A bounce-back fishing year for Lake Ontario brown trout?

Even though spring has only arrived on the calendar, some Lake Ontario fishermen have been pounding the shorelines in search of early trout action. And while the fishing reports won’t show up on any DEC creel survey due to the fact the interviews don’t kick off until April 15, anglers have been enjoying good success despite a bit of colder water temperatures and a variety of other factors that can have an effect on fishing success.

Learning to adapt to those conditions can make or break your fishing trip.

Take John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda and Adam Gierach of Pendleton. It was a beautiful Sunday morning with light winds, immediately following several days of north winds (remember those Nor’easters coming of the coast recently?), so the shoreline was a bit riled up, creating a distinct mud line along Lake Ontario.

After launching in Wilson, the diehard duo worked stickbaits (small Bay Rats and jointed Scatter Raps) in chartreuse and orange 100 to 125 feet back from planer boards in 9 to 12 feet of water. After an hour-and-a-half, they hadn’t had a strike. What could it hurt to increase their speed?

With the water refusing to warm up due to colder spring forecasts, they thought a slow troll was the way to go. As they increased their speed to 2.5 to 2.8 mph, they weaved their way along the mud line. Fish on! Who would have thought?

Before the morning was over, they boated 14 of the 20 fish they hooked up with – 19 brown trout and one steelhead. They weighed from 4 to 10 pounds. What could have been a bust turned into one of their best brown trout days ever.

Figuring out the patterns of big brown trout is never an easy proposition. They get big for a reason. Jack Mings of Amherst was fishing with Capt. Matt Gantress of Williamsville the end of March on the Niagara Bar, again working a mud line just into Canadian waters. Trolling a Northern King spoon, they had a big fish hit and give them quite a fight. Salmon? Big lake trout? It turned out to be a 27-pound brown trout that was a personal best for both guys on the Starcraft boat that day.

Mings’ catch was only a cast away from a 31-pound brown trout that was caught last spring in the Lower Niagara River, near the mouth, by Bob Klemm of Pennsylvania, also in March. He had been fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Falls and his technique was rather unusual for the river.

Most of the river anglers employ a three-way rig to get their baits down to the bottom. However, Campbell rigged up a minnow without any weight and put the bait way back behind the boat, away from their other baits in less than 10 feet of water, free floating as naturally as possible. That was when the behemoth brown slammed the trout snack. The rest was history.

Good reports of brown trout fishing have been coming in on a consistent basis up and down the Lake Ontario shoreline. This is good news given the fact that brownie catch rates in 2017 were down for the third year in a row. Let’s hope good fishing continues. We need a much better year.

After the record-high water levels and alarming media reports all season in 2017, many people thought Lake Ontario was closed for business. It led to a record-low fishing effort for the year, undoubtedly contributing to lower fishing license sales and impacting fishing-related businesses all along the lake. Fishing derbies and tournaments suffered with lower turnouts. However, for those who participated, the fishing was good to excellent.

There are plenty of salmon and trout waiting to be caught in Lake Ontario. Fishermen and women can be as resourceful as they need to be when it comes to fishing. Get out and enjoy.

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