Lake Ontario out of Oswego Harbor 5/29 PM
Finally made it back out to "the big lake" yesterday. My original plan this year was to fish Lake Ontario an average of once a week, but due to the inclement weather in April, my May schedule really booked up heavily. I recorded the busiest May I've ever had. Not that I'm complaining!
Most of you probably know my thoughts regarding Lake Ontario's fishery. I feel that the writing is on the wall here. Baitfish numbers are low and I think we'll be in for some serious setbacks in the not-so-distant future. In a nutshell, I think we'll have very hungry salmonids willing to chase jigs. I think we'll have Kings 5 years from now, but anglers are going to have to temper their expectations.
I had my boats inspected by NYS this AM. Both passed easily. Us "Public Vessel" operators get inspected on an annual basis. So I wound up arriving at Wrights Landing just before noon. I was surprised at how few boats were there. Only around 5 or 6 trailers were in the parking lot if I remember right. Not many! Two boats were getting off of the water as I prepped my boat. I went solo today. As some of us found (who were running our boats) at the Memorial Weekend Derby, oftentimes our co-anglers (aka "guy in the back of the boat") catches the most and nicest fish. They get to concentrate on the fishing while us "boaters" are dropping the trolling motor and positioning the boat et.al. So I wasn't completely disappointed when my old buddy Terry told me he couldn't make it today.
The guys getting off of the water had slow fishing today. One boat had nothing and the second (smaller boat) had managed a rainbow and brown or two. The first boat had worked inside of 50' FOW. So guess where I wasn't going to fish? It's easy for anglers to get discouraged when boaters come off of the water and complain about a slow bite, but the best thing is to find out what they did and then do something else. Use their experience to your advantage.
I worked out from around 70' to 170' of water. I dropped my temp probe in a few areas and got a feel for what was going on and where I'd be concentrating my fishing. A few small fish were chasing jigs, especially up high. I marked a good amount of bait up high. Notice that "a good amount of bait" is in Lake Ontario terms circa 2015. This bait in no way compares with what was out there in the 1980s and before. I mark more bait routinely on Seneca and Cayuga Lakes than I do on LO.
As I prepared to work my "zone" I got boarded by the Coast Guard for the 2nd time in 3 years. They are good guys doing their job. The Captain told me that the King fishing had been very good here until a week ago and been slow ever since. Oh well. There's always bass.
I worked some areas with an assortment of stuff. In one area, I marked a group of good fish on the sonar. I dropped down and got chased by one of them! I reeled into a solid hookup. I got the fish up to the leader then it made a couple good runs sounding back to the bottom. After a little while I slid my big musky net (I'm an optimist) under the fish. A nice laker! 27" with an adipose fin clip. It spit up an alewife on the way up. I released the fish and started fishing again.
Around 10 or 15 minutes later, another group of fish showed up. I dropped my jig down and got chased again. Felt the rod load up and got a mediocre hookset due to the fish swimning upwards. So I reeled down hard and hit the fish again. At times the fight was herky-jerky with the rod almost going slack, but I knew I still had him. As I worked the fish up, he started swimming away from the boat. Then I felt some serious weight and 150' of line melted off of my reel. KING!!! I knew that before, but that was confirmation. There's nothing as exciting as seeing a three foot long silver fish surface 100' or more away from the boat with its shark-like dorsal and tail fin jutting up out of the water and the silvery sheen reflecting! It doesn't get old (not that I've experienced it much.) It fought great all the way to the net and I was completely adrenalized. This wasn't the 7lb jack from two years ago. It was a 35"+ fish! That black inside of their mouths gives them the look of death. I weighed it at 17lbs! A terrific spring King and super fish to take on medium casting gear with 12lb Seaguar leader. It took around 15 minutes afterwards to calm down but I was pumped. I fished another 40 minutes or so, then headed in and cast for bass for around 15 minutes, landing one 17" smallmouth. Great day.
There was no bait in the King. A guy at the fish cleaning station was filleting up one around 8 or 9lbs. It had one alewife in it. I understand the love and lust for these fish from the Charter lobby. They truly are the Kings of our fishery and landing a good one takes skill. There's no way that Lake Ontario circa 2015 will be able to support large numbers of these fish like it used to. But I'll take them while I can!
Photos of this fish are up in the photo gallery!