• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, HotChips, the most overlooked Great Lakes flasher!

    Posted on July 26th, 2018 admin No comments

    ProTroll's HotChip, the most overlooked Great Lake salmon and trout flasher. Perfect for high speed offshore trolling in midsummer!

    So, it’s midJuly and the bait is moving offshore, kings and steelhead following.  Everything is scattered big time as far out as the Canadian border.

    So, you’re going to troll along at slow poke speed and try to catch kings, right.  Nope.  Unless you get lucky and set down on a huge concentration of bait and fish, you’re going to have to cover some water.

    To do that, you’re going to fish, like everyone else, an 8″ ProChip flasher with a rudder and a fly or the same flasher with bait, that basically doesn’t work well at speeds over speeds over 2.7 mph.  Wrong!

    To kick it in the butt and cover more water, my solution to catching widely scattered kings and steelhead way offshore is to pick up the speed to 3.0+ mph using rudderless flashers like Pr0-Troll’s HotChip with flies(leader lengths 19 – 21 inches, and tuned Stingrays with a larger treble and heavier swivel.  High speed trolling is not the best program for catching moster kings, but it’s perfect for most kings out there and absolutely deadly for steelhead.

    High speed trolling also helps locate bait concentrations and the kings and steelies that feed on them.  Once you find them, that’s the time to slow down and fish for a monster.

     

     

  • 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 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…, Snow, Baby, Snow!

    Posted on March 9th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    After a Feb., 2007, lake effect storm in Oswego Co., with the roof of Gone Fish Inn only partially shoveled, our goldens joined my wifeon the roof for a pic!

    Most of us like to look on the bright side, especially folks who fish.  If the fish aren’t biting, they should start any minute.  If they don’t start biting, well, it’s a nice day to be outside.  If it really isn’t a nice day outside, well, your garden needed the rain anyway.  You know, like we’ve all heard before, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work!”

     Well, those of you in northern New York may be having a little trouble looking on the bright side this winter.  What weather swings…, first frigid cold, lake effect, more cold, more snow, then a midwinter thaw, and now, three Nor’easters in a row?   More snow and rain?    If the weather pattern we’ve been seeing continues through March, you can count on it.  This is bad news if you’re tired of shoveling snow and shuffling around on ice, but for spring brown trout fisherman on Lake Ontario, it couldn’t be better.

     The Oswego and Niagara Rivers are New York State’s two largest Lake Ontario tributaries emptying directly into deep water areas of the lake..  I moor my charter boat at the mouth of the Oswego River in Oswego Harbor, right in the city of Oswego, NY.  .  The river’s watershed is huge, 5,070 sq. miles,  stretching all the way south to the southern drainages of the largest Finger Lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, and others.  It also includes Oneida Lake, one of the largest inland lakes in New York, as well as the Syracuse area, and tens of thousands of acres of farm land. 

     When the snow melts in the spring runoff from this drainage basin funnels down the Oswego River, increasing the flow into the lake.  The spring runoff, warmed by the sun, carries with it nutrient laden water, the food of plankton, which attracts baitfish like smelt and alewives as it enters the lake.  Following the baitfish…, predators like brown trout, rainbows, chinook and coho salmon, and Atlantic salmon.

     Since the year, 2000, the two winters with the highest Syracuse snowfall were 2000-01 with 191.9” and 2003-04 with 181.3”.  This winter, in the first 9 days of March, Syracuse has gotten 17.4 inches of snow.  Whew!

     I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence that two of the best springs for chinook salmon fishing offshore of Oswego Harbor were May, 2001 and April-May, 2004, when flow in the Oswego River was high from the huge snow melt.  I didn’t keep an accurate log of my salmon catch in 2001, but I did in 2004…, 201 chinook salmon in 31 trips. 

     The main reason these fish were just outside Oswego Harbor…, the attraction of the Oswego River and it’s plume of warm water that extends out into the lake, like a magnet to baitfish, trout, and salmon. 

