• 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…, Cooking kings

    Posted on July 10th, 2018 admin No comments
    Filleting king salmon onboard the Fish Doctor on the way back to the dock

    Because the king salmon fishing has been sooo… good out of Oswego Harbor since late April, your charter captain has been filleting and packaging lots of kings for Fish Doctor anglers to take home.  One of the most common questions as I’m cleaning salmon at the stern of my charter boat is how I recommend cooking them.

    Well, there are hundreds of ways  to cook salmon, some simple like grilling them, some more complicated like  king salmon florentine(mmm, mmm!), but here’s a really quick, simple, and delicous recipe that is one of my favorites.

    First, go online and “Google Simply Asian Sweet Ginger spice” and order a jar.  Some Walmart stores carry it.

    Take a fresh salmon filet and cut it in strips about two inches wide.  The salmon filet from a good size king will be about an inch or more thick.  Rub the  steaks with olive oil, then sprinkle on the Simply Asian Sweet Ginger spice to taste.  Place   the steaks on a broiling pan and broil on high until just barely cooked.  Overcooking will make the filet dry and tough.

    Quick and dirty broiled king salmon…, deeelicous!!!

     

     

  • 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…, June Fishing Charters the Best?

    Posted on June 13th, 2018 admin No comments

    Lennie Beebe battling an early morning king salmon aboard the Fish Doctor in early morning on June9, 2018

    One of the most common questions I hear is, “What time of the season is the best fishing?”  Well, it would take a book to answer that one, but in a nutshell;

    It all depends on what you want to fish and what type of tackle you enjoy.  If you want to fish for brown trout in shallow water, you generally must fish in April, May, and early June.  If you like  ultralight gear the answer is the same when we’re trolling on or near the surface with noodle rods and 8 to 10 lb. test line.  If you want the biggest kings and cohos of the season, you should fish in late August and early September.

    Good fishing any time of  the year depends on conditions.  If weather patterns and especially winds are consistent, with no major changes, fishing is consistent.  Get a big blow and it changes everything.  Fishing can be the best all season, but one major weather change, especially high winds, can change everything.  If you’re fishing when a major cold front comes thru.  Don’t expect a good bite.

    That said,  especially over the past 5 years, I think the best fishing of the season, especially because of the beautiful weather, calm seas, and multispecies catches, occurs in June.

    A few days ago , on June 9, 2017, I had a plan based on what I had been seeing and catching the previous few trips.  I talked with  Leonard Beebe and his  sons Adrian and Len that morning before we left the dock, and explained that there had been a lot of bait(alewives) and plenty of kings a little northwest of  the Oswego lighthouse and we should not have to go far to find them.  With consistent weather conditions and light winds, I guessed the kings had not moved far.

    We  never put the boat on plane as we left the mouth of harbor the compass bearing steady at 330 degrees.  My eye was on my Fish Hawk surface temp.  When it dropped from the 60s to the high 50s in 65 feet of water I started setting riggers, and slide divers.  Before  all of our lines were in the water a screaming drag on a slide diver rod shattered the early morning calm.  King on!

    For the next 5 hours action was steady and by 10:30 a.m., Leonard and his boys boated 13 kings up to 19 lbs., Keeping a limit of 9, most of them caught on rigger rods with line as light as 12# test.

    I wasn’t surprised.  King salmon fishing in June, 2017, and in many months of June before had been just as good.  Exactly one week earlier Karl Schmidt and his fishing buddies had done exactly the same catching one king after another their whole trip.  Two years earlier on the same first Saturday of June that Karl has fished for over 20 years, Karl and his crew had 10 kings and one lake trout in the boat by 6:30 a.m.

    On the way back to the dock, as I was filleting the kings that Leonard and his boys had caught, I was thinking…,  does salmon fishing get any better than that?

    Maybe June IS the best!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Catching June Transition Kings

    Posted on June 4th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Karl Schmidt with a June transition king, one of 8 boated on the morning of 6/2/18.

     

    It was early June as I eased my charter boat out of Oswego Harbor in search of king salmon and steelhead.  One eye was on the seas and the other on my compass and electronics.  My Garmin 3500 told  the story below us, my eyes read lake conditions, my compass bearing would lead us to the offshore hot spot we had fished the previous day, and perhaps most important,  my Fish Hawk speed/temp unit was continually recording  surface water temperature.

    I watched as the 72 degree surface water temperature inside the harbor dropped to 67 degrees just beyond the Oswego lighthouse, and then slowly decrease as we cruised offshore.  5 miles northeast of the harbor, we found what we were looking for, a break in surface temperature from the high 50s to high 40s in less than 100 yards.  My chart plotter showed we were very near the waypoint where we had boated steelhead, lake trout and king salmon 12 hours earlier.  

