• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, What’s Wrong with My Riggers?

    Posted on November 1st, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Releasing an early May king boated while fishing only two riggers.

    I sent the center rigger down the 5th time to 135 feet  Conditions had not changed in several days and I new the troll, due north at a surface speed of 2.7 mph.  Wham!!  Dr. Kerry Brown, Capt. Tim Hummel, and their first mates, Tom and John watched the 7’ Shortstick double to the water as I tightened the line to the release.  The tally was 5 kings in a row on the double pearl dodger and “king salmon” Howie Fly behind the decoy rigger weight down the center, before we could put another line in the water. 

     

    Kerry, and his crew had traveled from the Port of Oak Orchard in western Lake Ontario to Oswego Harbor in eastern Lake Ontario on July 20, 2005, to do an  on-water Howie Fly class with me.   Tom’s  comment after a half hour on the water and five consecutive kings with only one  rigger in the water, “I’ve seen enough, we can go back!”

     

    What Dave had not seen, was what was comng next.  Instead of dropping the center rigger back down to 135’, I rigged the two corner riggers with dodgers and flies and dropped them to 130’ and 120’.  No takers!  I immediately dropped our hot item on the center rigger back down to 135’.  We watched intently.  We were still on the same hot troll…, identical speed, identical direction,  doing everything to “repeat-a-fish”.  The sonar was still showing  bait and kings from 100’ to 140’.  Nothing.  After setting copper lines, wire Dipsys, and a thumper rod, we started catching fish again, but not on the riggers.

     

    One week later, the scenario was similar.  As my crew approached the end of an 8-hour charter, we had boated some nice kings, but not a single one of them had come on a rigger rod.  Running three to four riggers at a time, the flashers and Howie Flies, had not  produced a nibble.  Because our copper rods, wire Dipsys, and thumper rods were all firing I had not changed the rigger spread.  As we got ready to haul lines, I purposely pulled both  boom riggers and spread the corner riggers, one down 100’,  one down 140’.  Before I could get the second boom rigger weight out of the water, we doubled on the two green ProChips trailing  green krinkle flies.  Reducing the number of riggers in the water and spreading them out was all it took.

     

    I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer in the addage that, “less is often more”

    when it comes to fishing riggers.  And, when I say less, think about not just dropping down to two riggers, but sometimes only one!  One fish on one rod every 10 minutes equals 6 fish/hour, equals…  You  know!

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, The Deadly Sutton

    Posted on November 1st, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Another Oswego Harbor brown trout falls prey to the deadly #44 Sutton.

    Some things never get old, and that includes spoons that have caught trout, salmon, and other fish species for eons.

     

    As a Lake Ontario charter captain with 40 years of experience under my keel fishing the “Big Lake”, I’ve been asked many times, “If you had only one spoon to use in Lake Ontario for trout and salmon, what would it be?”  Well, to answer that, I’ll take it one step farther.  If I had only one spoon to use for big water trout and salmon anywhere on a flatline, leadcore or copper line, or a downrigger or Dipsy , it would be an ultralight Sutton flutter spoon in Size #44.  If I could select a few different sizes of Suttons, I would add the #31, #71, #88 and #38.

     

    Apparently, I’m definitely not the only angler who favors the Sutton spoon, otherwise a while back when the Sutton Co. was not manufacturing their deadly spoon, used #44 Suttons would not have been selling for up to $25 ea. on ebay.

     

    The first time I fished Lake Ontario in September, 1977, with my fishing partner Mac Collins,  five out of the six kings my partner and I caught were on a flat silver #88 Sutton.  Since then, Sutton spoons in a variety of sizes and stock finishes, plus customized versions I concoct myself, have caught every species of trout and salmon in Lake Ontario for me including, cohos, steelhead, lake trout, domestic rainbow trout, landlocked salmon, several thousand brown trout, plus walleyes and bass. 

     

    Suttons, by far, are the most popular trolling spoon for trout and salmon in New York’s Finger Lakes, where they originated many years ago, and continue to be manufactured in Naples, at the south end of Canandaigua Lake.  They have had and continue to have one of the finest silver plated finishes on the market. 

     

    Suttons are available in both ultralight flutterspoons and heavier casting spoons.  They are available in a variety of finishes including flat and hammered silver, brass, copper, silver/brass, and silver/copper depending on the model and size.

     

    My favorite is the ultralight flutterspoon because it can be tweaked to troll properly at speeds from 1.5 – 3.0 mph.  These spoons come from the factory with a light treble hook which produces good action at slow speeds.  For my purposes on Lake Ontario, I replace the treble on all Sutton spoons with a single Mustad siwash hook. 

