What Lures to Run on Lake Ontario for Salmon

We are often asked what lures to run on Lake Ontario for salmon out of Oswego,NY.  Our answer is it depends and that’s not meant to be evasive. So what does “it depends” really mean? What does it depend on? What are some of the variables? Lets dive in!

Where is The Temperature

Before we can determine what lures to run, we need to know where the preferred temperature of our target species is, in this case for king salmon. We have discussed how to find this in previous posts. We typically choose our lure presentations based upon where in the water column this temperature is. There are typically four scenarios that we may encounter.

What lures to run

Upper Water Column

When we find the preferred temperature in 25 ft of water or less, stickbaits and spoons get the nod. Colors will depend quite a bit on water clarity and time of day. Overcast or clear sunny skies also matter in the equation. In muddy waters, baits with glow, or green and chartreuse produce well. Patterns such as firetiger, glow pearl, and glow frog are our favorites to start with.

Second Quadrant of The Water Column

If temps are 50 to 60 ft. or a bit less in the water column, spoons are our go to choice. The old adage “bright day bright lures” typically holds true. Don’t forget water clarity. Dark stained water can change things as well as a well defined thermocline or temperature break. Please check out “keys to fishing flasher flies” as well as “matching the hatch” to further shed some light on that scenario!

Generally speaking, when temps are in 60 ft or less of water, salmon rely more on sight than their lateral line to home in and feed on prey. But there will be times, as mentioned above, when the water will be stained or cloudy. Salmon must then rely more on their lateral line to feed. This is taken advantage of by running flasher and flies, or cut bait!

Third Quadrant of The Water Column

When we find temps in the 60-90 ft range in the column, are program is usually a mix of spoons with attractors. Most often, we run our spoons in the higher positions, and attractor fly, or meat patterns in the bottom positions and adjust accordingly to the bite. We let the fish tell us what they want and ad or subtract items as appropriate.

Deepest of The Water Column

When temps are deep, like below 80-90 ft or more, flies or meat get the nod. Salmon in deep water rely almost totally on their lateral line to home in on prey. I’ve always thought of it as a percentage thing. The higher the temps are in the water column, the more, or higher percentage, the fish rely upon sight to commit to the bite. The deeper we fish, the salmon use much more of their lateral line to find bait. Sight is still used for the final commitment as evidenced by certain colors working and others not.

If you follow these principals on what lures to run, or at least start with them during your trolling endeavors, you will be well on your way to successful outings. Adaptation to water temperature location is key. Also keep in mind that mixing things up a bit, like running spoons deep, can also pay dividends on certain days. Reading the water and its conditions will help you adjust. The fish will tell you, too, when they bite!

Always feel free to use our Ace Charters contact form for more info or call us at 413-346-7675 to perhaps book a trip!!


Best Cutbait Rig Set-ups

Cutbait rig set-ups, which are the best for catching fish? That’s what we will discuss in this post. After all, there are many different hook types and configurations to choose from. But, day in and day out, which one is best? Let’s get started!

Singles vs. Trebles

Over the past several decades of running cutbait on our Lake Ontario fishing charters, we have deployed single hooks and/or trebles with cutbait. Both have had their days to not only get bites, but keep fish buttoned up. For certain, when a fish gets impailed by a single hook, they just don’t get off that easily. Our experience shows that j-hooks do stay stuck to a fish better than treble hooks, once set. But, here’s the caviot! A treble hook not only tends to get more bites than a single, but also tends to hook up more frequently. There are three hook points on a treble vs. a single point on a j-hook!

EWG for Cutbait rig Set-ups
Mustad EWG

Multi Hook Rigging

While in search of a better mouse trap, we have tried several if not all of the possible configurations possible to rig a cutbait set-up. These include, double single hooks, double treble hooks, a single j-hook and a treble, or “tournament tie”. The problem is, the fish don’t like this type of rigging when running meat. Every time we have tried a tandem rig of any sorts, the bites drop off significally. Sometimes, to the point of no bites! Multi-hook rigging , although tried over several seasons, doesn’t seem to work well with cutbait.

The Single Treble Hook Malady

Single treble hooks are our go to for cutbait rig set-ups! Plain and simple, they get more bites. The problem for many is keeping the fish hooked up after the strike. Let’s face it!. Landing percentage on cutbait rigs can be very frustrating. You will lose fish! Yes, you get more bites! But, landing fish is a different story. Over the years though, we have developed a system through trial and error to increase our landing percentage significantly, with cutbait.

