• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, If You Always Did What You Always Do

    Posted on April 12th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    A change in tactics put this silver king in the boat.

    If you always do what you always did, you will always catch what you always caught.  I remember that statement by Chip Porter, one of the best fishermen on the upper Great Lakes, when he and I were touring the states of Michigan and Wisconsin a few years back giving seminars for Chip’s 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 as well.  Also, if you learn new techniques, you might be even more successful in your favorite waters, catching more and bigger fish.

     Back in the 1960s on 28 mile long Lake George in northeastern New York State, a top fishing guide named Doug specialized in hooking up his clients with bottom hugging lake trout.  His technique, jerk lining 7-inch Hinkley spoons on copper line was devasting for big lakers feeding on ciscoes up to 10 inches.  But, the ciscoe population diminished and smelt showed up in the lake in 1976 changing the predator/prey scenario.  Doug consistently caught plenty of lakers in the 1960s doing the same thing he had always done,  but when conditions changed, and smelt became the primary lake trout forage, he stayed on top of his game  by switching 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 speeds on leadcore using small chrome/copper cowbells trailed 18 inches back by an F-4 fluorescent red Flatfish.  If Doug had changed his ways and added a single leadcore rig to his spread his clients would have caught more rainbows.  

    In the early 1970s, downriggers first became available commercially and I started doing something I had never done, leaving my copper  and leadcore rigs at the dock and experimenting with riggers in Lake George for trout and salmon.  There was a learning curve involved in fishing this new fangled gear, but it didn’t take long to figure things out.  Trolling medium size Mooselooks at moderate speed near bottom was all it took to catch lakers.  The only problem was most of these lakers were 5 lbs. or less and I knew as a fishery  biologist working on the lake that much larger lakers were there.

    Although I could have fished the same old way with Mooselooks and continued to catch small lakers on spoons at a moderate trolling speed, I wasn’t satisfied and continued to experiment with different downrigger techniques.  Surprise, surprise!  Yes, there were bigger, lazier, slow moving lakers there, and they could not resist an F-7 Flatfish wobbling along slowly,  inches off bottom, 4 feet behind an 8-inch chrome dodger attached to the tail of a fish-shaped downrigger weight.

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

    Not doing what I had always done with copper and leadcore line produced consistent combination catches of lakers and rainbows on much lighter tackle than I had been using.  

     

  • Lake Ontario Trout and Salm on Fishing…, MLE(make life easier) Tips from the Fish Doctor

    Posted on April 2nd, 2019 admin No comments

     

    This pic has nothing to do with MLE techniques..., just checking to see if any of you boys are reading my blog!

    There is nothing a charter fishing captain who fishes two trips a day, day after day in all kinds of weather and conditions likes any more than something that MAKES LIFE EASIER(MLE)!  Over the years, I have discovered some of these MLE items that will save you time, effort, and money.

     As I prepare for the 2019 charter fishing season beginning in midApril in and around Oswego Harbor trolling shallow for trout and salmon, one of the first things that will makes life easier and save a ton of energy and aggravation is the use of 6 lb. downrigger weights.

     It may not sound like much, but the difference between using 6 lb. and 10-12 lb. downrigger weights when you’re fishing up to two trips day after day is HUGE.  It’s huge as far as saving energy, and it’s even huger when it comes to reducing wear and tear on your body and equipment.

     Here’s the deal.  Most anglers use the same 10 or 12 lb. rigger weights all season, whether they’re fishing shallow or deep.  However, there is actually no need for the heavier rigger weight when you’re fishing shallow, especially at early spring brown trout depths or offshore spring steelhead depths shallower than 10-15 feet.  The lighter rigger weights work fine with minimal blowback.

     If you’re using downriggers mounted either astern or abeam with booms long enough to require a retro-ease, which is used to pull the weight close enough for rigging, there is a huge difference between pulling a light rigger weight and a heavier weight to the boat.  If you’re using a heavy weight, you have to grab on to the retro-ease line firmly with your full hand, pull it to the boat, and lock it in place with the chock.  It takes some “umphh”!  When you get it locked in place, if the water is rough, you all know what happens.  The weight starts to rock and roll, putting a lot of stress on your retro-ease line, downrigger boom, rigger cable, terminal snap, etc., etc.  Put too much stress on the cable connection to the weight too many times, and you hear the dreaded splash as the cable breaks and the weight heads for bottom.  Been there, done that, eh?

     Now, with the lighter 6 lb. MLE weights,  you grasp the retro-ease line with a couple of fingers, easily pull the light weight to the boat and lock it in the chock.  When it’s rough, the little weight bobs around a bit, but doesn’t put much stress on your gear.

     This MLE tip saves me tons of energy thru the season whenever I’m trolling shallow.

     The other major benefit of 6# weights over larger weights…, completely different signature with far less “disturbance” in the water .  The result…, trout and salmon hitting on shorter setbacks.

  • 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…, Sunlight vs. Trolling Direction

    Posted on February 17th, 2019 admin No comments

     

    Strike Vision photo of a musky striking a lure.