     High river flows have the same effect on brown trout fishing in the Oswego Harbor area, but for a different reason.  Spooky,  browns are much easier to catch in colored water.   When river flow is high and the discharge plume outside Oswego Harbor is turbid with visibility as little as 3 to 5 feet, baitfish aren’t as easy for brown trout to locate and chow down on so browns feed longer.  In addition, light penetration thru turbid water is reduced, so the sun doesn’t shut down light sensitive browns.

     The  snowy weather in Syracuse and central New York is continuing with recent nor’easters dumping 17.4 inches of snow on the area in just the first 9 days of March.  The high spring runoff that will result, will produce some super fishing for kings and browns out of Oswego Harbor. 

     Sorry folks, but Lake Ontario anglers are praying, “Snow, Baby, Snow!”

     

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

    Posted on February 9th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    Fish Doctor favorite..., Penn Fathom 60LW for 300' copper sections

    I was uneasy, sitting next to float plane pilot “Buss” Byrd, engine roaring, pontoons skimming the water as we attempted to take off from Terror Lake in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  My fishery biologist partner and I had just completed a fisheries survey of the remote 25 acre pond, and it was time to head back to civilization.

    Circling over the pond on our arrival, I had looked down at the hour-glass shaped pond with it’s narrow, boggy, spruce lined channel separating the pond’s two sections and naively asked “Buss”, “Can we get in there?”.  Buss replied, “No problem getting in.  It’s getting out that’s the problem!” 

    As we addressed the “getting out” problem, the plane roaring toward a wall of spruces near the narrow neck of the pond, pontoons still skimming  the water, I blurted out, “Buss, can we make it through the narrows?” “Only if we have to”, “Buss” answered calmly, as the rickety old biplane jumped from the water, pontoons brushing the spruce tops.

    The answer is the same aboard the Fish Doctor when someone asks about using multiple copper lines.  I fish up to a 7-copper spread, but only when I have to and only with  oversized planer boards I call megaboards, for suspended in IN NO BOAT TRAFFIC!  If the bite is hot using my standard spread of riggers and wire Dipsy rods, there is neither the time nor  need for fishing multiple copper lines.    If the bite is slow, or suspended fish are scattered far and wide,  up to 7-copper lines go  in the water, six megaboards, and one down the chute. 

    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 Charters…, Why do Captains Hate Vibram Soles?

    Posted on January 31st, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A small stone like this jammed in a cleated sole will cause major damage to the deck of a boat.

    If you’re a charter captain or, worse yet, a mate on a charter fishing boat, you do not need to read this.  You already know the answer to the question!

    However, if you are one of  hundreds of thousands of anglers who fish aboard a charter boat and think that the Vibram soled boots you wear for hiking, hunting, logging, doing construction work, or whatever are “the nuts” for fishing, please read on.

    If you want to immediately wear out your welcome on a charter boat, just step aboard with Vibram or cleated soled boots or shoes…, bad way to start your trip!  Why is that?

    Well, there are two main reasons, safety and the potential damage to the boat deck.  Why safety?  Answer…,  as far as I know, there is nothing as slippery on a wet fiberglass or teak deck than hard, cleated soled shoes or boots.  If  you have ever stepped on glare ice with Vibram type soles, you know exactly what I mean.   All captains are concerned about safety of their passengers and none of them want to see a charter customer injure themselves by slipping and falling.  It’s tough enough to stay on your feet on a wet, slippery, slimy deck in flat water, but in rough seas it’s worse.

    Secondly, cleated soles pick up everything you walk on, including mud, sand, grass, sticks, dog poop, etc., but small stones that jam in cleated soles can really damage an  expensive,  gel coated cockpit deck.  Imagine taking a Phillips screw driver, putting 150 to 200 lbs. of  pressure on it, then scraping the tip of it across a cockpit deck.  Arrghhh$$$

    I’ll never forget one of the first charter trips of the season  I,  after spending several thousand dollars the winter before on a new fiberglass floor in my cabin and cockpit.  An unknowing angler climbed aboard wearing Vibram soled hiking boots.  Rather than say anything, I sucked it in, thinking, “Oh, well.”  After a busy trip with 5 anglers aboard my crew for the morning had departed,  and it was time to swab the deck.  When I looked down, my jaw dropped.  The brand new and very expensive floor was covered with deep gouges.

