• 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…

  • Lake Ontario Salmon Fishing with Copper Line

    Posted on July 8th, 2009 admin No comments

    If you had been on board the “Fish Doctor” with Capt. Ernie Lantiegne with Fish Doctor anglers Jerry and John Romeo on the morning of July 8, 2009,  you would have been impressed with several things;

    1. Lake Ontario Salmon fishing in July is outstanding

    2. Lake Ontario’s chinook salmon are second to none in size

    3.  With every salmon and one lake trout boated all caught using the same technique, copper line  trolled off megaboards, there is no question that copper is deadly for scattered, offshore king salmon.

    4.  Dodgers and flies are still highly effective…, every fish we caught on 7/8, was  taken on this age old technique.  Ditto for 7/7.

    On our trip today,  the weather was overcast and the seas choppy with winds from the northwest.  Salmon and the alewife bait schools they feed on were scattered to heck and gone.  Recent heavy winds have pushed cold water deep, with 000_1425cold water in the 50′s down 100 to 140 feet, over 450 to 150 feet of water, respectively.  Water fleas are as bad as they get now, fouling even 30 lb. test mono, and almost ruling out wire Dipsys.

    In these conditions, we rigged 450′, 500′, and 600′ copper lines off the megaboards(oversized triple planer boards) and ran a set of white/white, white /blue, chrome/blue, and silver glo/blue dodger/flies on the riggers and boards.  Thank the Lord for .o37 diameter copper, which is basically water flea proof.  With fish scattered it is “pedal-to-the-metal” time, with trolling speeds running from 2.7 to 3.0 mph.

    The result, a respectable catch of kings from 16-20 lbs., plus a lake trout, that must have been feeling its “Wheaties”!  If you haven’t tried fishing copper line, you’re missing out on a fish-catching technique.

  • Oswego’s Spring Kings

    Posted on April 5th, 2009 admin 5 comments
    DJ Vaughn couldn't have picked a flatter day to fish for Oswego's spring kings.

    DJ Vaughn couldn't have picked a flatter day to fish for Oswego's spring kings.

    Many anglers don’t realize that just outside Oswego Harbor there is some excellent king salmon fishing in the spring. Here’s an article I wrote a while back that will give you the scoop on it.  Don’t forget to view my fishing hotline page on the Fish Doctor Charters web site at <blog.fishdoctorcharters.com>

    As we backed my charter boat into the narrow slip at Oswego Marina, my buddy Bob, standing on the dock, asked 12-year old Jackson Davis, “How’d they bite, young man? Jackson couldn’t wait to spit the words out, “We limited out!” “Aha, said Bob, the browns are a lot of fun this time of year, aren’t they?” “We didn’t catch any browns”, Jackson blurted out, “We caught king salmon.” Jackson flipped open the big cooler, heaping with 8 to 19 pound mint-silver kings. The date was May 2, 2005, and we couldn’t have had a better day of fishing.

    I had located the fish the day before, figured out a pattern, and Jackson, his Dad, and Bob Jones had cashed in. The seas were calm and the skies sunny, but the best part…, we were the only boat on eastern Lake Ontario fishing kings that morning. Since 2004, spring fishing for king salmon, just 5 minutes outside Oswego Harbor, has been fantastic. Just in the month of May over the past three years, anglers aboard my charter boat have boated more than 400 king salmon and 150 cohos, this in an area much better known for spring brown trout fishing. Fishing for king salmon continues on through June and July as these sleek predators stay just offshore while hordes of alewives move shallow to spawn.

    Experience has shown that high spring flow in the Oswego River is a major attraction for baitfish and spring kings and cohos. Since 2001, another great year for spring kings, the pattern seems clear, high flows produce the hottest spring salmon fishing, BUT, no matter what the flows, there are always kings outside Oswego Harbor beginning in early May. In the past few weeks, the Oswego River has been flowing at around 10,000 cfs,, not high,but still laden with nutrients from thousands of acres of rich farmland in the watershed, the greenish colored plume of water off Oswego Harbor is like an oasis in the Sahara to fish in eastern Lake Ontario. With snow and rain predicted every day for the next week, expect increasing flows in the Oswego River, a magnet for both baitfish and predators like browns, cohos, kings, and rainbows.
    If youユre thinking about sampling the super spring king fishing at Oswego, on a typical sunny day the early bird definitely gets the worm. Leaving the dock at Oswego Marina at 5:00 AM, it’s only a short 5-minute ride to the fishing grounds in 90 to 100 feet of water. Most mornings I try to have my rods are in the water just before daybreak. At that time, almost no fish or bait can be seen on my 10” color Sitex video fish finder below 30 feet. Some calm mornings, salmon can be seen porpoising right on the surface…, exciting. All the early morning action is in the top 30 feet of water, and I mean action. Triples and quads are not unusual. One morning, my crew of three ranging from 79 to 85 years old, including one lady angler, hooked and landed six kings at once from 13 – 19 lbs. Whew!

    Even though the surface water temperature in early May is 39-40 degrees, on sunny days, kings start to move deep by 7:00 -9:00 AM and are often flat on bottom in 120 feet of water by late morning. ProChip Flashers and dodgers trailed by Howie Flies are standard fare for spring kings. My favorite in low light is the Casper, a stock white ProChip 8 with a Little Boy Blue fly trailing behind it. Spoons like Maulers, Northern Kings, and Michigan Stingers are also excellent spring king medicine. My top spoons, depending on the light conditions, are the NK28 spook, “Venom” Mauler, black alewife and monkey puke Stingers, NK 28 Diehard, Plain Jane Mauler in brass/green, Orange Ruffe Mauler, and Blue Dolphin Silver Streak. Downriggers, Dipsey Divers, and copper line fished from planer boards get lures down to kings. The first 10 minutes after daylight, you can catch kings right on the surface with spoons and stickbaits. Flasher/flies and spoons on copper off the boards are solid producers for spring kings.

    One of the most consistent early morning rigs on my charter boat, the Fish Doctor, is a thumper rod down the chute with a 10 oz. weight, 80’ of 20# wire, and a chrome/glow dodger with a glow baby purple/silver fly. As the light conditions brighten, you’ll find a chrome/silver prism dodger with an aqua fly on the thumper rod.  Later, in brighter light, I opt for a trash can dodger with a green crinkle or Pretty Jane fly. The hottest bright light flasher/fly combo for me in May, especially when the kings have dropped down deep, my Fish Doctor “Late Riser”(char/double glow) ProChip 8 with a Pretty Jane(glitter/silver/green) Fly with chartreuse beads.
    If youユre waiting until August to fish for king salmon in eastern Lake Ontario, you might want to rethink your plan. Oh, and the other thing…, there is no better eating fish in fresh water than a spring king salmon dripping with oil after chowing down on alewives all winter…, yum, yum!