• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Targeting Early Spring Cohos

    Posted on March 16th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    An early April coho that could not resist a red dodger and green fly

    Plenty of late March and Early April cohos are caught by brown trout trollers, but if you really want to fill the cooler with delicious spring “silvers”, you need to target them.  And, that’s exactly what we were doing just outside Oswego Harbor aboard the Fish Doctor in early April. 

     On my 16” flat screen,  we watched in amazement as four cohos darted around behind a red #00 and Little Green Hummer fly 5’ behind my Strike Vision camera on the center rigger down 15’.  As all four fish swirled around in full view of the camera, one of the  silvery torpedos shot forward and nailed the fly, pulling the line from the release.  The 7’ Shortstick sprang upward and a quick hand snatched the ultralight rod from the rod holder.  Before the excited angler could say, “Fish on!”, the mint silver coho was already airborne.

     All 13 rods in our coho spread of riggers, Dipsys, and inline planers were rigged with red #00 dodgers and L’il Green Hummer flies.  We were definitely targeting cohos

     Coho salmon are an early spring bonus in inshore waters of  Lake Ontario, and are often in the  same water around Oswego Harbor as brown trout or just outside them in the ice water.   Nothing compares to their wild and wooly antics when hooked close to the boat.  Absolutely fearless of boats, and very surface oriented, I’ve seen them hit lures many times that were in full view, less than 6’ behind a down rigger weight and not more than one foot below the surface. 

     The wilder and noisier the action of a lure and the gaudier the color, the more cohos like it.  As they say, cohos like any colored lure as long as it has fluorescent red.  When you find a “wolf pack” of marauding spring cohos, prepare for action, because it’s not unusual for  every single rod you have in the water to double over with a fish on it.

     Cohos are hyper fish.  Everything they do is fast including the rate at which they grow.  The cohos that make up Lake Ontario’s spring fishery are 2-year old fish that weigh 2-3+ lbs.  By late August of the same year, when they stage before returning to the hatchery in the headwaters of the Big Salmon river in Mexico Bay they will weigh 6-12 lbs. and more.   After spawning, adult cohos will die like all Pacific salmon. 

     Unlike Chinook salmon that migrate back to the lake from spawning streams as spring fingerlings, young cohos remain in rearing streams in for a year or more.  To mimic this behavior, the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation stocks 5”-7” yearling cohos each spring.

     Needless to say, my favorite spring coho rig  is a fluorescent red #00 dodger trailed 12” – 14”(or shorter) back by a 2 -2 ½” green mylar fly.    The smaller dodgers are effective trolled shallow on downriggers and Dipsy divers.  The icing on the cake for any spring coho spread is a set of red #00 dodgers fished behind inline planers port and starboard.

     To rig dodgers and flies for trolling behind inline planers, use 6’ of 20# test leader ahead of the dodger.  Between the leader and the main line snap in a 5/8 to 7/8 ounce bead chain keel sinker.  This keel sinker helps keep the dodger from planing to the surface.  Set the dodger/fly back 25 to70 feet behind the inline planer board, and let the planer board out to the side of the boat the desired distance.  Multiple inline planers can be used off each side of the boat,with the nearest inlineno more than 25’ out. 

     Riggers are normally set in the top 10 feet of water when surface temperatures are cold in late March, and April, then set deeper as temperatures warm and cohos move offshore.  Much like landlocked salmon, cohos are attracted to the boat, and downrigger setbacks of  6 to 20 feet are common.  My side riggers are set 3 to 5 feet down and 10 to 12 feet back with the dodger fly clearly visible from the boat as it wobbles back and forth. 

     Diving planers are set on 15 to 25 feet of line between the rod tip and the Dipsy until surface temps warm.  A trolling speed of 2.0 to 3.0 mph is about right depending on water temperature.  When a coho hits close to the boat, you usually see the fish in the air before you see the rod go!