    Any comfortable shoe or boot with soft, uncleated soles that don’t leave scuff marks are the way to go.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Copper Leader Length

    Posted on January 17th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A May king salmon caught on copper

    Since, 2004, when I wrote the first Great Lakes Angler article on fishing copper in the Great Lakes this  technique has become widespread from Lake Superior to Lake Ontario.   Age old, copper line has been used for years by lake trout trollers to “jerk line” lakers off  the bottom in Adirondack lakes like Lake George and the Finger Lakes in central New York.  Today’s Great Lakes copper line trolling techniques are  a mix of the old and the new.  The basics are the same, but the application is different. 

    Smiling as I write this, I remember a 2005 VHF radio conversation between two Lake Ontario captains, brothers, who fish the lake.  The VHF crackled as the first brother reported he had just caught a nice adult king on 500’ of copper.  The reply from his brother, “I’ll give up fishing if the day ever comes when I have to drag around 500’ of copper to catch a king!”

    Next season, you guessed it, on the VHF I heard the second captain, “Just took a nice king on 500’ of copper!”  Choking on my coffee, I realized a person can’t laugh and drink a cup of coffee at the same time.  Yes, trolling copper has caught on in the Great Lakes.

    Today, there are many experts(?) who troll copper, publish videos on how to do it, give seminars on the  subject, etc., etc.  The basics are pretty straight forward, but one thing many  do not agree on is the length of leader that should be fished on copper.  Let’s take a look at this.

    Although I started fishing .037 diam. twisted copper line for lakers with no backing on a Penn Mariner reel and 6’ rod with roller guides back in 1968  and have fished copper in Lake Ontario since 1978, I don’t pretend to be an expert.  However, I can tell you what leader lengths have caught fish for me for 49 years. 

    When I first started fishing copper  line I used a rod with roller guides, not realizing standard guides with ceramic inserts worked fine for copper.  So, with a roller tip on the guide, the barrel swivels available at the time for joining copper to monofilament leader would not pass through the roller tip.  That limited leader length to 6 feet, 30# test at the time.

    Six foot leaders caught lake trout in Lake George and trout and an occasional king salmon in Lake Ontario.  I say “occasional”, because very few of the kings that hit the spoons I trolled every came to the net. There was a major drawback with 6’ of 30# mono leader…, lack of stretch or shock absorption!  I was fishing large flutter spoons with #4/0 single hooks and king salmon hammered them.  However, it did not take long to learn, after a few savage  strikes using a stiff 6’ roller rod and a 6’ leader,  that there was not a 4/0 Siwash hook on the planet that wouldn’t straighten on the strike, unless you got lucky. 

    I also learned, after several kings came to the end of  the “chain!”, that a larger reel with enough line capacity for copper plus plenty of backing was a necessity.  With braided line not readily available at the  time, Dacron backing filled the bill.  Eventually Penn’s GTI 320, 330, 340, and 345 spooled with copper sections from 100’ to 600’ with Cortland Spectra braid backikng became my standards,

    The next step  in copper evolution aboard the Fish Doctor was a switch  to a 9’, moderate action rolling rod, still with a 6 – 8 ft. leader.  The longer, softer rod helped absorb some strike shock and a few more kings came to the boat. 

    Next step…, witching to standard Fuji Hardloy guides on 9’ rods and using the then newly available  Spro #3 Heavy swivels.  This was a huge step forward, because the copper/leader connection would now pass easily though line guides and levelwinds,  allowing the use  of  longer, stretchy leaders which solved the “strike shock” problem. 

    Once the system evolved to effective copper reels and rods with ample backing and unlimited leader length, my focus switched to the question…, “How much leader?”.  It made sense to use leaders that were effective, yet efficient.  Efficient as possible meant getting lines in the water and fish in the boat quickly, i.e., quicker out and quicker in, the shorter the better.  Effective as possible meant using whatever leader length it took to generate the most  strikes and hook and land the most kings, no matter how long the leader had to be.     

