters, have access to hundreds of square miles of hunting for big game like antelope, mule deer, and whitetails, plus small game, especially sharptail grouse and prairie chickens, collectively known as prairie grouse. 

     The wide open rolling grasslands are a mecca for hunters with wide ranging pointing dogs who pursue these wild, native game birds that inhabited America’s prairies long before the white man set foot here.   Visit Pierre, South Dakota on the opener of the prairie grouse season, Sept. 19 this year, and as you drive by the Fort Pierre Motel you’ll see a large sign that says, “Welcome Hunters and Dogs”.   In the motel parking lot, you’ll see pickup trucks with  license plates  from Maine to Virginia to Alabama.   

    I spent several days hunting sharptails and “chickens” at the Pierre Grasslands, then traveled on to the 27,000 acre Schauer Ranch with thousands of acres of wheat and sunflowers  stretching from horizon to horizon, plus more acres of grassland where hundreds of black Angus dot the fields.  Food plots of corn, sourghum, and millet are strategically scattered through the property.  Doug Schauer, who operates Prairie Hills Hunting www.prairiehillshunting.com carefully manages the habitat for trophy antelope, whitetails, and mule deer, plus wild South Dakota pheasants.  Two of my favorite western game birds, sharptails and Hungarian partridge, are abundant there.   The hunting for “sharpies” and Huns this year was even better than in 2008.  Exactly as described on the Prairie Hills Hunting web site, I saw many antelope, whitetails, and mule deer while hunting birds, with no other bird hunters on the entire ranch while I was there.

    My last stop this season was the Grand River National Grassland, my favorite grassland for sharptails because there are lots of birds and NO HUNTERS!  In about 10 days of hunting in ’08 and ’09, I’ve seen only two other bird hunters, and they spent only a few hours away from their vehicle.  The word for Grand River is remote…, it’s almost as if you were the first person to hunt there.

  • Lake Ontario Fishing Charters, Safety, Fun, Then Fish

    Posted on August 1st, 2009 admin No comments
    Carol Angel on an August 1, 2009, Lake Ontario salmon fishing charter.

    Carol Angel on an August 1, 2009, Lake Ontario salmon fishing charter.

    When it comes to Lake Ontario fishing charters for trout and salmon aboard the Fish Doctor with Captain Ernie, there are three primary priorities…, safety, fun, and, then, fish.

    As the Fish Doctor departed the dock at 5:00 AM on the morning of August 1, 2009, with repeat customers Bill and Carol Angel and their kids, Will and Jen, those priorities were exactly what we were discussing.   First I was stressing safety, especially that the boat, with it’s twin V-8s was very seaworthy with countless hours spent below deck on preventive maintenance, plus a midseason out-of-water hull check, routine marine surveys, etc.    The nautical rule of thumb, is for every hour you spend fishing/boating on the water, you spend a half hour off the water or at the dock on maintenance of boat and gear.  Electrical storms and high winds with rough seas would be the only conditions that would keep us off the water, and those conditions hadn’t been forecast for 8/1/09.  Safety aboard Great Lakes charter boats is not automatic, and there are many horror stories involving poorly maintained, poor condition, and uninsured vessels getting into trouble and endangering customers.

    Fun, the captain’s second priority, would not be a problem with the Angel’s.  I knew from past experience that they would have a good time no matter what.    They enjoyed just being out of the water and “getting out of Dodge”.  They were already having a great time before we ever left the dock.

    Then, there’s the third priority…, fish.  What it boils down to is that catching Great Lakes trout and salmon is actually automatic for an experienced, successful captain.  That’s not to say that trout and salmon are actively feeding 24-7 or that a captain always can locate large concentrations of fish in every situation in 200-mile long Lake Ontario, but given halfway decent conditions, a veteran captain is going to put at least a few fish in the boat for his customers on almost every trip. 

    Knock on wood, but so far in the 2009 season, after about 85 trips, the Fish Doctor has not returned to the dock with

    a skunk in the box!