     Although I rarely target cohos with them, high action jointed plugs like the J-9 orange and gold Rapala or  standard size Michigan Stingers in hot colors, especially in fluorescent red and silver or brass combos will also catch cohos.

     Interestingly, the one salmonid species that likes dodgers and flies almost as much as a coho is the landlocked salmon. 

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, EChips in Trolling Flies

    Posted on March 5th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    End of season flies rigged with EChips

    If you’re a Lake Ontario trout and salmon troller one of the things you’ve learned is that little things can make BIG differences!

    This could not be more true of true of trolling flies fished behind flashers and dodgers.  We all know that the color of beads, floaters, and hooks make a huge difference in the effectiveness of a particular fly pattern.  But, let’s take it a step further.

    Step aboard my charter boat and on close inspection of the trolling flies used aboard the Fish Doctor, you’ll see one of the little things that has proven to be major medicine in trout and salmon flies.  We’re talking about EChips.  I’m a firm believer that they improve the effectivenss of any fly pattern used to catch trout and salmon .

    When EChips first arrived on the scene, they were not proven.  Like any other new fishing gear, if it has potential to catch fish, you give it a good try.  The results with ProChip and HotChip flashers were very impressive and these new “electrified” flashers soon proved themselves beyond all doubt.

    Then the next step…, what about EChips in flies?  As soon as single EChips became available I rigged a bunch of my favorite home tied flies and Howie Flies with tournament ties using a combination of beads and EChips.  I then field tested them through the season, fishing them along with my standard flies tied only with beads and floaters.

    After a few trips I could see that the EChips were producing, but in the midst of the busy charter fishing season couldn’t really do a quantitative comparison between  EChip flies and standard flies, even though I could clearly see that some of my hottest flasher/fly combos had EChips in the flies.

    It wasn’t until the end of the season when I was reorganizing gear and stowing flies for the winter that I noticed the difference.  Every single fly rigged with EChips was a warrior, chewed to bits!  Many of my hottest flies during the season were EChip flies. 

    Convincing enough that I now rig every fly I fish with EChips!

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, The Loop Knot for Trolling Flies

    Posted on February 4th, 2019 admin No comments

    A Fish Doctor favorite..., the Perfection Loop Knot on a Tournament Tie

    Most fishermen know that the slightest difference in what you’re fishing can make a HUGE difference in what you’re catching.

    This is the case with the loop knot used aboard the Fish Doctor on all trolling flies and Jitterflies.  The result is a free swinging treble hook.

    So, big deal, right?  Actually, that IS right.  Here’s what a loop knot does for you compared to say a standard knot like an improved clinch or a snell.

    - No matter what happens the treble is free swinging and trails straight back behind the fly, not off to the side as is often the case with other knots.

    - The free swinging treble gives extra action to the fly, and if you’re cagey  enough to be using different colored treble hooks in different conditions, it works even better.

    - Third, a loop knot almost completely eliminates so called “bite offs”, which aren’t really biteoffs, but just mono getting jammed in the treble.

    The end result is more bites and more fish in the boat.  Simple but deadly.

    My favorite loop knot is a modified Perfection Loop Knot, and you can see how to tie it by checking aout the “Video Tips” page on my Fish Doctor web site.

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, ABU Garcia Line Counter Reels

    Posted on February 4th, 2019 admin No comments

     

     

     

     

     

    The ABU Garcia 7000i SYNCHRO aboard the Fish Doctor

    I’ve fished  either the ABU Garcia 7000i Synchro and the ABU Garcia Alphamar 20 Synchro, both with mechanical line counters, for years and more recently,  the Altum, 20, 16, and 12 Synchros with a state of the art digital line counter, and all I can say, with one exception,  is…, NICE! 

     The 7000i Synchro is now only available in Europe, as far as I know.  The Alphamar 20 and 16 have been replaced with the Altum 20, 16, and 12.  I’m still using the original Garcia 7000i Synchro onboard the Fish Doctor for rigger and wire reels, along with the Alphamar 20.   The new Altum 20, 16 and 12 have been onboard for about 3 years.    The Altum series has performed just as well as the far more expensive and unavailable-in-the- US 7000i Synchro.