    The scumline along the break was obvious, with weeds, sticks, and other debris floating in it.  Even more obvious were the gulls that stretched along it picking insects from the  surface.  Not far below  that, I knew there were baitfish and predators, a classic June transition hot spot.

    The June transition is seasonal and all about warming late spring weather.  As late spring air temperature increases, surface temperature warms inshore, pushing trout and salmon offshore.  Meanwhile, because of the huge volume of 200 mile long, 50 mile wide, and 802 feet deep Lake Ontario, surface water temperature offshore remains optimum for kings,  steelhead and lake trout.  It is also  the time when alewives, that have wintered in deep water in mid-lake,  are moving onshore to spawn.  King salmon and steelhead  follow them, remaining in cold  water offshore. 

    There is no time of year when king salmon and steelhead are more active and more surface oriented than in June.  The only problem…, they can be very scattered and tough to locate.  June kings and steelhead are much more scattered than they are in midsummer when a thin band of rapidly decreasing water temperature separates a a warm upper layer and cold deeper laye, concentrating trout and salmon deep. Once you pin point aggressively feeding offshore kings steelhead in June, though, they are easy to catch.

    Locating kings in June is more about hunting than fishing, using a combination of old fashioned fishing savvy and state of the art fish finding electronics.  When trout and salmon are this scattered it is important to use a fish finder capable of locating fish, bait, and plankton at planning speeds.  When kings and steelhead are in the top 15-20 feet of water and can’t be detected effectively with standard sonar, experience reading offshore surface water to located feeding birds, current lines, and thermal bars helps pin point king salmon concentrations.

    In June, my mind set is…, “Find kings and you will catch them!”  At no other time of the year are they more actively feeding.  With no urge to spawn this early in the season, their two priorities are to be comfortable and to keep their bellies full.  Comfort meant optimum water temperature, available in June anywhere in the lake from the surface to the bottom.  Keeping their bellies full means feeding on alewives, their primary forage.  Find alewives and you find kings.  Find kings and get ready to open your fish cooler!

    With the proper equipment on your boat,  June kings and steelhead can run, but they can’t hide,  even in the  great expanse of Lake  Ontario. It may take more effort to find these these silvery battlers when they are scattered, but a cooler full of delicious late spring salmon and steelhead is well worth the effort.

    When transition kings and steelherad are in the top 30 feet and scattered, my “High, Wide, and Handsome” spread includes 3 to 5 riggers, two slide divers, and a total of 6 leadcore sections usually ranging from 2 two 7 colors, covering the depths from 8’ 28’., 3 on each of my Megaboards planning out +100’ on each side of the boat, boat traffic permitting. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon…, The Oswego Rules!

    Posted on May 11th, 2018 admin No comments

    One of many browns, plus rainbows and salmon boated in and around Oswego Harvbor on 5/11/18.

    There are a lot of ports along New York State’s Lake Ontario shoreline where trout and salmon are caught in the spring, but it’s tough to beat fishing out of the port of Oswego.

    Second largest tributary emptying into the lake, the Oswego River and it’s warm, rich plume that impacts several miles of the lake’s shoreline is a magnet to baitfish, alewives, and, following, them, predators…, trout and salmon.

    Last time the Fish Doctor was out deep in 150 fow, offshore surface temp was 38.5 degrees.  Inshore, surface temp in Oswego Harbor was in the mid50s.  Today, in 60 fow surface temp was 40 degrees and harbor temp was 60 degrees.  Browns and salmon we boated were stuffed with alewives.

    In a tough NE wind, it was too bumpy to fish the main lake, so every boat out of Oswego fished in and around the harbor, boating browns, rainbows, Atlantics and a few kings.

    Elsewhere on the south shore of the lake from the Niagara River to the Salmon River it was either impossible to troll or very, very lumpy.

    No wonder Fish Doctor anglers say, “The Oswego Rules”!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Oswego Spring King Salmon Charters

    Posted on May 5th, 2018 admin No comments

    My "Fishin No Bitchin" charter with part of a limit catch of browns and kings on May 4.

    If you’re thinking about acharter  trip out of Oswego Harbor for king salmon, do not delay!  The spring king salmon fishing right now in shallow water is the best I’ve seen since 2012.  Wow, those kings are fun on light tackle down to 6′ custom built Fish Doctor Shortsticks and Altum 12 reels spooled with 10 lb. test Berkley/trilene line.

    It takes a silk smooth drag and plenty of 10# line capacity to tame a high octane spring king in 40 to 50 degree water, and the Altum 12s have proven them selves.  It also takes a light hand on the rod and my ”Fishin No Bitchin” fishing team had just that on May 3 and 4.

