• 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. 

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

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    Sushi Flies, rigged and ready with a strip of fresh brined alewife

    (reposted on 1/27/19 after being deleted from archives)

    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 for my afternoon trip, still well away from the fleet.  “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, I pointed 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…, Jitterflies, Best Kept Secret on the Great Lakes

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    The absolutely deadly Pretty Jane Jitterfly

    (Reposted on Jan. 27, after being deleted from archives)

    If any Great Lakes troller who fishes trout and salmon in any of the Great Lakes is not fishing Jitterflies behind ruddered, rotating flashers like ProChip8s and 11s or the larger 13” Kingston Tackle Slashersor Okis, , find some, buy some or steal  some from your best buds in the dark of night!  If you have some that you’re willing to part with, call me!

    Why?  Because Jitterflies are absolutely, definitely, without question one of the deadliest items onboard the Fish Doctor, for every species of trout and salmon in the Great Lakes…,PERIOD! …and they should be OUTLAWED FOR COHOS! 

    My thoughts about Jitterflies are  based on 17 years(since 2001) trolling flies in Lake Ontario and 11 years fishing Jitterflies since I  first got them wet in 2007.  JItterflies catch fish all season long, but become increasing deadly late in the season.

    Stepping  back a bit, Jitterflies first produced in 2007 and after some fine tuning were available to anglers in 2008.  Long story short without going into the gory details, production was eventually discontinued after a few years.  Having done the original field testing with Jitterflies and being involved with their design and development, I knew the unbelievable potential of this unique, actionized fly, and took it from there, improving the original.

    What’s different about them? ACTION and NOISE!  Watch them in the water boatside and you’ll see.  Sparsely dressed, they vibrate in the water and the turbulence of the water as it passes around the plastic disc at the head of the fly actionizes the mylar skirt.  This vibration and turbulence produces a “hperaction” fly unlike any other.  Just stimulus it takes to flip the switch of negative trout and salmon and generate the response you want.  Speaking of stimuli, the large eyes of a Jitterfly,unavailable on any other fly,  add to it’s effectiveness.

    Look at the reviews online and you’ll see positive and negative comments.  One of which, I’ll call a whine, “I don’t like  them, because the  mylar skirt gets ripped off after it  catches  4 or 5 fish.”  The mylar material of a Jitterfly is exactly the same as that used in a Howie Fly and no more delicate. I’ve caught many hundreds of kings, browns, steelhead on Jitterflies and never had one “destroyed” by just 4 or 5 fish.  When the mylare does get a bit chewed up, like most other flies, they often work even better than new ones.  When the mylar gets completely shot, if you tie your own flies Howie Fly style, it takes only a coupleof minutes to retape new mylar on a Jitterfly body.

    A couple negative reviews are correct.  Trout and salmon will occasionally or finally rip one or both eyes off.., “Oh, well!”  Also, the single fixed hook on a Jitterfly is a little light and will occasionally straighten enough to lose a fish if a release is set extremely tight or too much “oomph” is put to a big king.  I rarely have had one of these fixed single hooks open up, but it has happened.  

    Sooo, there is a time and place for every rig and lure in your tackle box, including Jitterflies.  When fish are slurping everything in sight, it’s no trick to catch them on most anything, including standard flies trolled behind a variety of flashers.  It’s when trout and salmon are lazy, negative, or just plain fussy that Jitterflies come into their own.   This might be during early and mid season when feeding fish are inactive or later in the  season, midAugust through September,  when staged browns and salmon are off their feed.

     In late season from midAugust through September, Jiterflies along with Sushi Flies are always in the water behind 8”, 11”, and 13” flashers. The deeper you’re fishing and the later in the season, the better the larger flashers work.  When cohos move into Mexico Bay and the Oswego area and charter customers want them, at least two 8” Hot Tamale Chips with Silent Assassin Jitterflies get wet.

    Like every other technique, there is a Jitterfly learning curve.  They catch fish “as is”,  right out of the box, but there are ways to improve their effectiveness.  One important way,  because they have their own action, is to fish them on a longer leader than standard flies.

    Check the “Fishing Hotline” page on my Fish Doctor web site for more details and photos on fishing this deadly item.

     

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Can Fishing Be Too Easy?

    Posted on January 25th, 2019 admin No comments

     

     

     

     

    Karl Schmidt hangs on in 3-5 footers to show off a spring king on June 4, 2018.

