• 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…, 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…, Take A Lady On A Fishing Charter

    Posted on June 4th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Harry and daughter Ashley enjoying time together aboard the Fish Doctor in May, 2018

    Back in the old days, the ladies stayed home, cooking, sewing, cleaning, and raising kids, while the gentlemen worked, hunted, fished, and trapped. My only sister Bonnie grew up in that era while her four brothers, Bernard, Bob, Bill, all avid outdoorsmen, followed tradition in our dad’s footsteps.

    That’s just the way it was, back in those days.  As the oldest child in the family, I regret that I did not realize how much Bonnie loved the outdoors.  I learned way too late that she would have been thrilled to be included in family outdoor activities. 

    Years later in the mid 1980s I had the pleasure of fishing not only only with my sister Bonnie, but her daughters Melodie and Jennifer.  Bonnie and her two girls still talk about their trip on my charter boat  fishing for lake trout and landlocked salmon in Lake Champlain.  None of them had any experience fishing with downriggers, but learned quickly.  All caught fish, and enjoyed themselves immensely.

    To this day, this family experience is one of the reasons I encourage ladies of all ages to come aboard my charter boat.  I do my utmost to make fishergals feel comfortable fishing and enjoy their time on the water.  Times have changed and I see more and more avid lady anglers fishing every year, and this season has been no exception.

    On May 18, 2018, as I watched Ashley Brooks and her dad Harry step onboard, I knew there would be no problem with Ashley enjoying her trip.  Harry had introduced Ashley to fishing years ago and they had fished with me before.  Their timing was perfect because the king salmon bite had been hot and heavy.  The  time Ashley and her dad spent on the water was precious and their memories lasting.  But not all ladies are as experienced and confident fishing as Ashley.

     

    .

                   I always encourage ladies to join in on the fun, and explain that there

                     is nothing difficult or complicated about fishing on a charter boat.

     

     

    When Kevin Conte and his niece Tiki stepped onboard on the morning of April 25, 2018.  Tiki had never trolled for trout or salmon in Lake Ontario before, but her uncle Kevin had. Tiki had fished with Kevin before but was not experienced with downriggers, slide divers, leadcore line and planer boards. It wasn’t long  before she was in the cockpit with Kevin helping me set lines.  As I explained to Tiki, “This isn’t rocket science. You just have to learn a few simple techniques.”  Before the 8-hour trip was over, Tiki had learned how to set lines, hook her own fish, and finesse fish to the net, including some mint silver early spring king salmon and brown trout. 

    Later this spring when I answered the phone one even ing, heard a lady’s voice on the other end.  Gals often call to book a family trip for their husband and children or other family members.  In other cases  ladies calls to book a trip for their husband and and one or two other couples.  Often, they mention they plan to come along to be with family and friends but do not intend to purchase license to fish because they are inexperienced.   

    Whenever I hear this, and I hear it quite often, I always encourage ladies to join in on the fun, and explain that there is nothing difficult or complicated about fishing on a charter boat.  All it takes is a little friendly instruction about what to look for when a fish strikes, how to set a hook, and how to handle a fish on rod and reel.   

    Most times ladies are convinced to give fishing a shot and usually end up enjoying the fishing trip far more than they would have just sitting in the boat watching the others fish. 

  • 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…, 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 Fishing…, Light Lining Kings

    Posted on April 9th, 2016 admin No comments

     

    Rev. Thomas James with a light lined king he caught in May, 2014.

    A few years back on a clear, sunny day in early July, the water was rough enough on eastern Lake Ontario that the Oswego Pro-Am Tournament had been cancelled.  The early morning brown trout bite was a good one, but as the northwest winds drove the thermocline deeper and deeper, the browns shut down.  My move to deeper water for kings with  a full progam of dodgers and howie Flies was not producing, even though we were seeing kings near bottom in 130 fow.   

     After two hours with nothing, my crew for the day watched me switch the port boom  rigger from a dodger fly on 30# line to a  Monkey Puke Stinger  on 8 lb. mono, 35 feet behind the weight.  One hundred fifty feet of cable put it just off bottom and slightly below and behind the nearest dodger/fly on the port  corner rigger.  The Stinger fired in about 10 minutes. 

     Three hours later, after adding another Monkey Puke on the starboard  boom rigger, the Stingers had produced 4 kings, while dodgers and flies on 7 other lines had produced only one.  On other occasions I clearly recall, when kings were really in a foul mood, every king boated on my charter boat was taken on spoons, usually Stingers or Suttons,  fished on light line

     Ultralight king salmon gear is a part of the Fish Doctor arsenal, any time of the season.  On certain days and in certain conditions, especially in gin clear water under a midday sun,  light rigs fished with spoons will put more kings in the boat than heavier gear.  However, you have to be rigged properly, or you willl  lose a bunch of gear and some nice fish. 

    Light action Fish Doctor Shortsticks, Penn 965 International reels, Berkley Big Game line in 8 or 10 lb. test, and Sampo ball bearing swivels are my choice.      