     

    On my favorite, the  3” long #44 Sutton, I use  a Size #1, #1/0 or #2/0 depending on the speed I’ll be trolling for different species and the spoon action I’m trying to achieve.  With the factory bend and a single # 1 hook, the #44  rigged with a #1 crosslock snap on a light leader will start to spin at 2.0 mph.  Small crosslock snaps improve the action of any flutterspoon at slow speeds.  Rigged with the same small crosslock snap, but a 1/0 Siwash hook, the #44 will start to spin at 2.3 mph.  Rig a #44 Sutton with a #2/0 Siwash hook and a #2 Sampo coastlock ball bearing snap swivel it will wobble up to about 2.7 mph.  Flatten the spoon thru the middle and bend back a 3/8” length of the nose of the spoon, and it will wobble up to about 3.0 mph. 

     

    For brown trout, tune a Sutton to wobble.  King salmon prefer a spoon that wobbles, but will hit spinning spoons when they’re aggressively feeding.  Domestic rainbows sometimes prefer a flutterspoon that spins.  Vary the size of the Sutton you’re fishing from the smaller, 3” #44 and #31 to the larger #71 and #38 depending on the size of the bait fish trout and salmon are targeting. 

     

    One of my my favorite Suttons in Lake Ontario’s gin-clear water when it’s sunny is the stock hammered silver/brass finish.  A 1/16stripe of fluorescent orange paint along the silver edge of a hammered silver/brass Sutton produces more fish in colored water under sunny skies.  A flat silver Sutton with a diagonal stripe of light blue lazer tape is one of my favorites for brown trout in clear water and low light.  Your own custom touches of tape and paint are sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

     

    I’ll never forget that first Lake Ontario trip with Mac Collins.  As he removed a crumpled #88 Sutton from a big king’s toothy maw, I suggested the spoon was ready for the garbage heap.  “No way,” Mac said.  “This baby is just starting to get a little character!”  Mac put another “peppermint twist” in the spoon, rigged it on a downrigger and promptly caught another king on it. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Location, Location, Location

    Posted on October 26th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    The first of a limit catch of kings in 600+ feet of water on 7/20/17.

    More years ago than I care to think, in the fall of 1980,  when fur prices had climbed to an all time high, I was checking mink traps on a crisp October morning in the high peaks of the Adirondacks.  Walking the shore of the small, shallow  pond after a crissp, calm night, the early morning sun relflected off a mirror gin clear first ice, I was focused on trapping, not fishing. 

    With the first rays of the day, just barely clearing a shoreline of dense white spruce, I stopped in my tracks.   Across the pond, in a small bay a column of steam, highlighted by the sun, rose straight up in the stillness.  Hmmm…? 

    As I walked closer, checking traps, the source of that column of steam was clear.  About 40 yards from shore there was a circular,  ice free opening in the frozen surface of the 12 acre pond. Aha, a spring hole!

    Knowing the shallow, trailless pond,  three miles from the nearest road,  was stocked with brook trout and lightly fished, my mind turned from trapping to fishing.   With visions of fresh caught brookies sizzling in a cast iron frying pan of hot  bacon grease, I made a mental note to return there the  next summer with my fly rod. 

    9 months later, my lightweight Grumman canoe on my shoulders, I could see the surface of the pond reflecting through the spruces as I eased my way down a ridge to  the shoreline.  My sinking fly line and tandem light cahill wet flies worked close to bottom in that spring hole confirmed what I already knew.  That spring hole in the warm, shallow pond supported brook trout through the hot months of summer.  Releasing all but four 10 – 12 inch brookies, the pleasure of  a memorable fishing trip making the hike out an easy one. 

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

               Ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water.

    ______________________________________________________________________________

     

     

     

    As I bush whacked my way back out to the truck, I kept thinking…, location, location, location.  As an old timer once told me, “Ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water!”

    Thirty-six years later, in early August, 2017, I was sitting at the helm of my charter boat planning northwest out of Oswego Harbor.  The depths of  Lake Ontario below us looked like the Black Hole.  My  12” Garmin fish finder had been blank for 10 miles.  Not deterred, I continued, heading for the offshore honey hole where salmon and steelhead fishing had been consistent for weeks. 

    Fishing one or two trips a day, I had searched for and followed the bait, trout, and salmon from 120 feet of water east of port as they gradually moved offshore.  Every day the fish and bait had moved northwest further and further until they were 10 to 12 miles out, suspended over more than 600 feet of water.