    As I pulled into dock #21 in Oswego Marina with my afternoon charter, I could see long time customer Karl Schmidt and his crew waiting for me.  It was their turn the following morning, a trip they had done with me the first Saturday in June for what would be their 20th year.

    Karl and his crew stood back politely, not wanting to interfere with offloading customers and ziplock bags of salmon filets.  After the goodbyes, thank yous, and we’ll-be-backs, Karl and his crew walked out on the dock to say hello. 

    I told Karl the salmon fishing had been good both morning and after noon, but the early morning bite had been sizzling along a current line well inside where other boats were fishing.  Now the question, “Could you boys leave the dock tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. rather than the normal departure time of 5:00 a.m  to cash in on the early morning action?”

    “Absolutely!”, Karl replied.  “You know the deal.  We’re all hunters and fishermen and hear to catch fish.  See you at 4:15 a.m., tomorrow morning.”  Sure enough.  The next morning they all were onboard as we eased out of the marina, just before 4:30 a.m.

    With the electronics available today, locating and catching fish is easier than back when I was a kid rowing a wooden row boat around an Adirondack lake jerk lining a single hook spoon for lake trout.  But, in Lake Ontario, with trout and salmon spread out over 7,660 sq. miles, it’s not always easy. I wondered, as we left the marina.

    With my 24 mile radar guiding  us safely out of the harbor, the waypoints on my chart plotter marking the spot I had been fishing, and the fish finder and speed/temp unit dialing us in, it would  be no problem locating the early morning honey hole, but would those kings still be there and biting?

    It didn’t take long to find out.  Just minutes out of Oswego Harbor in 70 feet of water, we could see the scattered kings and schools of alewives on the Garmin 3500 fish finder below us 35 to 65 feet. But, would they be biting?.

                                  Appreciate those fantastic everything-goes-right days,

                           because for every great trip there will eventually be a tough one.  

     Our simple spread of Venom Maulers on three riggers would be set at 35, 45, and 65 feet.  Slide divers would be set to fish 35 and 45 feet down with the same spoon.

    I dropped the starboard rigger to 35 and turned to reach for the second rigger ride.  Behind me I heard, “Fish on!”  Yes, they were biting.

    By 6:30 a.m., Karl and his crew landed 10 kings and 1 laker!  Whew, they definitely were biting!  It could  not have been easier.  Although the bite slowed a bit as the sun rose higher in the east, Karl and his crew limited out on 3-year old kings and released the smaller ones. 

    Standing at the cleaning table at the stern of the boat filleting kings on the way back to the dock, Karl chatted about the great trip.   Smiling, I said, “Hope you don’t expect this kind of action every trip!”  Karl smiled back and said, “Well, do you remember last year in the pea soup fog when the south wind had dropped surface temp to ice water and we fished 8 hours for 2 fish?”  I did, and also  remembered some of the more than 20 good, bad, and ugly trips Karl and his crew had fished aboard the Fish Doctor.

    On some of those trips the stars had lined up and catching fish seemed almost too easy…, fish on!   On other trips, definitely not. 

    Appreciate those fantastic everything-goes-right days, because for every great day there will eventually be a tough one.   It’s called pay back, and that’s what keeps us all coming back.

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

    Posted on June 13th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Leonard Beebe, aboard the Fish Doctor on June 9, 2018, with a nice king he boated on 200' of copper.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    It’s a lot of work, especially fishing solo without a mate, but multiple copper lines catch fish.  Mess up, and it’s a copper calamity!   Done properly, it often saves the day.

     

    The megaboards I use with up to 500’copper sections run nearly straight out boatside rather than  dropping back  like inline boards.  These  triple boards  are built with 3’ x 10” boards with Styrofoam flotation to keep them from diving in roughseas.  They are rigged on  200 feet of 300# test mono tether line on Great Lakes Planer System  masts and rod holders. 

    My choice for releases is the Scotty Power Grip Plus 1170.

    For copper reels, I prefer Penn’s  Fathom 40LW for 200’ copper sections with 35” Spectron backing, the Fathom 60LW  for 300’ sections with 50# Spectron backing, and the 345GTI for 400, 500, and 600’ sections with 50” backing. 

    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 set at 41- 62 degrees, with a combination of spoons and flashers.  Two to four wire dipsy rods fishing  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.  

    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 heck can break loose with multiple hookups.  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…, Catching Early Spring Kings

    Posted on April 29th, 2018 admin No comments

    April 23, 2018..., first king of the season aboard the Fish Doctor

    On the morning of April 23, fishing with a crew willing to hunt for king salmon, the first adult chromer of the 2018 season  came aboard the Fish Doctor.  More early spring kings will follow because we fish for them.  Yes, a few boats catch an occasional early spring king while targeting other species, mostly browns this time of year.  But, if you want to catch any number of kings you have to fish for them.