     The 7000i Synchro, made in Sweden  has been fished on the Fish Doctor for thousands of hours and performed flawlessly except for one mechanical line counter that malfunctioned right out of the box.  Like any reel, the 7000i will wear out after many season of use, with the levelwind usually the first to show wear, especially if it isn’t lubed occasionally.

     The Alphamar 20 and 16 Synchro, designed exactly like the7000i Synchro, but manufactured in China, had problems in their early production and are the only exception to my “Nice” review.  Although the mfg bugs were finally worked out late in production, early production reels had a number of problems, most notably slightly uneven levelwind which was OK for use with 20-30 lb. mono but a nightmare when using wire.

     Finally, and most recently, ABU Garcia has produced the Altum series, 20, 1`6, and 12 which are, in my opinion, are the best digital line counter reels ever made for fresh water trolling.  They have been in use on the Fish Doctor for 3 or so years without a gliche. The new Altum line counter also has a lighted counter window which can be turned on as needed at night or at dusk and dawn.  Nice, especially for aging eyes!

     All of these reels have Penn’s silk smooth HT100 drag system and the Synchro feature which releases partial drag tension when the reel handle is cranked backwards ¼ turn.  The Synchro drag system is a feature that every Great Lakes troller will appreciate when fishing riggers or wire/braid Dipsys or thumper rigs for trout and salmon, especially in deep water. 

     No more flipping the free spool lever and thumbing a reel or changing the setting on the star or lever drag to lower your downrigger into the depths.   If you want to drop a rigger, let out a Dipsy, or lower a 1 lb. “meatball” into the depths, all you do is crank the reel handle backward ¼ of a turn and the drag automatically loosens up slightly, maintaining enough tension to keep a bend in a downrigger rod as a rigger weight drops or allow a Dipsy to drop back slowly.

     When you crank the reel handle back a ¼ turn, if the drag tension is too loose to suit you, you simple advance the reel handle forward slightly to increase the drag tension to whatever you like.   If the tension is a little too heavy when the Synchro is backed off a ¼ turn, you’ll need to loosen the star drag a touch to achieve the desired release tension.

     What a time saver the Synchro system is!  Now, when I’m dropping a rigger to 140 feet for lakers or kings, which takes a while, I no longer have to “stand at attention” with a reel in free spool and thumb the spool until the rigger reaches the right depth.  All I do is crank the 7000i’s handle back a ¼ of a turn, walk away, listen for the beep on my Penn rigger signaling the rigger has stopped 140’ down, return to the rigger and crank the Synchro handle forward ¼ of a turn to the original drag setting and I’m good to go.  Meanwhile, I can be netting fish, setting another rod or whatever.

     I’m using the Altum 20 Synchros for fishing 30# mono on the riggers and 30# Maline on the Dipsy rods.  The slightly smaller Altum 16 is perfect for fishing spoons on rigger rods using 12-15# mono.  The smaller Altum 12 spooled with 10# mainline is on all of my spring brown trout rods, but it holds plenty of 10# so that it can easily handle the the occasional shallow water king we tangle with,

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

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    Sushi Flies, rigged and ready with a strip of fresh brined alewife

    (reposted on 1/27/19 after being deleted from archives)

    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 for my afternoon trip, still well away from the fleet.  “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, I pointed 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…, Jitterflies, Best Kept Secret on the Great Lakes

    Posted on January 27th, 2019 admin No comments

    The absolutely deadly Pretty Jane Jitterfly

    (Reposted on Jan. 27, after being deleted from archives)

    If any Great Lakes troller who fishes trout and salmon in any of the Great Lakes is not fishing Jitterflies behind ruddered, rotating flashers like ProChip8s and 11s or the larger 13” Kingston Tackle Slashersor Okis, , find some, buy some or steal  some from your best buds in the dark of night!  If you have some that you’re willing to part with, call me!