    The pattern, an early morning bite, had been the same for weeks.  Find them, get the right stuff down to them, and action would be nonstop. 

    When the Garmin fish finder lit up, Karl and his wife Colleen, both veteran Lake Ontario anglers,  could not believe it…, we had found them!  The motherlode of king salmon and steelhead were below us.

    Because we had searched for miles to locate fish, the first downrigger rod in the water fired in minutes, followed by strike after savage strike from aggressively feeding kings and  steelhead.  Our high speed spread of spoons and flasher/flies flies was exactly what they wanted.

    The old timer wasn’t far off when he said ninety percent of the fish are in 10  percent of the water, and it doesn’t make any difference if that water is 200 mile long Lake Ontario or a 12 acre brook trout pond. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Plan Ahead to Book in 2018

    Posted on September 5th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Planning ahead for a prime time date produced a limit catch of kings.

    It was the evening of August 12, 2014, and I was just about to hit the sack after morning and afternoon charter fishing trips on Lake Ontario.  The voice on the other end was a father who wanted to book a late August or early September fishing trip for him and his two daughters.  Telling him my late season calendar was completely booked was disappointing to him and frustrating to me.  Not only should he have planned further ahead to book a charter,  he should have done a little homework. 

     Planning and preparation are crucial in booking a charter trip anywhere.  Call early for best dates and don’t be afraid to ask questions.   Good captains are proud of their reputation and fishing services and will gladly answer your questions.

     Ask what size and type of boat the captain fishes.   Safety is the top priority. Your captain must be U.S. Coast Guard licensed and fully insured.    You will rarely find a veteran Ontario captain fishing less than a 28 footer.  Your charter fishing vessel should be fully equipped with USCG required safety gear, plus radar, a VHF marine radio, a chart plotter, and the best of fishing gear. 

    Ask if your captain fishes full time or part time, and how many trips he fishes per season.  Time on the water is important in locating and catching fish consistently.   

    Ask about lodging.  Many charter captains either provide their own, or arrange it for you at cabins, lodges, bed ‘n breakfasts, or  motels.   Captains also know the   best places to grab an early morning cup of coffee or a good meal.

    Ask for and check references.  Check the captain’s web site.   When you ask about price, remember you usually get what you pay for.   

     As easy as it is to arrange a trip by email, a quick phone conversation will help you feel out your captain.  When personalities aren’t compatible, it’s tough to have a good time even if fishing is outstanding.

     Tell the captain what you expect.   He will tell you if your expectations are reasonable.  Do you want to fish on a boat with the help of a mate, or would you prefer a hands on experience where you and your friends get involved in  rigging lines, and hooking your own fish?  

     Work with a captain to schedule your trip during prime time  for the species of fish you want to catch.  In Lake Ontario fishing for trout, salmon, walleyes, and bass  peaks at certain times.  If you want to lake fish for browns with light tackle, your captain will recommend a trip in April, May or early June.  If your sights are set on catching a king salmon, late spring or summer is best.

    Before you arrive at the boat, talk to your captain about what you’ll need.  Sun glasses, appropriate clothing, a camera, and a small cooler for lunch and beverages is standard.  Your captain will have an iced cooler on board for your fish.  Everyone 16 years of age and older will need a New York State fishing license, available online.

    When you arrive, be on time with the gear you need without overloading the boat.     Once you’re onboard, the rest is up to the captain.  Let him worry about details like tackle and techniques.    Any fish you catch and want to keep to eat or have mounted are his responsibility.    Most captains or mates gladly clean and package your fish free of charge, or provide fish cleaning facilities.  Wall hangers should be separately bagged, carefully stored on ice, and delivered to the taxidermist of your choice.

    When the boat leaves the dock, sit back with a cool drink, enjoy the ride, and relax, confident you’ve done everything you can to enjoy a great Lake Ontario charter fishing trip.

     

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

    Posted on March 15th, 2017 admin No comments

    Fishing a current line for salmon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Penn’s Fathom 25LW for Leadcore Sections

    Posted on March 5th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    A Penn Fathom 25LW spooled with a leadcore section.

     

    In a recent blog, “Search and Destory” I mentioned that my favorite reel for fishing leadcore sections from planer boards, inlines, and down the chute is Penn’s Fathom 25LW.

    Since publishing that blog, I’ve had several inquiries about the 25LW from Great Lakes trollers who were looking for a better leadcore reel.  Writing from my winter SC headquarters, I don’t have any of the specs handy for the leader/leadcore/backing line capacity of these reels,  but can say a few thing about them.