  • Lake Ontario Salmon Fishing – May Kings

    Posted on February 20th, 2010 admin No comments

    Since 2004, spring fishing for king salmon, just 5 minutes outside Oswego Harbor, has been fantastic most years.  Just in the month of May anglers aboard my charter boat have boated up to 201 kings and 156 cohos, in the best of Mays.  The kings in varying abundance are always around in May, but the crazy cohos are more hit and miss.  In 2004, my anglers did not boat a single coho in May, but boated 150+ in May the very next year…, go figure!    This, in an area much better known for spring brown trout fishing.  When I first located these May kings in 2004, just outside Oswego Harbor, not one other boat was fishing for them.  The spring type fishery for these sleek, early season chromers continues on thru June, until the kings disperse. 

     

     

    Experience has taught me that high spring flow in the Oswego River is a major attraction for baitfish and spring kings and cohos.  Since 2001, another great year for spring kings, the pattern seems clear, high flows produce hot spring salmon fishing.  Soo…, huge dumps of lake effect snow in central New York and the Finger Lakes are a kind of a love-hate thing.  You hate to move it during the winter, but you love it when high runoff in the Oswego River sucks in May kings.

     

     

    Some springs, the Oswego River flows at close to 25,000 cfs, almost twice the normal flow for this time of year.   Laden with nutrients from thousands of acres of rich farmland in the Finger Lakes watershed, the huge greenish colored plume of water off Oswego Harbor is like an oasis in the Sahara to fish in eastern Lake Ontario.  It’s a magnet for both baitfish and predators like browns, cohos, and rainbows, but especially aggressively feeding spring kings.  Some years, the spring king fishing extends out from the Oswego area east into Mexico Bay, but most years the bullseye for eastern Lake Ontario king anglers is the 2-4 mile zone, just east of Oswego Harbor.

     

     

    When it comes to cashing in on this super spring king fishing on a typical sunny May day, you should remember the number one rule of May salmon fishing…,  the early bird definitely gets the worm.  Leaving the dock at Oswego Marina at 5:00 AM, it’s only a short 5-minute boat ride for me to the fishing grounds in give or take 90 to 100 feet of water.  Most mornings I try to have my rods in the water just before daybreak.  At that time, almost no fish or bait can be seen on my 10” color Sitex video fish finder deeper than 30 feet.  This is one of the main reasons the May king salmon fishery was overlooked by anglers.

     

    Some calm mornings at first light, salmon can be seen porpoising right on the surface…, exciting.  All the early morning action is in the top 30 feet of water, and I mean action.  Triples and quads are not unusual.  One morning, my crew of three,   ranging from 79 to 85 years old, including one lady angler, hooked and landed six kings at once from 13 – 19 lbs.  Whew!

     

      Even though the surface water temperature in early May is 39-40 degrees, on  sunny days, kings start to move deep by 7:00 -9:00 AM and are often flat on bottom in 120 feet of water by late morning, another reason the May king salmon fishery was overlooked.

     

     

    ProChip Flashers and dodgers trailed by flies are my standard fare for spring kings.  Northern Kings and Michigan Stingers are also excellent spring king medicine.  Although, a standard spread of downriggers, Dipsey Divers, and copper line fished from planer boards get lures down to kings, I’m sure that stickbaits off the boards would catch fish right at the crack of daylight, if you wanted to run them.  The only problem is, once it starts to get light, the kings drop deeper quickly.  My personal favorite in May is a white ProChip 8 trailed by a blue pearl/glow fly, whenever I’m dealing with low to moderate light levels.  The Diehard NK28,  black alewife Stinger, blue dolphin Silver Streak, and other standard spoons are some of my favorites.   Copper off the boards is a killer!

    Four king salmon at once in early May just out of Oswego Harbor!

    Four king salmon at once in early May just out of Oswego Harbor!

     

    One thing for sure…, you don’t need long rigger setbacks to catch May kings in early morning.  My anglers have boated hundreds that were caught on riggers, 25-30 feet down and only 12’ back.  As light levels rise, though, longer setbacks often fish better.  The same is true for wire Dipseys which on my boat are fishing on 40’ of wire, #3 setting, just as it starts to crack daylight.  One of my hottest early morning rigs is a thumper rod with a 10 oz. ball on 80’ of wire with a dodger/fly.   I start the morning with two copper lines fishing from each megaboard, the outer one with 100’ of copper and a spoon, and the inner one with 200’ of copper and a ProChip/fly. 

     

    Although it is the green water plume of the Oswego River and the bait it holds that sucks in May kings to the Oswego area, the kings aren’t always located in the plume, especially early in May, when kings first move into the Oswego area from the main lake and the surface water temp is around 39-41 degrees.  You’ll often find them at this time just outside the plume in the gin clear water.  If you don’t find them there, move in shallower.  One year, 2008, we caught over half our early May kings right in the plume, just outside the harbor in 50-75 fow.  Why?  Only the kings can tell you that. 

     

    One thing that I can tell you…, speed is critical, and the frigid 40 degree water of early May is no time for speed trolling, another reason why anglers overlooked May kings.  Many of the early May kings caught aboard my boat have been taken at trolling speeds less than 2.0 mph.

     

    Oh, yeah, and there is a secret for precisely pin pointing the exact location of early spring kings, but I’ll leave that for a later blog.

     

    See you on the water.