• 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.

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, the Copper Connection

    Posted on January 3rd, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A #3 Spro Heavy swivel attached to copper and leader

    Back in 1968, when Lake George guide Doug Canaday showed me how to fish  .037 diameter twisted copper for lake trout, rigging it was no big deal.  Because the 30# monofilament leader Doug used for lakers was only 6’ long, he didn’t have to worry about the leader to copper connection sliding thru the guides on the 6’ trolling rod he was using and a large barrel swivel connecting leader to copper sufficed.  With the Penn Mariner reel he used with no level wind, neither did he have to worry about the barrel swivel passing freely thru the  level wind.   Since no backing was necessary for lake trout fishing, there was no concern about a backing to copper connection.

    That all changed when Doug’s copper technique evolved over the next 50 years to the one I use today with leaders up to 100’,  Penn levelwind reels, and up to 600 feet of 50# braided backing to keep feisty king salmon from “hitting the end of the chain”!   With this system, the copper to leader and copper to backing connections must pass freely thru both guides and levelwinds.  If not, at best, connections that  hang up are a nuisance, and, at  worst, they either make it impossible to fish efficiently or cost you big, strong, drag screeching trout and salmon.

    Many anglers, mostly for convenience sake, use a variety of  knots to connect copper to leaders and backing, but I have never found any of these to be foolproof and none of them pass thru guides and levelwinds smoothly,  As a result, after doing some research and testing, I settled on #3 Spro Heavy Swivels, which  I have used since I found them, probably 15 years or more ago.

    #3 Spro Heavy Swivels test 150 lbs. and are small enough to pass smoothly thru level winds on the Penn GTI and Penn Fathom reels I use and thru theoversized  ceramic guides on my 7’ custom Fish Doctor Coppersticks. 

    Mono leader is tied to one end of the swivel using a Trilene knot.  Then the end of the copper is twisted as much as possible, passed thru the end of the swivel once, then again, pulling the loop of the copper as firmly as possible onto the eye of the swivel  The copper line extending from the end of the swivel is thn cut leaving about 2” extending from the eye of the swivel.  The last step is to wrap the 2” end of thedopper as tightly as possible back onto the main copper line. 

    To attach the braided backing to the swivel at the opposite end of  the copper line simply make a loop in the braided backing using an overhand loop knot and loop it thru the end of  the swivel.  I’ve never had an overhand loop knot in braided backing work loose, but I have had the braided line wear at the eye of the swivel and break, leaving the air blue, and some expensive copper, tackle, and occasionally a trout or salmon in the lake.  Argghhh…

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

    Posted on December 27th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Sushi Flies baited with a fresh frozen alewife strip

    As I stood at the rigging table in the stern of the Fish Doctor wiring a strip of fresh frozen alewife to a Sushi Fly I just unhooked from the mint silver king lying on the cockpit deck, I could only shake my head.  “Why would a king salmon with a brain the size of a pea select a baited fly over a whole alewife?”

    Earlier that day, on  my morning charter, I had located a concentration of active king salmon well away from the fleet and messed with them with different presentations for a few hours until I found the hot item…, a simple 2-rigger spread of  Kingston Tackle Slashers trailed by whole alewives. 

    It was like clockwork…, mark a king or kings on the fish finder and a rigger rod would pop as a big, adult salmon inhaled the real McCoy behind the flasher.  At trips end, we couldn’t close the two coolers onboard.

    Soo…, having figured things out, I thought, I headed back to the same spot, 4 miles east of Oswego,  for my afternoon trip.  “We’ve got it made.”, I thought, with what turned out to be way too much confidence.  Fortunately, one of the things I’ve learned over 40 years of charter fishing is to keep that overconfidence to myself, just in case.

    Well, it turned out to be one of those just-in-case situations. As I slowed the Fish Doctor to trolling speed, Ipointed out to Val Ducross and his Canadian fishing buddies the waypoint where we had found fish in the morning.   The fish finder showed us the kings were still there.  Again, I thought to myself, “No problem!”, as I rigged the two hot golden retriever Slashers with whole bait in a clear bait holder and dropped them to the magic depth, one set back 15’ the other 25’, spread 10 feet apart.