Treble Hook Style And Size

The style and size of trebles definitely matters. Our treble hook style of choice is the Mustad EWG. These trebles are sticky sharp right out of the package. They have a unique hook bend that impales the fish much easier, and once done, stays stuck to the fish quite well. Size of the treble matters and it’s seasonal! During early salmon season while the fish are silver with a normal mouth configuration, the larger the treble you can get away with, the better. We run 1/0 EWG treble hooks. This allows us to carry more speed while trolling. The larger trebles hook up better, as well. As the season progresses, we down size our treble hook sizes. During staging time, we run treble sizes that are #2 and/or #4. These smaller trebles get to the corner of a kyped salmon’s mouth much better during this time of the year.

Speed Matters

As was previously mentioned, we run larger hooks when trolling faster speeds. The weight and size of the larger treble, slows the cutbait roll down. Typical of early season, trolling speeds are faster especially when mixing in spoons with the meat rigs. The faster the trolling speed, the sooner the hook gets to the corner of the fish’s mouth after strike, to engage and bury the barb(s). Later in the season during staging time, slower speeds require less weight to get the proper cut bait roll. Add to it a change in the fish’s mouth structure, a smaller hook has a better chance of finding the corner of the fish’s mouth after striking.

So There It Is

Treble hooks of the proper size are key. Early season or when trolling faster, the larger the treble, the better. As the season progresses into staging time, smaller trebles with slower trolling speed prevails. Single trebles are best. EWG trebles have out performed all others for us, season after season.

Fishing Tips For Lake Ontario

Fishing tips for Lake Ontario are just the thing for upping your big water trolling technique. In this post, we will share links to handy web pages and forums focused on tips and tricks for Lake Ontario fishing. Big water fishing requires a specific set of skills to get the job done. This certainly leads to a better fishing experience overall for most outings.

Use Fishing tips for Lake Ontario to catch kings like these

Ace Charters Fishing Info And Techniques

Our website https://www.acecharters.com includes a fishing and info tips page loaded with articles derived from our daily charters. These articles are specific to trolling Lake Ontario and its methods. Our tips page also includes tackle selection and set ups, line choices, fishing reel drag tuning, and the like. Also included are links to pages explaining fish fighting techniques, where to find fish, and how to catch them. Our info and tips page is a compiliation of decades of big water trolling experience in the real world of Lake Ontario fishing from a full time charter captain!

Ace Charters Blog

Check out our blog! With over four decades of fishing the “Big Pond” both for hire and recreationally with some of the best in the business, our blog presents this expertise and insights for all to take advantage of. Here’s one of our posts for rigging cutbait

Fishing Forums For The Great Lakes

There are several fishing forums on the internet specific to trolling the Great Lakes for trout and salmon along with other fish species. Around for many years, these fishing forums are contributed to by both recreational fishermen and charter captains alike. The first of which comes to mind is Lake Ontario United for which I’ve been a member for several years. It’s a great place to get up to date tackle and fishing reports. Great Lakes Angler also is a good place to look for Lake Ontario fishing related articles. Last and certainly not least, is the Great Lakes fisherman forum. It not only includes Lake Ontario but Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes, too!

Up Your Game

If you’re looking to up your game and put more fish in the boat, the links presented in this post will go a long way in getting you there. Using the Lake Ontario fishing tips available through these links provided in your fishing expeditions, will certainly help to make you a better fisherman.

Setting Trolling Drags Dynamically

Setting trolling drags dynamically while trolling Lake Ontario is not as hard as it seems. In fact, once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. In this post, we will discuss the technique we use while Lake Ontario fishing on our charter boat the “Ace II“. The benefits of dynamic drag sets will also be touched upon.