    First, the 25LW is a fantastic reel, typical of Penn’s recently manufactured models with influence from ABU Garcia, one of 16(?) tackle companies, along with Penn that Pure Fishing owns.  There is nothing I do not like about the 25LW…, silk smooth operation, nice retrieve rate, purrrrfect drag, ample line capacity, nice handle, and last but not least, a loud clicker(for old ears!).

    I own a bunch of 25LWs spooled with 50’ of 20# leader, 2 to 7 colors of leadcore, plus at least 200 yds.(I’m guessing) of 65# test Berkley braided backing, enough for handling kings.

    I fish the 25LW on 7’ custom made Fish Doctor Shortsticks and spread out the leadcore sections up to 300’ on megaboards when I’m not near other boats.   Works for me!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Sushi Flies for Spring Kings

    Posted on March 4th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Brining whole alewives before fileting Sushi Strips

    Baited flies and, before that, baited hoochies or squids, in combination with flashers have been a go-to rig for me aboard my charter boat, ever since my first trip to Alaska  in 1990.   Fortunate to  be invited aboard several commercial salmon trolling boats,  the first thing I noticed on deck was  buckets of 11” plastic flashers, mostly white, green, chartreuse, and red.   Hanging on the rear of the cabins were rows and rows of  3 ½” hoochies(squids) in a myriad of colors, some for kings, some for cohos.  Closer inspection of the hoochies showed a piece of light brass wire, inside each hoochie, attached to the eye of a 6/0 single hook.

     The wire on these hooks was for attaching 3”- 4” herring strips inside the hoochie, which rarely go in the water for Alaskan kings without bait.

     The  trollers also showed me how they rigged whole herring, herring filets, and cut plugs, all of which they carry onboard, along with spoons and plugs, during an king salmon opening. To a man, they were adamant about how fussy king salmon were and how important it was to master a variety of techniques to consistently catch fish in all conditions. 

     I never forgot that lesson, and returned to Lake Ontario with  a new perspective on fishing bait for kings and  a conviction to do my utmost to become as versatile as possible in fishing for them .  I’ve found over the years the baited flies I now call Sushi Flies work well behind all types of flashers all season, including early spring.  I use 36”- 48” leaders on 11”- 13” flashers and 19”- 30” leaders on 8” flashers.  Flasher/fly color combos are the same as for clean flies.

     Rather than the single hook used by commercial trollers, I prefer a tournament tie with a 5/0 beak hook and a #2 bronze treble.  The same tournament tie used with clean flies can be used with bait, but I prefer to extend the leader length between the beak and treble hooks about 1 ½” so the treble trails at the tail of the bait.  Although, the alewife bait strip can be hooked on the leading beak hook, even a properly prepped alewife bait strip softens quickly in fresh water and seldom will stay on a hook very long. 

     The secret to keeping an alewife bait strip secured inside the fly is to wrap it on the beak hook just behind the hook eye using soft .020” diam. brass wire.  Although the brass wire can be attached to the beak hook on a pretied Tournament Tie, I like to attach it before I snell the hook, by simply placing a 3” length of wire midway through the eye of the hook, pulling the brass wire down along the shank of the hook, and tying the snell, leaving about 1 ½ inches of each end of the wire extending to each side of the hook. 

     The head end of a correctly shaped bait strip,  tapered to about 3/8”,  is then laid skin down against the hook shank, and the brass wire is wrapped from opposite directions around the bait with enough tension to slightly bury the wire into the meat on the bait strip.  It is not necessary to twist the ends of the wire together to hold the strip.  The wired bait will remain in the fly as long as you fish it.  I prefer lightly dressed flies for use with bait strips. 

     Years of experience and millions of Great Lakes king salmon have proven clean flies catch fish.  When it comes to inactive kings, though, especially staged fish or big, lazy fish, I’ve found that sushi flies are just what the doctor ordered. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Same Old, Same Old

    Posted on February 23rd, 2017 admin No comments

     

    This summer brown hit something new, a Joe's Pirate spoon.

    If you always do what you always did, you will always catch what you always caught.  I remember that statement made by Chip Porter, one of the best fishermen on the Upper Great Lakes, when  we were touring the states of Michigan and Wisconsin a few years back giving fishing seminars for his Salmon Institute.