    Why?  Because Jitterflies are absolutely, definitely, without question one of the deadliest items onboard the Fish Doctor, for every species of trout and salmon in the Great Lakes…,PERIOD! …and they should be OUTLAWED FOR COHOS! 

    My thoughts about Jitterflies are  based on 17 years(since 2001) trolling flies in Lake Ontario and 11 years fishing Jitterflies since I  first got them wet in 2007.  JItterflies catch fish all season long, but become increasing deadly late in the season.

    Stepping  back a bit, Jitterflies first produced in 2007 and after some fine tuning were available to anglers in 2008.  Long story short without going into the gory details, production was eventually discontinued after a few years.  Having done the original field testing with Jitterflies and being involved with their design and development, I knew the unbelievable potential of this unique, actionized fly, and took it from there, improving the original.

    What’s different about them? ACTION and NOISE!  Watch them in the water boatside and you’ll see.  Sparsely dressed, they vibrate in the water and the turbulence of the water as it passes around the plastic disc at the head of the fly actionizes the mylar skirt.  This vibration and turbulence produces a “hperaction” fly unlike any other.  Just stimulus it takes to flip the switch of negative trout and salmon and generate the response you want.  Speaking of stimuli, the large eyes of a Jitterfly,unavailable on any other fly,  add to it’s effectiveness.

    Look at the reviews online and you’ll see positive and negative comments.  One of which, I’ll call a whine, “I don’t like  them, because the  mylar skirt gets ripped off after it  catches  4 or 5 fish.”  The mylar material of a Jitterfly is exactly the same as that used in a Howie Fly and no more delicate. I’ve caught many hundreds of kings, browns, steelhead on Jitterflies and never had one “destroyed” by just 4 or 5 fish.  When the mylare does get a bit chewed up, like most other flies, they often work even better than new ones.  When the mylar gets completely shot, if you tie your own flies Howie Fly style, it takes only a coupleof minutes to retape new mylar on a Jitterfly body.

    A couple negative reviews are correct.  Trout and salmon will occasionally or finally rip one or both eyes off.., “Oh, well!”  Also, the single fixed hook on a Jitterfly is a little light and will occasionally straighten enough to lose a fish if a release is set extremely tight or too much “oomph” is put to a big king.  I rarely have had one of these fixed single hooks open up, but it has happened.  

    Sooo, there is a time and place for every rig and lure in your tackle box, including Jitterflies.  When fish are slurping everything in sight, it’s no trick to catch them on most anything, including standard flies trolled behind a variety of flashers.  It’s when trout and salmon are lazy, negative, or just plain fussy that Jitterflies come into their own.   This might be during early and mid season when feeding fish are inactive or later in the  season, midAugust through September,  when staged browns and salmon are off their feed.

     In late season from midAugust through September, Jiterflies along with Sushi Flies are always in the water behind 8”, 11”, and 13” flashers. The deeper you’re fishing and the later in the season, the better the larger flashers work.  When cohos move into Mexico Bay and the Oswego area and charter customers want them, at least two 8” Hot Tamale Chips with Silent Assassin Jitterflies get wet.

    Like every other technique, there is a Jitterfly learning curve.  They catch fish “as is”,  right out of the box, but there are ways to improve their effectiveness.  One important way,  because they have their own action, is to fish them on a longer leader than standard flies.

    Check the “Fishing Hotline” page on my Fish Doctor web site for more details and photos on fishing this deadly item.

     

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Can Fishing Be Too Easy?

    Posted on January 25th, 2019 admin No comments

     

     

     

     

    Karl Schmidt hangs on in 3-5 footers to show off a spring king on June 4, 2018.

    As I pulled into dock #21 in Oswego Marina with my afternoon charter, I could see long time customer Karl Schmidt and his crew waiting for me.  It was their turn the following morning, a trip they had done with me the first Saturday in June for what would be their 20th year.