    Sooo…, we were ready and the rods were popping, right? Wrong!  With absolutely no change in conditions, same sunny sky, same westerly chop, and plenty of kings at the  same depth, I could not believe it…, ZERO!  After 45 minutes of trolling through king salmon, not a touch.  I pulled each rigger several times to checkfor tangles, make sure the bait was rolling properly, and even changed bait, but nothing.  Because the spread had been so good on my morning trip, and conditions had not changed, I probably  left the flashers and whole bait in the water longer than I should have.

    Finally, I had to make a change.  I  pulled the shallowest rigger and without removing the line from the release,  handlined the Slasher to the boat,  replaced the whole bait with a freshly baited Sushi fly, and lowered the same Slasher I had been using, with the same 25’ setback, back to the exact depth where it had been fishing.

    Long story short…, the Slasher and Sushi fly fired in less than 5 minutes and continued to fire nonstop while the Slasher and whole bait next to it never budged.  Once the whole bait behind the Slasher on the  second rigger was replaced with a Sushi fly, that rigger also continued to fire nonstop.

    Are we talking fussy, or what???  Moral of the lesson the kings had given me and many other anglers including some commercial salmon trollers I know in Alaska…, never get hung up for too long on one technique when you’re trolling for fickle king salmon!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Custom Painted Lures

    Posted on December 16th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Custom painted stick baits can make your day when browns are finicky

    As I looked at the3-inch Smithwick Rogue hooked solidly in the brown trout’s jaw, I thought, “Thank the Lord for custom lure painters!”  The deadly metallic  perch stickbait bait pattern that had lured  the 6 lb. brown into striking was once available from Smithwick in a special Walleye  Series, but  no longer made.  The one I was fishing was was not an original, but a custom painted replica of  one of the deadliest stickbait patterns on my charter boat for spring browns.

    Earlier in the morning  the brown trout bite had been steady under a solid cloud cover and flat calm seas.  Black and silver spoons and stickbaits were firing on the riggers and planer boards.  At about 9:00 AM conditions changed as the sun peeked through the clouds,  the sky turned to clear blue, and a warm southerly  breeze rippled the water.

    It was like throwing a switch.  Action went from feast to famine…, lock jaw!    Knowing we were on fish, it was time for a lure change.  With browns in 5 to 10 feet of water feeding near the surface on 2 to 4-inch alewives under sunny skies, there was no question in my mind that we should be fishing a shallow running stickbait on our planer  board lines, and that bait, which is no longer made,  but tops the list of deadly spring brown trout lures, should be a custom painted 3” metallic perch. Just minutes after it went in the water, the brown trout switch tuned back to “ON”!

     Many anglers are in the same boat.  You have a favorite lure for trout and salmon or whatever you fish for.  It is a fish catcher.  The problem, it is no longer made.  Either the company has gone out of business or  your favorite pattern was discontinued.  You are down to the last one in your tackle box.  You are holding back, hoping you can catch them on something else.  You’re desperate for a fish.  “Old Reliable” that has seldom failed you goes in the water, and the next thing you know it is gone, either in the jaws of a fish or hung up on bottom.  Grrr…. 

    If you’re like me, you’ve tried to-it-yourself paint jobs to try to duplicate a lure pattern, but at least in my case, the end product was a dismal failure.  Then, through fishing buddies, one in Wisconsin and one in New York, I learned about two fantastic custom lure painters whose custom painted lures are works of art.  Jay Hunter from Hunter Boys Outdoors in Indiana is a master painter.  Jay produces the finest replicas on the planet, PERIOD!  You can contact him through his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Hunter-Boys-Outdoors-754122868010025/  He can copy your favorite stick bait or crank bait patterns or create new patterns for you.  The many color photos of Jay’s work on his Facebook page are nothing less than amazing.  For the best results mail Jay the lure you want replicated, but he can also work from photos.

    When it come to spoons, Crazy Ivan Lures www.crazyivanlures.com/  in Vermont gets my nod for custom painted spoon patterns.  Pat Church  another fantastic artist with an air brush, duplicates color tones and patterns  exactly.  Many of my favorite Chinook salmon and brown trout spoons on my charter boat were painted by Pat.   Pat strips the finish from the spoons sent to  him to be replicated, paints them, and then clear coats them.  The finish is indestructible.  

    If you have a favorite spoon or stickbait in your tackle box that is no longer available, and don’t have the artistic ability to reproduce it your self, contact a custom lure painter.  These folks are unbelievably talented artists.  They can reproduce color tones exactly and copy color patterns precisely.  On my charter boat, often save the day.