    The point he was making was although an angler may catch fish  using the same technique that  has produced for many years, it still pays to be versatile and experiment with new techniques and fishing gear.  Conditions might change in the waters you fish, or the fishing there may fizzle altogether, and you might have to seek out new waters where your old technique doesn’t work.  Also, if you learn new techniques, you might be even more successful in your favorite waters, catching even more and bigger fish.

    Back in the 1960s on 28 mile long Lake George in northeastern, NY, a top fishing guide named Doug Canaday specialized in hooking up his clients with bottom hugging lake trout.  His bottom trolling technique, jerk lining  7” Elmer Hinkley spoons on copper line was devastating for big lakers feeding on ciscoes up to 10 inches long.  But, the ciscoe population diminished and smelt showed up in the lake in 1976 changing the whole predator/prey scenario.  Doug consistently caught plenty of lakers  in the ‘60s and early 70s trolling the same 7” spoon the same way on copper line, but when conditions changed in the mid70s and smelt became the primary lake trout forage, he was sharp enough to quickly  change his lake trout trolling technique going to smaller,  smelt size spoons. 

    At the same time, 2 to 4 lb. rainbow trout were plentiful in Lake George, but Doug never fished for them, even though I consistently caught them fishing small Mooselook Wobblers on leadcore line at moderate trolling  speeds and at slower lake trout speeds on small chrome/copper cowbells trailed 18” back  by an F-4 fluorescent red Flatfish.  If Doug had changed his ways and added a single leadcore line for suspended rainbow trout his clients would have caught more rainbows. 

    In the early 1970s, downriggers first became available commercially and I was experimenting with them in Lake George for lake trout, rainbow trout, and in the mid1970s, landlocked salmon, after a successful restoration effort I worked on as a NYSDEC fishery biologist for 10 years.  There was a learning curve involved in the new technique, but it didn’t take long, with the help of another young, innovative guide on the lake, to figure out how to catch lakers on downriggers trolling medium sized Mooselook Wobblers at moderate speed near bottom.  The only problem was most of these lakers were smaller fish less than 5 lbs. 

    Although I could have fished the same way and continued to catch small lakers at a moderate trolling speed, I wasn’t satisfied and continued to experiment with different techniques.  It didn’t take long to figure out that Lake George’s big, lazy, slow moving  lakers could not resist an F-7 Flatfish trolled inches off bottom 3-4 feet behind an 8” chrome dodger attached to the tail of a  fish shaped downrigger weight at a slower trolling speed. 

    At the slow speed I was trolling with riggers for lakers, the same small 4-blade cowbell I used on leadcore line at slow speeds for rainbows  caught suspened ‘bows just as well on lighter tackle when the  attractor was attached directly to a downrigger weight and fished with  the same fluorescent red F-4 Flatfish trailing 18 inches behind the tail spinner on the cowbell at a water temperature of 61 degrees . 

    If that same old technique isn’t catching quite a many fish as the boats around you, it might be time to make a change.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Search and Destroy

    Posted on February 23rd, 2017 admin No comments

     

    This early May king hit a Michigan Stinger on 2 colors of leadcore.

     

    When aggressively feeding fish of any species  are concentrated and you find them, figure out what they want and present your trolling arsenal to them effectively, you can  put a lot of fish in the net without  many lines in the water.  But, many times the opposite is the case.  Weather conditions like heavy winds, forage fish behavior, and other factors can scatter trout and salmon.  This is especially true of pelagic species like steelhead and king salmon which roam the 200 mile length and 50 mile breadth of Lake Ontario like nomads.

    Onboard my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, when kings and steelhead  are scattered hither and yon and are tough to locate, I switch to one of my favorite techniques, “high, wide and handsome”,  and head for the open lake at maximum trolling speed, far from any other boats. 

    The key element of my “high, wide and handsome”  spread is an oversize planer board I call a megaboard.  Two of  these big, 36” triple boards go in  the water on 300# test mono spread 150 feet to port and starboard .  Each is rigged with up to three sections of leadcore line if fish are shallow in the top 30 feet of water.   Downriggers, wire Dipsys, and slide divers on braided line are added to the spread.

    Two, three, five and seven-color leadcore sections are rigged with 50 feet of leader and backed with fine diameter, 40# test  braided Berkley line spooled on Penn Fathom 25LW reels  fished on medium light 7’ rods.  At 2.7 mph the 18 lb. test  leadcore line I use fishes down about 4’ per color.  With 6 leadcore sections  spread 300 feet apart lures are fishing  8, 12, 20 and 28 feet below the surface with the shallowest lines furthest from the boat.  Combined with riggers and divers fished from the boat, this huge spread is deadly. 