    Karl and his crew stood back politely, not wanting to interfere with offloading customers and ziplock bags of salmon filets.  After the goodbyes, thank yous, and we’ll-be-backs, Karl and his crew walked out on the dock to say hello. 

    I told Karl the salmon fishing had been good both morning and after noon, but the early morning bite had been sizzling along a current line well inside where other boats were fishing.  Now the question, “Could you boys leave the dock tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. rather than the normal departure time of 5:00 a.m  to cash in on the early morning action?”

    “Absolutely!”, Karl replied.  “You know the deal.  We’re all hunters and fishermen and hear to catch fish.  See you at 4:15 a.m., tomorrow morning.”  Sure enough.  The next morning they all were onboard as we eased out of the marina, just before 4:30 a.m.

    With the electronics available today, locating and catching fish is easier than back when I was a kid rowing a wooden row boat around an Adirondack lake jerk lining a single hook spoon for lake trout.  But, in Lake Ontario, with trout and salmon spread out over 7,660 sq. miles, it’s not always easy. I wondered, as we left the marina.

    With my 24 mile radar guiding  us safely out of the harbor, the waypoints on my chart plotter marking the spot I had been fishing, and the fish finder and speed/temp unit dialing us in, it would  be no problem locating the early morning honey hole, but would those kings still be there and biting?

    It didn’t take long to find out.  Just minutes out of Oswego Harbor in 70 feet of water, we could see the scattered kings and schools of alewives on the Garmin 3500 fish finder below us 35 to 65 feet. But, would they be biting?.

                                  Appreciate those fantastic everything-goes-right days,

                           because for every great trip there will eventually be a tough one.  

     Our simple spread of Venom Maulers on three riggers would be set at 35, 45, and 65 feet.  Slide divers would be set to fish 35 and 45 feet down with the same spoon.

    I dropped the starboard rigger to 35 and turned to reach for the second rigger ride.  Behind me I heard, “Fish on!”  Yes, they were biting.

    By 6:30 a.m., Karl and his crew landed 10 kings and 1 laker!  Whew, they definitely were biting!  It could  not have been easier.  Although the bite slowed a bit as the sun rose higher in the east, Karl and his crew limited out on 3-year old kings and released the smaller ones. 

    Standing at the cleaning table at the stern of the boat filleting kings on the way back to the dock, Karl chatted about the great trip.   Smiling, I said, “Hope you don’t expect this kind of action every trip!”  Karl smiled back and said, “Well, do you remember last year in the pea soup fog when the south wind had dropped surface temp to ice water and we fished 8 hours for 2 fish?”  I did, and also  remembered some of the more than 20 good, bad, and ugly trips Karl and his crew had fished aboard the Fish Doctor.

    On some of those trips the stars had lined up and catching fish seemed almost too easy…, fish on!   On other trips, definitely not. 

    Appreciate those fantastic everything-goes-right days, because for every great day there will eventually be a tough one.   It’s called pay back, and that’s what keeps us all coming back.

  • 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…, Cooking kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

  • Oswego Salmon Fishing Charters…, Oswego Salmon Bite Smokin’

    Posted on July 10th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A limit of nice kings on June 25, 2018, for Bill and Dave.

    If  you’re thinking about booking a salmon fishing charter, do it now, and book it out of Oswego!  The Oswego king salmon bite since late April minutes out of Oswego Harbor has been one of the very best ever.

    Oswego Harbor is the largest and best protected Lake Ontario harbor with plenty of deep water right out the front door.  Just a week or so ago, kings were concentrated in water as shallow as 65 feet where we were getting our first bites just before sunup.  Right now as postspawn alewives are beginning to move offshore, most of the action has been in 100 feet of water or deeper.  Occasional browns and steelhead are also being caught along with the kings.

    July is a perfect time to book a charter for kings.  They are still feeding actively, mint silver, and delicious eating.  Both morning and afternoon fishing is good.

    The only hitch at this point is that many charters are booked heavily, especially on weekends, so you will want to contact them to book a trip ASAP.