Fishing for Brown Trout in the Golden Crescent

Recipe for Success While Fishing for Brown Trout

Fishing for Brown Trout on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, nationally known as the “Golden Crescent”, has been outstanding with many factors influencing fishing.  Brown trout stocking programs are working, less cormorant predation, more knowledge of fishing clear water resulting from quagga and zebra mussels, and advanced technology in our electronics are all part of the success.

Boy holding up catch while fishing for Brown Trout in Lake Ontario's Golden Crescent.
Cody Yelton landed two browns on one rod! One on the deep rig, and one on the slider, while fishing for brown trout on the Golden Crescent.

Locating Big Browns

How do you locate these “football browns” with miles and miles of Lake Ontario shoreline in April and May?  What do I use, and what’s the best method to put more fish in the box are the most common questions.  Most captains agree on a few basic tips to follow while fishing for brown trout:

Spring Water Temperature Matters 

In early April, the sun has started to heat the sand warming the water close to shore from Stony Creek to Sandy Pond.  Discharges of warm water from Stony Creek and North and South Sandy Creek increases water temperature, providing many warm water breaks. 

Smelt and alewives start hugging the shorelines looking for these warm breaks and browns follow to feast on their favorite food.  Your warm water plumes from the tributaries typically provide you the hottest fishing for brown trout.  The murky water can produce fast action on many days. Temperature units on your boat are a must for chasing browns since you can sometimes have as much as a 10 degree change in water temperatures. 

Planer Boards

Planer boards, downriggers and flat lines all produce, but boards generally are more productive getting lines out away from the boat and boat noise.  We have had outstanding success using masts and bases made by Great Lakes Planers.  These planer boards accessories have many options for positioning and are nearly indestructible made with the highest quality material.  They also make accessory racks and rocket launchers that are easy to install and adjust to any height.

Woman holding large fish caught while fishing for brown trout on Lake Ontario.
Stinger spoons have been hot in April, producing fish like this 17 pounder while fishing for brown trout in the Golden Crescent

Finding the Right Brown Trout Fishing Line

There are many fishing lines available to use on your reels but most captains have their favorite.  It can never be stressed enough how important it is to use 100% fluorocarbon leaders.  Fluorocarbon ensures near invisibility underwater with low stretch and near zero memory.  Our favorite is P-Line with “UV-Guard” that blocks sun’s rays ensuring much longer life on the reels without losing valuable breaking strength and abrasion resistance.  We stick with 10 pound to 12 pound test lines.  We run 15 pound test on our main lines with some of the captains’ favorites being Trilene, Big Game, Cortland and Stren.

Use a Line Counter Reel

Line counter reels really help in knowing that you’re putting out the same amount of line each time and how far the fish is away from the boat when hooked up.  Daiwa Accu Depth ADP27 is a reasonably priced quality line counter reel that lets you know exactly where your lure is for precision presentations.  We’ve used 7 ½ ft. Daiwa Heartland graphite rods for many years and they have always been highly dependable. 

Captains run 60 ft.  leads out to as much as 250 ft. leads off planer boards depending on boat traffic and clarity of water.  When using downriggers, many run brown trout fishing lures about 80 – 100 feet behind the ball.  Flatlines can be run about the same.  Using a line counter reel can keep your lure depth consistent, increasing your chances of success while fishing for brown trout. 

Finding the Right Water Depths 

 Most of your early spring fishing is done in three to fifteen feet of water, but moving to deeper water as winds and temperatures change.  Speeds are critical especially on days where the browns are finicky.  Most experiment with speeds between 2.1 to 3.1 depending on lures being used which is one of the most asked questions in fishing – “What are you using?”

Brown Trout Fishing Lures

Angler holding huge fish on a boat while fishing for brown trout in Lake Ontario.
Many brown trout in the 14 pound range are caught along shore off Southwick State Park, while fishing for brown trout in the Golden Crescent.

Michigan Stinger Spoons

Many anglers have their favorite brown trout fishing lures to use while fishing shallow water in the spring for lunker browns.  Our all around favorite brown trout fishing lure is the Michigan Stinger spoon. 

