Fishing for Big Brown Trout on the Eastern End of Lake Ontario
It’s winter now and the Saiff Fleet often looks back on the last season and discusses trends in our ever-changing fishery. In the month of April, my heart lies in Pultneyville, New York with the many browns and coho salmon that swim along its shoreline. When May arrives, this angler switches gears and begins a two and a half month odyssey that connects him with the big brown trout on the eastern end of Lake Ontario – the biggest of the entire fishing season. Here are my Lake Ontario fishing methods and tips for where to go and what to use from early May through the month of July.
Location, Location, Location
Henderson Harbor and Stony Creek
Henderson Harbor and Stony Creek sit at a pivotal juncture for anglers looking to connect on spring and early summer brown trout on the eastern end. Henderson Harbor and Stony Creek are both situated where large stockings of brown trout fingerlings occur each season. Nearly 15,000 brown trout on the eastern end are stocked in the early spring each year on the docks of the Westview Lodge alone. These small fish tend to use the shoreline docks to hide from avian predators as they acclimate to their new surroundings in the very shallow water.
The early April stockings of brown trout on the eastern end also take place before the bulk of the cormorant migration, allowing for a higher survival rate among the young fish. Additional stockings in Stony Creek provide a solid base for the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The eastern end of Lake Ontario warms more slowly than the southern shore. In late April, fish are already following the warmer water temperatures, moving off shore in areas like Sodus Bay, Fair Haven and Pultneyville. In Henderson and surrounding areas, anglers will still find most fish in five to ten feet of water.
Working the Shoreline
Black Pond to Southwick Beach State Park
A late April hot spot is the shoreline from Black Pond to Southwick Beach State Park. Anglers must watch local wind forecasts to determine where the warmest water temperature will be found. West winds will pocket warm water in the Black Pond area and behind the shoal on Drowned Island. North winds will move warm water down the shoreline to the south and in front of Southwick’s Beach.
Estuaries, Outflows and Surrounding Tributaries
Late April usually brings warming daytime temperatures. This warming trend increases the run-off temperature of local streams and tributaries. A hot spot during slack wind would be the estuary of the Sandy Creeks and the outflow of Colwell Pond near Montario Point. Run-off from these outflows is generally warmer than the surrounding lake water and the turbid nature of the water helps anglers hide their bait presentations from feeding fish.
Big Brown Setup
Spoon and plug combinations from planer boards get the nod when fishing skinny water. A dynamite set-up would be 12 lb. test Trilene Big Game fishing line with a seven foot Segaur fluorocarbon tippet. The terminal end should be rigged with a #2 Berkley round nosed cross-lock snap. This will allow all baits to swim freely on the connection point and anglers will have the added benefit of changing baits more quickly.
Stick Baits on the Eastern End
If stick baits are your preference, Dave’s Ka-Boom are an excellent choice for brown trout bait. The smallest version of these baits dive just one to three feet making them perfect for shallow water fishing. Michigan Stinger trolling spoons get the nod from spoon fishermen as their incredible color schemes and action are irresistible to spring browns. Trolling speeds of 1.5 to 2.5 knots will serve anglers well in cloudy water conditions where baits presentations are easily hidden. When waters are clear, anglers should boost the speed through 3.5 knots to cover more trolling area and trigger reaction strikes from shoreline Browns.
Deeper Water from late May to Mid June
Alewife Run in Eastern Lake Ontario
The alewife run in eastern Lake Ontario is incredible during the month of May. Huge schools of this brown trout bait fish type make their spawning runs and jumbo browns are usually found near concentrations of this bait. The 25 to 50 foot contour directly in front of Stony Creek will hold massive bait schools during this time period. Big Brown trout can still be taken from planer board rigs early in the morning, but by 9:00 a.m., browns have usually located in deeper water.
Fishing Set up for Deep Waters
The use of downriggers and Dipsy Divers are the best way to target these deeper fish. Spoon fishing generally produces the most strikes at this time of year. Huge browns are gorging themselves on bait and the “Pig” browns that every angler dreams of are right in the fray. Spoon fishing with larger hardened treble hooks will help fishermen stay connected with the biggest browns. When baitfish moves in from deeper water browns can be accessed 15 to 40 feet down over water as deep as 150 feet.