    I’m not a big fan of “meat” shots, but this crew deserved to show off their stuff!

     

     

     

     

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  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, April, 2018 Oswego Brown Trout

    Posted on April 15th, 2018 admin No comments

    The Fish Doctor, moored at dock #21, Oswego Marina.

    If you’ve got a hankering to do some spring brown trout fishing, now is the time and Oswego is the place.

    Water temperature in Oswego Harbor was near 40 degrees the past few days and there are plenty of browns in the harbor and to the east of it.  There are also some lakers stacked up on bottom in 120 fow and deeper.  Along with the browns in shallow water near shore, occasional domestic rainbows are showing up.  Haven’t seen or heard of any spring cohos being caught, but there have to be a few around.

    Good numbers of 2-year olds are being reported, along with 3-year old and older fish.   Check out the attached pic of one of the browns boated on the Fish Doctor on April 13.

    The browns, even in early spring, can be a bit selective.  It didn’t take long a few days ago that the browns told us they wanted Stingers and 3″ stickbaits in black/silver/orange.  Fussy buggars!

    Weather has been an issue for sure, keeping us off the lake on April 14, 15, and, from the looks, well into the coming week.  When things finally settle down, spring fishing should be good.

    See you on the water!

  • 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…, Coping with Clear Water Browns

    Posted on February 3rd, 2018 admin No comments

    A monster Oswego brown trout on ultralight, clear water tackle.

     

     In the past 25 years fishing conditions have changed drastically in Lake Ontario, and so have consistently successful angling techniques, especially for shallow water browns in April and May. 

     In the early 1970’s, when I climbed aboard legendary charter captain Ron Ditch’s charter boat at Henderson Harbor to show him how to fish his new downriggers for lake trout, his  chartreuse downrigger weight disappeared 2-4 feet(that’s not a typo!) below the surface.  Those turbid water conditions persisted through, 1993, when zebra mussels showed up in the lake. 

     In mid-May of 1995, on a glassy calm day I dropped a chartreuse rigger weight into the depths, and it disappeared at 36’.  Now that’s a major change!  Subsequently, to cope with the gin clear water conditions and catch fish consistently new fishing techniques have evolved that will help first time spring brown trout trollers catch more fish.

     Although we still fish turbid water after westerly or northerly blows and around the mouths of rivers like the Oswego during high spring runoff, much of the time  water conditions are gin clear.  This is especially true during calm weather and when spring tributary flow is low.   Coping with these clear water conditions for shallow water browns in April and may can be especially challenging.  This is when finesse combined with an understanding of brown trout behavior becomes  the name of the game. 

     Before the introduction of zebra mussels, in turbid water conditions, to catch browns you  simply had to chuck almost anything chartreuse over the side and tow it around on as heavy a line as you wanted. It was “Heave, ho, and away we go!” Today, try the same tactic in shallow clear water, and you will end up whining back at the dock.   One way to avoid that is the use of a stealthy presentation with light line and terminal tackle matched with a light action rod and reel.

     My spring brown trout rods are spooled with 10# test main line, hi-vis Trilene  Solar on the planer board and flat line rods and clear Berkley Big Game on rigger rods, each terminating with 8’ of lighter leader.   Some captains I know effectively use main line as heavy as 15# mono, plus a lighter leader.   The more durable main line, along with a less visible, lighter leader results in a deadly brown trout combination.  I personally like the finer diameter main line, especially on planer board and flat line rods,  because without adding any weight, thin diameter line allows  stick baits and spoons to fish deeper than larger diameter line. 

    For light  lining spring browns on planer boards, flat lines, and riggers, I use two different rods with the same reels.  I build my n planer board rods on a 9’ graphite, 3-4 weight, slow action St. Croix fly rod blank  and my rigger rods on 6-7 foot moderate action e-glass blanks.  Both styles of rods are built with non-slip EVA foam grips, quality reel seats and Fuji casting guides for use with levelwind reels.

     In the past, I’ve used either Penn 855LC digital line counter reels or, more recently, ABU Garcia 5500LC line counter.  This season I’m switching to ABU Garcia Altum 12 digital line counter reels, because of their greater line capacity and improved digital line counter.

     When using terminal leaders as light as 6# – 8# test, levelwind reels  must have a silk smooth drag or or you will curse your ultralight gear as a hog brown heads for the horizon with your lure and only part of your line trailing from hit’s toothy maw.   Fill your reel to the brim with quality line.  You’ll need it when you hook  a monster. 

    Yes, times have changed when it comes to fishing for shallow water brown trout in Lake Ontario.  Heave- ho techniques with heavy line and terminal tackle are a thing of the past.