    When it comes to successfully catching Great Lakes trout and salmon or any fish on the planet whether in standing or flowing water, shallow or deep, effectiveness of the presentation of a bait or lure is influenced  by  the sun.  We all know the importance of light intensity,on fish behavior and lure selection, but what about the effect of sunlight in relation to trolling direction?

    Aboard the Fish Doctor, trolling direction in relation to the sun and the angle of the sun are a major consideration.   If you aren’t a believer, hold a colored pencil up against a ceiling light.  You’ll see a black  silhouette.  Now turn around with your back to the sun light and look at the same pencil.  You will easily see the color of the pencil and the print on it. 

    Now, imagine a fish swimming up to a lure from behind and below it.  If that fish is swimming into the sun, it sees a completely different image of a lure than it sees with the sun’s rays coming from behind it.  It’s a good bet that it’s also easier for a fish to locate a lure swimming asay from the sun .  Based on many hundreds of hours trolling with an underwater Strike Vision camera at depths up to 100’, this is true whether trolling shall or deep.

    If you doubt this, ask an experienced scuba diver.  I dove for many years while working as a fishery biologist.  When diving from a boat, and returning to the  surface, swimming away from the sun, the boat’s bottom was clearly visible.  However, when swimming back up to the boat toward the sun, the sun’s rays were blinding, making it much more difficult to see.

    More than 30 years ago, when Fish Doctor Charters was still attending sport shows, I sat in the living room one evening playing some video tapes of my summer fishing trips, trying to find some good tapes showing fish being landed.  I looked at tape after tape with the sun off the stern of the boat, the glare obscuring fish coming to the surface and being netted.  The majority of the tapes I looked at showed  fish being landed with the sun off the stern, even though I was looking at midsummer tapes taken while fishing in  70 to 100 feet of water. 

    Finally it dawned on me…, duhhh!  We were definitely hooking up more when trolling away from the sun than trolling towards it!

    Years later, using an underwater Strike Vision camera pointing back toward the lure being trolled, my thoughts about the relationship between trolling direction and the sun were confirmed.  With the sun off the stern of the boat and the camera directed away from the stern to view the lure being trolled, only the black sillouhette of the lure could be seen on the  flat screen in my cabin.  When trolling direction was reverse, trolling toward the sun, the lure and it’s color could be seen in detail.

    The same is true when casting, especially when fishing on or near the surface.  Cast toward the sun and retrieve back to the boat and fish will have a better look at a lure than if you cast away from the sun.

    Lots of factors influence the effectiveness of the presentation of a lure or bait, but sunlight direction in relation to lure presentation is definitely one of them. . 

  • 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 andSalmon Fishing…, ABU Garcia’s new Altum digital line counter reels

    Posted on January 28th, 2018 admin No comments

     

    A lunker brown boated on a 6' Fish Doctor Short Stick and 10# line.

    If you’re in the market for a new line counter reel, take my advice and check out ABU Garcia’s new Altum digital line counters.  I fished the Altum 20, largest of the Altum series,  with 30# mono on rigger rods for salmon last season, and it never skipped a beat. 

    My thoughts…, smooth as a Swiss watch and built  like  a tank!  It has features currently unavailable in any other  line counter reel.  It is programmable for different line diameter, has a large digital  display, has a lighted display at the push of a button, and resets to zero, if necessary, with a push of a button.  These aged old eyes really appreciated the large digital  readout, and especially liked the lighted readout in low light at dawn and dusk.

    Altum reels also have ABU Garcia’s Synchro feature found in their 7000 Synchro which has not been available in the U.S. and also the Alphamar 16 and 20 series.  I’ve used the 7000 Synchro for 1o or so years and the Alphamar 20 for 4 or 5 years.  They, along with the Altum 20 are the nicest reels I’ve ever fished on rigger rods and wire rods.

    Here’s the deal with the Synchro feature…, crank the reel handle backward 1/4 turn and it lightens the drag, perfect for setting riggers.  Rig your line in the release, crank the Synchro handle back and it lightens the drag just enough to maintain a bend in the rod as your rigger weight descends.  When the rigger stops, flip the free spool lever and you are good to go.  If you need a bit more  tension on your drag to maintain the proper bend/tension in your rigger rod don’t crank the handle back quite as far.  The 1/4 revolution in the reel handle controls the drag tension.

    As you already guessed, this feature is perfect for setting wire/braid/mono Dipsys.  Place your diver in the water, adjust the tension on the rod tip by cranking the reel handle back to the proper drag tension and walk away as the Dipsy descends into the depths.

    For the upcoming season, I just spooled up 10 Altum 12s, smallest of the Altum series,  with 10# hi-vis Trilene/Berkley Solar mono on ultralight planer board and rigger rods.  Line capacity is 320 yds of 12# mono.  The Altums replace my Garcia 5500 LCs, which hold 205 yds. of 12# mono.

    When someone finally hooks  that monster brown on ultralight gear, there isn’t anything much worse than  looking  down at an empty spool with almost no line left on it.  The extra 100 yds. of mono on the new Altum 12 brown trout reels will be a welcome “cushion” this season.

     

  • 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…, 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…