     Even when you find fish, there is nothing automatic about getting them  to strike a lure.  Presentation may be spot on, with lures running precisely  as they should at preferred  water temperature  in the strike zone.  Speed may be perfect with optimum lure action.  But, as an old timer once told me, “If ya don’t have the right stuff down there, you might as well head for shore.”  Water color, light conditions, lake surface condions, and many other factors all play a part.   Finding the right lure fish can’t resist on any given day is the icing on the cake.

    Such was the case on May 12, 2016, when Jerry Argyle and his crew headed northwest out of Oswego Harbor with me in search of king salmon.  It took some time to locate them in the top 25 feet of water over  300 to 400 feet of water, but when we did, lines started snapping.  Under a clear, sunny sky with the lake mirror calm, the kings were fussy.  With the lake’s surface glassy, I knew light intensity at 30 feet was only about 6%, perfect conditions for UV spoons.  After a little experimenting we found the magic, a UV green alewife.  When their 8-hr trip was over  my crew of veteran anglers had boated 25 king salmon, releasing all but 11 delicious, mint silver fish from 5 to 18 lbs.

    We had caught fish on leadcore lines, riggers, and slide divers, but the leadcore sections on the boards were the rigs that made the day.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Search and Destroy!

    Posted on February 12th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    A Penn Fathom 25LW, my favorite lead core section reel.

    When active, feeding, aggressive fish of any species  are concentrated and you find them, figure out what they want and present your trolling arsenal to them effectively, you can  put a lot of fish in the net and it usually doesn’t take many lines in the water to do it.  But, many times on Lake Ontario the opposite is the case.  For whatever reason, weather conditions like heavy winds, forage fish behavior, and other factors,  trout and salmon can be very scattered.  This is especially true of pelagic species like steelhead and king salmon which tagging studies have shown roam the 200 mile length and 50 mile breadth of Lake Ontario like nomads.

    Onboard my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, when kings and steelhead  are scattered hither and yon and are tough to locate, I switch to one of my favorite techniques, search and destroy mode,  and head for the open lake at maximum trolling speed, far from any other boats. 

    The key element of this  search and destroy spread is an oversize planer board I call a megaboard.  Two of  these big, 36” triple boards go in  the water on 300# test mono spread 150 feet to port and starboard.  Each is rigged with up to three sections of leadcore line if fish are shallow in the top 30 feet of water, a combination of leadcore and copper lines if the fish are 40 feet and deeper, or a straight spread of copper if kings and steelhead are deeper.   Downriggers, wire Dipsys, both regular size and mags depending on depth, and slide divers(if fish are in the top 30’) on braided line are added to the spread.

    Two, three, five and seven-color leadcore sections are rigged with 50 feet of leader and backed with fine diameter, 40# test  braided line spooled on Penn Fathom 25LW reels  fished on light 7’ rods.  At 2.7 mph the 18 lb. test  leadcore line I use fishes down about 4’ per color.  With 6 leadcore sections  spread 300 feet apart lures are fishing  8, 12, 20 and 28 feet below the surface with the shallowest lines furthest from the boat.  Combined with riggers and divers fished from the boat, this huge spread can be deadly. 

    Even when you find fish, there is nothing automatic about getting them  to strike a lure.  Presentation may be spot on, with lures running precisely  as they should at preferred  water temperature  in the strike zone.  Speed may be perfect with optimum lure action.  But, as an old timer once told me, “If ya don’t have the right stuff down there, you might as well head for shore.”  Water color, light conditions, lake surface condions, and many other factors all play a part.   Finding the right lure fish can’t resist on any given day is the icing on the cake.

    Such was the case on May 12, 2016, when Jerry Argyle and his crew headed northwest out of Oswego Harbor with me in search of king salmon.  It took some time to locate them in the top 25 feet of water over  300 to 400 feet of water, but when we did, releases started snapping.  Under a clear, sunny sky with the lake mirror calm, the kings were fussy.  With the lake’s surface glassy, I knew light intensity at 30 feet was only about 6%, perfect conditions for UV spoons.  After a little experimenting we found the magic, a UV green alewife.  When their 8-hr trip was over  my crew of veteran anglers, setting their own hooks, helping me rig, and handling the rods perfectly, had boated around 25 king salmon, releasing all but 11 delicious, mint silver fish from 5 to 18 lbs.

    We had caught fish on leadcore lines, riggers, and slide divers, but the leadcore sections on the megaboards were the rigs that made the day.