These spoons have proven to be effective in a variety of speeds while being able to take abuse from constant action from a fishes’ jaws.  Some of our favorites are Hud Special (Houdini), Sunkist, Yellow Jacket, Emerald Shiner, Natural Born Killer, Orange Shankster, Alewife, Tuxedo, GBT Brown Trout and Michael Jackson.  Brown trout love Michigan Stinger spoons and they are also an excellent choice for king salmon, steelhead, walleye, and northern pike.

Body Baits

Our preference for body baits are old reliable Jr. Thundersticks.  They have always produced results.  Smithwicks, Yo-Zuri’s and Rapalas will also fill the box.  For the last 30 years your normal colors of blacks, orange and gold have been mainstays but if you look at the wall of your favorite sport shop, it’s amazing how they come up with so many color schemes.  It’s easy to see why wives try to keep husbands out of these fun stores.


When browns start moving off shore to the 40-70 foot depth of water, downriggers are the preferred weapon.  We’ve always been happy with Cannon downriggers and never have had reason to switch.  Some days lunker browns are sitting right on bottom so it’s always best to stick the lures right in front of their face.  Again the importance of fluorocarbon leaders is immeasurable.  Best areas when this transition happens are usually in front of Stony Point, Stony Creek, Rays and Sawyers Bay and “the trench”.

Perfecting Your Timing

Smiling fisherman hold 19 lb trout on a boat in Lake Ontario
Jason Witters landed this 19 pounder from 80 feet of water while fishing for brown trout.

Among the things to consider when fishing for “football browns” is early mornings can be hot but fishing can slow down as noon approaches.  If you are looking for wall hangers sometimes less lines out is better and be sure to stay away from heavy boat traffic while running longer leads off boards and rigs. 

Most baitfish start heading towards structure and/or thermoclines as spring progresses and of course the browns are right behind.  Browns can be found in water temperatures between 48 and 65 degrees so it’s good to have a quality graph which can pinpoint exactly where they are.  

Electronics to Use While You’re Fishing

When it comes to electronics, there are plenty to choose from.  New boaters always ask what fish finders they should buy and I always ask them if they have a marine radio.  The first thing to purchase is a radio, one of the most important pieces of equipment needed. 

For the last 30 years we have had a variety of sonar, GPS and Lorans on our boats, but Lowrance products have always been very dependable for us.  When buying sonar-GPS, I would suggest one with at least 480 x 480 pixel resolutions for superb target detail and exceptional chart definition.

Brown Trout Fishing Guide Techniques

Sliding Cheaters

Brown trout fishing guides and charter captains like to use fixed or sliding cheaters to get brown trout fishing lures away from downrigger weights.  One of the most valuable pieces of equipment off the downriggers that help put more fish in the boat are “wingers”.  These attach to the cable and will spread your pattern out to fish farther away from the boat.  Locally you can buy them at Great Lakes Planers and Henchen’s Marina in Henderson Harbor.

Scents for Fishing Success

Brown trout have a great sense of smell and some captains like to use scents.  Brown trout fishing guides have discovered  some scents that have proven successful while fishing for brown trout are herring, anchovies and WD-40. 

Adding Weight

If you’re fishing shallow water you can add weight to get your spoons deeper.  Keel sinkers work fine or you can add split shot above your leader swivels which are easy to add or subtract any time. Deep diving body baits can also get your bait down to the active fish. Cormorants and seagulls working an area is a definite sign of bait nearby.  Gulls alone are still a good sign as they might be working injured or dying bait.

Get Out and Have Fun

We have put a few small and basic tips together here and hopefully they will help put a few extra browns in the boat.  Don’t be afraid to experiment as sun, clouds and wind affect areas you fish and color of lures you are using and one thing we always try to remember when fishing – “HAVE FUN!”  and take a kid fishing for brown trout. 

Original Article By Captain Bob Dick

About The Author

Captain Bob Dick owns and operates Moby Dick Charters out of Henderson Harbor on Lake Ontario.  Captain Bob specializes in sport fishing for trophy walleye, browns, lake trout, king salmon, northern pike and smallmouth bass. He has lived and fished the eastern end of Lake Ontario and tributaries his entire life and is a member of the NYS Outdoor Writers’ Association.

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