Trolling on the Eastern End
Satellite thermal imaging maps of the lake will give anglers the approximate location of drastic breaks in temperature. These breaks will hold schools of brown trout bait and the big browns that are feeding on them. Trolling big open water is a planer board fisherman’s dream and having multiple lines on your eight to ten rod set-ups will keep anglers into lots of fish. Devices like Gibb weights, Mini Jon Divers and Dive Bombs will help planer board fishermen get down to these deeper fish.
Planer Boards for Trolling
All of these weights and diving attachments will catch fish, but the Dive Bomb weighted diving planer by Advance Tackle gives the fisherman the luxury of placing the weight wherever he chooses. When fish are spooky, the Dive Bomb can be run further up the line and away from the trolled bait. When fish are more active, Dive Bombs can be fished just in front of the fluorocarbon tippet where their many colors can be used as an added attractor for fish. A variety of sizes will let fishermen adjust their planer boards to almost any set of circumstances.
Warm Water Temperatures
In recent years, baitfish schools have massed near traditional walleye and pike haunts in the eastern basin. Structure like Bull Rock and Everleigh Point along the north shore of Black River Bay are known for their great production of warm water species. Local guides also know that when the brown trout bait balls up on these points, big brown trout will be just above the pike and walleye feeding on the same bait schools. A brown’s ability to tolerate warm water lets them target and stay on this bait even as the temperature rises through the mid sixties.
Picking the Best Lures
Middle Shoal and the green can buoy on Point Peninsula are also spots where anglers can target browns during this time frame. Some of the best brown trout lures natural colored Michigan Stinger spoons are the best choice under clear conditions. Patterns like emerald shiner, tuxedo, alewife and blue smelt are local favorites. When conditions are murky, gold perch, sodus point buckeye, nuclear green and the shanster are the brown trout bait colors of choice.
Big Browns in July
Finding the Thermal Break
The “Mountain” off Stony Point lighthouse is the fisherman’s Mecca for big summer browns. The key to summer brown trout fishing is finding where the thermocline meets the bottom. The steep structure of the mountain is attractive to baitfish and it is generally easy for fishermen to find where the thermal break meets bottom. During the month of July, anglers will usually find the break from 65 to 100 feet down. Trolling the edge of this structure at the thermal break depth will keep rods popping on browns.
Deep Rigging and Trolling Speed
The deep rigging of spoons on downriggers is the best way to stay in contact with these fish. NK-28 spoons and Michigan Stinger spoons are the best hardware to run during this time. Black/Silver NK-28s are superb on these deep browns as most anglers troll them just 20 feet behind the ball. Natural patterns in the Stinger lineup are also working well at this time of year.
Local fishermen use patterns like the Grim Reaper to entice strikes from these deeper fish. Spreading the pattern during July is another way to increase the likelihood of brown trout bites. Fellow anglers can employ the use of wire Dipsy Diver combination – one of the best brown trout lures – to target the 90 and 100-foot depths. These silent stalkers have always been deadly on summer browns.
An Added Bonus to Anglers
Other Fish Species on the Eastern End of Lake Ontario
The eastern basin is one of the most diverse fisheries on Lake Ontario. Sport fish like walleye, pike, brown trout, steelhead trout, lake trout and king salmon are all found throughout the time that brown trout are available. If the big brown trout waters on the eastern end of Lake Ontario are too rough to fish in early May, anglers can always head to the shelter of back bays for great action on walleye and northern pike. While fishing summer browns, deeper sets can help anglers target king salmon as a bonus to their creel.
Fishing for Trophy Trout
Many fishermen find that the fishing for big brown trout on the eastern end is so good that their limits have been achieved by mid-morning. These same fishermen will often deep troll for “Hog” lake trout after a successful morning of browns. In today’s world, we are all looking to maximize our fishing dollars and our time. Plying the waters of the eastern basin gives fishermen great opportunity, but also provides them with one of the best back-up plans in all of fishing. This season, I hope you plan to whet your brown trout lines in the eastern basin of the “Big Pond.” I’ll see you there!
Original Article By Captain Bill Saiff III
About The Author
Capt. Bill Saiff III owns and operates Lake Ontario’s largest professional fishing fleet. The Westview Lodge in Henderson Harbor is headquarters for the Saiff Charter fishing team.