Lake Ontario out of Oswego 6/20 + Seneca Lake/Sampson 6/21


Lake Ontario/Oswego 6/20: Met my buddy Terry at the ramp around 5:40 am and we were underway shortly thereafter. Reports are that fishing has picked up. We found ample cold water on bottom in around 60′ of water, along with plenty of bait (not the heavy schools like we see on Cayuga Lake these days, but some nice scattered bait pods.)

We worked incrementally out to over 150′ fow. I still didn’t see a definite thermocline. The “fleet” was out working from around 120′ to 170′ or so. Trollers are doing well and catching some nice Kings. We spent 6 hours working jigs in and around various bait pods and dropping on likely fish in a lot of different depths. The fishing was interesting, although not great for us. Fish were moving for the jigs vertically to a point, but many were reluctant to move into the warmer water. At times we drew fish to within 20′ of the bottom of the boat but they wouldn’t hit. I’m guessing we had browns out in around 50′ to 60′, lakers on bottom from 100′ to 140′ and perhaps some Kings off bottom (maybe 1/3rd of the way off the bottom) also in the deeper water. There were fish up high over deep water too.

I’m one man with a boat and depth finder, so there’s only so much area we can cover, but my natural inclination is to launch out of a different port next time – like Hamlin or Oak Orchard. So that’s likely what I’ll do as the “King Hunt 2012” resumes! There has to be a mother-lode somewhere, and what I’m seeing now doesn’t compare to what I saw in May, and maybe it won’t, but I need to try.

I’ve been watching a bunch of YouTube videos posted by Michigan Seagrant detailing Lake Huron and Lake Michigan’s “State of the Lake” assessments by fisheries biologists. It’s interesting stuff. Adult alewives are basically non-existent in Lake Huron. Young of the year get eaten very quickly. Huron’s wild lakers have rebounded and the walleye fishery has taken off, so it isn’t all bad news. Steelhead thrive, but they are more adaptive than Kings. Despite the presence of gobies, sticklebacks, some smelt and emerald shiners, Kings are addicted to alewives. Take them away, and the Kings don’t adapt – they starve, though they do eat a few gobies. Chinook and Cohos were first stocked in the Great Lakes to eliminate or reduce alewife populations (as well as create a sportfishery) and they’ve succeeded.

By the way, I smoked the Spring King I’d caught in May and it was excellent. Superb flavor!

Lake Michigan is doing better, but the overall productivity of the lake is a fraction of what it used to be. When I go out on Lake Ontario, I don’t see a whole lot out there. It doesn’t compare to a Seneca or Cayuga Lake on any level in terms of concentrated bait and fish. There are scattered bait balls, but my screen has yet to bottom out on bait. I have yet to see it from top to bottom. It’s more of a barren seascape like Keuka or Canandaigua Lake. With wild Chinook salmon at high levels and no escape from the relentless filtering of the invasive Quagga mussels and other invaders, Lake Ontario may be living on borrowed time in terms of its King Salmon fishery, though the high levels of nutrients from the Niagara River (Lake Erie,) Genesee River and Oswego River are probably its saving grace. Stakeholders need to be very careful in terms of pushing for more stocking. It’s Russian Roulette, and once things “head south” there isn’t going to be much of anything anyone can do. I think the stocking shortfalls in 2012 are a blessing in disguise!

After 6 hours of interesting, but slow fishing I took Terry over to a favorite bass area. The bass fishing was very good, with shades of the great late 1990s/early 2000s bass fishery. It took the Lake Erie fish a few years to acclimate and get on the gobies and it appears that Lake Ontario fish also needed the adjustment period (or at least us fishermen needed it!) But we had some doubles and a lot of fun catching around a dozen smallies – all between 13″and 16″ long. We fished about 3 hours and missed a fair number too! So at least there’s been some successful spawning in the face of the goby invasion. That was a concern of mine. The sky’s the limit on the growth rates of these fish! We tried another area and also found bass. Next time, we’ll hit the Sodus/Pultneyville area and see what we find. Goby colored tubes worked well. We didn’t try jerkbaits and topwater, which I also think would’ve worked.

We tried more laker/King jigging to wind down the day. We marked bait and fish and the fish chased jigs but wouldn’t close the deal. Interesting, to say the least! The fleet was basically gone by noon, with only around two boat visibly trolling in the afternoon. It ain’t like the 1980s out there!

Seneca Lake out of Sampson: Met Steve and Jackie and the ramp at 5:25 am and we headed out. It’s past my favorite time for pike fishing but I felt we’d have a shot at it and Steve had never caught one before. We spent around 3 hours working various lure and had one follow from a pickerel. Pike are obviously around somewhere – and I know we were fishing good areas, but I’d have to believe many are deeper. Conditions looked decent early for them.

Laker jigging started out superbly with Steve landing 3 beauties in a row from 28″ to around 31″. All wild, older fish with nice colors. Jackie was taking a break then she started fishing and also landed a nice one. Eel wounding wasn’t bad and overall they landed 8 nice fish, though the bite slowed considerable by 10 am. Tons of bait and fish were around on the N. end flats. We never even worked Sampson for lakers 85′ to 95′ was best, though as always, there were fish shallower and deeper. Fun day!