Why Set The Drags This Way

A properly set drag trolling Lake Ontario is a must! Too loose, and a fish can spool you. Too tight, and a fish can break you off. Remember this! It’s large fish that break your stuff, not the small ones. Any chink in your armor, and they will show it to you. This goes double for adult Lake Ontario kings. Setting drags dynamicaly while trolling Lake Ontario takes the guess work out of drag setting. It can be done on the fly.

setting trolling drags dynamically

How to Do It

Now that you know the why of setting trolling drags dynamically, let’s get into the how. After letting out the stretch behind the boat with your lure, it’s set into the release clip on the downrigger. We use Black’s releases. It’s then sent down to the desired depth of troll. Now comes the fun part. While the rod is in the rod holder, reel down to load the rod up. You want a good bend in the rod. If the drag is too loose, the reel will slip and not be able to bend the rod down. A too tight drag will bend the rod down for sure, but remember, what happens if the drag is too tight. The drag needs to be set on a loaded rod so that you can still reel, but be able to pull out line from the reel with two fingers. I’ll repeat! Tight enough to reel when loaded but loose enough to pull out with two fingers.

Setting Dipsey Rods

The ideal setting for dipsey divers, especially wire dipseys for kings, is the same. While in the rod holder, you want to be able to reel line in, but still be able to pull line out with two fingers. This is the sweet spot for setting trolling drags dynamically while trolling Lake Ontario. When an adult fish hits, it can take out line on a run with the two finger pull setting. Yet, once it stops its run, line can be reeled in without any further drag adjustment.

Setting Copper Lines

Copper lines wether in the shoot position or on boards are set drag wise exactly the same. You want to be able to reel line in when deployed but still be able to pull line out with two fingers. This is vitally important with board rods when a smaller fish hits and doesn’t release from the planer board line. All too often if the drag is not set tight enough, you won’t be able to reel the line in without having to waste time adjusting it. On the contrary, if the drag is much too tight and a big fish hits, hello break off or hook pulled. There is no need for further drag adjustment when they are set properly for the initial strike. Be advised that later in the battle as the copper reel spool fills, drag tension will need to be increased. But as always, check the drag after every adjustment.

Proper Line Tension

With a dynamically set drag, when a rod goes off all that is left is to fight the fish. With proper line tension, no further initial drag adjustment is neccesary (except for coppers). There is no guess work! The good rod bend on a rigger rod and being able to reel while still in that position ensures the drag is tight enough. Being able to pull out line with two fingers confirms it is lite enough for a big fish to run. One note worth mentioning again when making drag adjustments! Always, and I mean always check the drag by pulling on it after any adjustments no matter how small.

Feel free to check out another post about controlling drag tension with rod bend which works in unison with dynamically set drags.

If you have more questions on finding quality charters, feel free to contact us at 413-346-7675 or via our contact form with any questions that you may have . We will be happy to answer them. To book a trip please call 413-346-7675 or use our contact form as well!

Best Month For Trophy Brown Trout

We’re are often asked what is the best month for trophy brown trout fishing on Lake Ontario out of Oswego,NY. Year after year, the answer is plain and simple. June, June, June! For over the twenty plus years of Lake Ontario fishing, we have taken more trophy size brown trout during the month of June than any other. Notice we said “trophy browns”.

Best month for trophy brown trout like this one is June

Why Big Browns in June

One might ask why June is typically the best month for trophy brown trout fishing. The answer is two fold. First, the water temperatures this time of the year are warm enough to really get the big fish active. Metabolic rates increase and the bigger browns need to feed more. Secondly, alewives, the main prey species, are in closer to shore and concentrated. They spawn near shore here in June. There will be age classes of alewives either coming in to spawn near shore and in the bays, as well as those that have completed the spawning process and are returning to the lake. The water temperature also is conducive to alewive spawning.

Monster Lake Ontario Brown Trout

Adult Fish To Target

Our definition of a trophy brown trout is one which weighs in the mid to upper teens and is at least three years old or older. They are a different class of fish and require a different approach to getting them to bite. Light tackle is one of the biggest keys to getting a trophy brown to commit to the lure. Presentation of that lure is also important. As previously mentioned, temperature plays an important role in both metabolic rate as well as where Mr. Trophy Brown Trout will be. During the month of June, finding 58-62 degree water without going over concentrates trophy browns in the water column. Experience has shown that bigger browns like to be in this temperature zone during this time of year.

Find The Temperature Find The Fish

When you can find the right temperatures along with bait presence and colored water, you have the makings of a great recipe for increasing the odds for trophy brown trout success. These conditions exist more so in June than any other time of the year. Hence, the increase in odds for success. Temperature, bait, and stained water concentrated close to shore accurately predicts where the brown trout will be. All that is left to do is to add the right lure choice with the right presentation and trophy brown trout success will follow!