Lake Ontario out of Oswego 3/2


Oswego 3/2: I was up at Bass Pro Shops last weekend and my buddy Jarrod told me he’d heard that “spring” brown trout fishing was underway on the big lake and had been very good. Now that I live a bit closer to Oswego, I plan on spending a few days each spring fishing Lake Ontario with my fly-rod for browns and maybe a bonus coho or rainbow. I’m still a die-hard Fingerlakes Angler at heart, but I enjoy the challenge of locating fish on bigger water and I like to keep learning.

Today was a “get the bugs” out type of day – basically a day to scout some areas, see the lake conditions, see what my flies look/swim like (and what modifications I need to make) and see how various rod/reel/line combos fish. And of course I’m hoping for some fish too! I tried to convince my buddy Mike to join me, but he wanted to get over to Seneca Lake for Landlocked salmon (so I now have a Seneca report too!) He also didn’t feel equipped for the big lake yet.

The goal for a fly-rodder on a big lake in the early spring is to locate some warm(er) water. Any area stirred up by wave action is also worth checking out. Both together can be some good fishing! The challenge is finding an area small enough where I can pinpoint fish, since I’m not trolling a giant spread of lures covering water. So I can’t cover a huge swath of muddy water effectively. When I lived in Rochester, the trout hangouts were pretty well known and easy to find – the mouth of the Genny, Irondequoit Outlet, Russel Station, Hedges, Webster, Shipbuilders etc… But I enjoy getting away from some of the obvious areas and trying to get my own take on things. That, and I’m not sure what launches are ice-free, so Oswego it was.

On the drive up I saw a bit of snow on the ground. We have none here around Ithaca, but I knew warmer temps would be scarce since melting snow would surely keep creek temps very low. I was the only rig at the launch at 9 am. The launch was in excellent shape and it was easy dumping in. Water temps in the harbor were a chilly 35.9 degrees. Out in the lake it wasn’t much warmer – I had 36.9 to 37.2 all over. I worked three different areas and might have had one hit, though I wouldn’t have bet on it. I tried two different lines on the same type of rod (TFO TiCR 8wt)- a Cortland 8 wt. intermediate line and a RIO Outbound. In the past I had some success with an intermediate line as well as a floating line (if I remember correctly) on shallow browns.

My flies performed OK. Some were a bit overdressed. Basically smaller versions of my pike flies seemed to swim at the right depth with the least amount of fouling and resistance. Once we get a couple warm days, I’ll try to get back out. Time to hit the fly-tying bench again!

On the way back in I got stopped and checked by the Coast Guard! Who’d have thunk it? Anyways the officials were very courteous and helpful and it was good to get my gear inspected. One of them was impressed with my Mustang Survival suit, “smart choice” he said. I recommend one to anybody who fishes often in the winter and/or alone in the winter.

Seneca/Watkins 3/2: Mike landed a nice 22″ landlocked salmon fly-fishing on Seneca. It came with an attached lamprey which he was able to kill. On gear he landed another salmon just over 15″. The wind was howling over there and it felt much colder than it did on the big lake. A couple boats were trolling the shoreline areas. Water temps remain cold on both the main lake and feeders.

It’s funny but I’ve had a fair number of comments from past clients asking me if I still fish much! People see the unseasonably warm days outside and think it’s automatically a good fishing day.

Every year, winter is generally a time for me to take a bit of a break and “patch my bones.” I swim a lot which keeps me in good physical condition so I can work long hours during the summer on diminished sleep. If I wanted to fish 250 or more days a year I’d live in the south! I do like the intensity of our seasons. That being said, if I’m off and I think a day will be good or just feel like fishing, I go. I’ve pretty much fished the same number of days this year thus far as I did last – with the exception of less shore-fishing, which I don’t miss.

A couple things to consider: 1.) Warmer than usual winters aren’t often great fishing winters. Cold temperatures set up fish in predictable ways. Lots of strong north winds and cold air usually makes for a great winter at Taughannock and plenty of fish on the south end of Seneca Lake. They also intensify action at warm water discharges. El Nino and La Nina years often feature plenty of westerlies and south westerlies that seem to scatter fish, so they don’t set up well on the usual drop offs. 2.) Many of these so called nice days have featured either a.) no wind or b.) hellacious winds. This probably isn’t always noticeable unless you’re away from buildings. But no wind can be a good lake trout jigging scenario, but it generally isn’t good for much else IMO. And many of the best laker flats near me have featured frozen boat ramps. Hellacious winds are good for boning up on four-letter words. They are also good perch fishing days, but I’m not addicted to eating perch. I don’t need 300 fillets in the freezer. One or two good perch days a winter and I’m happy.

But rest assured, I will be out on the water a bit over the next few weeks and my guiding schedule is right on course with April and May showing a good number of bookings!