    Although the mother lode may not arrive for a while, there are always some kings around in late April.  Until kings begin to stage and forget about feeding in favor of spawning, kings are looking for only two thing, to be comfortable in suitable temperagture and to keep their bellies full.

    After spending the winter in 39.7 degree water in the midlake depths chowing down on alewives, kings are comfortable anywhere in Lake Ontario right now from the shallows to midlake, surface to bottom.  Yes, a few kings are caught in shallow water near shore, but if you’re looking for numbers, look deeper.  It’s just a behavior thing.

    Feeding kings need food, in the case of Lake Ontario, alewives.  Find alewives and you’ll find kings, whether it’s April or July.  Early spring kings are easy to catch when you find them.  The best place to find them…, off the mouths of the two largest tributaries in Lake Ontario, the Niagara and the Oswego Rivers, PERIOD!

    The same techniques that catch kings later in the season catch them now, as long as you fish the temp where they’re comfortable.  Fish for them on the surface right now with the right stickbaits spoons and they will hit them.  Dodgers and flies are another early spring Fish Doctor favorite.

    The bottom line…, you have to fish for them to catch them.

  • 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 OntarioTrout and Salmon Fishing…, Changing Salmon Behavior

    Posted on April 10th, 2016 admin No comments

     

    A 7/18/15 catch of kings.

    When I toured states like Michigan a few winters ago giving seminars at Chip Porter’s  “Salmon Institute” I often heard Chip Say, “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always catch what you always caught.”  Chip used that saying to encourage anglers to improve their techniques and resulting catch rate or success. 

     However, in my experience that saying only holds true when fishing conditions remain the same.  If you’re fishing a good program and catching lots of fish you’re good to go, right?  Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing.  But…, what if conditions change?  For instance, what if the water clarity of Lake Ontario changes as a result of a massive zebra mussel infestation and visibility increases from 3-5 feet to up to 35 feet?  How are those jointed chartreuse Rapalas you’ve caught spring browns on in shallow water working out for ya now?  Not so good, eh?  Time to quit doing what you’ve always done, eh?

     Well, it’s happening again.  This time with king salmon.  Always  reliable, right, showing up on the east lake around late June, concentrating on bait and providing good offshore fishing in July, and stacking up in Mexico Bay like cordwood in August and Sept.

     Concentrating in July?  Stacking up in August and September?  In the past two years?  Seriously?  Well, if you think so, you haven’t been fishing the southeast corner of Lake Ontario.  Things have changed.  If you’re still doing what you  always did, you’re missing the boat!

     Kings are showing up earlier in the season than ever, as we saw aboard the Fish Doctor when the first two kings of the season were boated on April 18, 2015, and we averaged 5 kings per  trip in May while most other boats were fishing browns. 

     On most days in July, kings were scattered far and wide offshore, and it took a “pedal-to-the-metal” program to consistently put any numbers in the box.

     In August and early September in Mexico Bay kings and cohos were not stacked up like cordwood, especially off the mouth of the Salmon River, and to pound that area day after day was futile.  Time to look elsewhere.

     If you’re still fishing for kings like you always did on Lake Ontario, most of the time don’t count on catching what you always caught!

  • Lake Ontario Salmon Fishing…, Crazy Spring Cohos

    Posted on May 3rd, 2011 admin No comments

    A spring coho that hit a green mylar fly behind a #00 red dodger

    A spring coho that hit a green mylar fly behind a #00 red dodger

     

     

              

    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 torpedoe shot forward and nailed the fly, pulling the line from the downrigger 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.

     

    There are lots of brown trout being caught this 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 select for coho salmon in early spring they are a great bonus, especially when conditions aren’t right for browns.   Nothing compares to their wild and wooly antics.  Absolutely fearless of boats, and very surface oriented, I’ve seen them hit 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 or orange in it.  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 3-5 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 northern Oswego Co., they will 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 Lite Bite Slide Divers(www.slidediver.com), but #00 dodgers and coho flies really shine fished behind inline planer boards like the Church TX-12 Mini Planer(www.churchtackle.com). 

     

    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 weighted 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.  High action jointed plugs like the J-9 orange and gold Rapala are favorites, along with standard size Michigan Stingers in hot colors, especially in a combination of fluorescent red and silver or brass.

     

    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!