    After fishing with  some of the best captains on Lake Michigan  who used 100’, 20# mono leaders on leadcore, I  tried the 100’ leaders.  They caught kings with spoons,  dodger/flies, and flasher/flies and generated as many hits on copper as any leader length I have ever used.  But,  it takes time to put 100’ of leader in the water.  Ditto for landing fish on long leaders.  Were 100’ leaders necessary?  Could I fish heavier than 20# leaders, especially late  in the season with attractor/flies?

    That’s when I started experimenting.  Fishing up to 7 copper rods at once, there was plenty of opportunity for testing.  To keep it simple, and knowing I needed the benefit of some stretch to avoid “strike shock”, I eventually settled on trying leader lengths of 30’, 50’, 75’, and 100’.

    What I learned was that effective leader lengths for spoons and attractor/flies differ.  Trolling spoons, there did not seem to be much difference in the effectiveness of  leaders once they exceeded 50’.   Trolling spoons on less than 50’ of  leader seemed to be less effective.  There also did not seem to be any difference in fishing 50’ of 20# leader with a spoon or fishing spoons on 50’ of 30#  leader plus an 8’ 20# leader.  Because of the durability of the 30# leader, I settled on the latter, using 8’ of lighter leader to enhance spoon action/effectiveness.

    Trolling attractor/flies, I found no difference between 20# and 30# leader, and opted for the more durable 30#.  I also found that 30’ of  leader was as effective  as longer leaders. However, I compromised and decided to use 50’ of 30# leader for attractor/flies, so the same leader could be used for fishing spoons. 

    The final result of my nonscientific, non-statistically valid, seat-of-the-pants,  personal 48-year evaluation;

    1. Spoons – 50’ of 30# leader plus 8’ of  20# leader.
    2. Attractor/flies – 50’ of 30# leader

    With up to 6 copper lines at a time fishing from boards, plus another down the chute, using the same 50’ length of 30#  leader on every rod makes my life simple, and simple catches fish!

    The undisputable fact is, though, that I’ve never  generated more strikes and caught more fish than when fishing spoons and attractor flies on 100’ of 20# leader.  Common sense tells me there is no way that much leader is necessary, but “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”    In my case, though, as a charter captain, a shorter 50’ leader is a practical compromise  of efficiency, effectiveness, and durability.   

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Copper Depths

    Posted on January 5th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A copper king caught just outside Oswego Harbor

    Whether you’re new to trolling twisted copper line for trout and salmon or have fished with it since 1968 like I have, a constant concern is the depth at which it presents a lure.  This depends on the weight or diameter of the line you’re fishing and the speed at which you are trolling.

    My rule of thumb after fishing .037 diam.(45#)copper on bottom for 50 years is…, at a trolling speed of 2.7 mph every 100 feet of copper  fishes down 22’.  Pick up your  speed and copper fishes shallower, slow your speed down and copper sinks like a stone, fishing deeper.  Fish lighter, smaller diameter copper, and it fishes shallower.  But what about the speeds above  and below 2.7 mph, and what about copper smaller in diameter than .o37?

    The following depth chart by Blood Run Tackle compares the sink rate of 30# and 45# twisted copper line at 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 mph.  It clearly shows the difference in depth both sizes of copper line fish at different speeds, with an estimate that 30# copper fishes at 2/3rds the depth of 45# copper, i.e. with  300’ of copper in the water, 30# fishes a spoon down 56 feet while 45#  reaches a depth of 84’.

    That’s the story when fishing spoons, but in my experience the depth fished with diving plugs and attractor/flies, especially dodger/flies or large flashers,  varies slightly, especially on longer, 50’ to 100’ leaders. Diving plugs like a #4 j-plug will fish about 5’ deeper on 100’of leaeder. Dodger/flies fish shallower, but your guess is as good as mine about how much shallower.