I've been keeping an eye as usual on the happenings out on "The Big Lake." Some people ask me what my fascination is with Lake Ontario. First and foremost, I like the Finger Lakes fishing more - especially Cayuga Lake this year. But I've been out here on Cayuga from 4 to 7 days a week over the past couple months. And I fish Cayuga throughout the fall, winter and spring on my own for salmon and pike (two of my favorite species,) so when I get a few days off during the late spring/summer I like to try something different. There are things I've learned while trying to trigger and locate lake trout on Lake Ontario that I've been applying to Cayuga Lake - both with fish location and technical stuff. That's been a big help and eye-opener! The thrill for me in fishing these days - and over the past decade has been figuring things out. I don't get any big thrill out of heading to Cayuga Lake and seeing how many lakers I can catch. There's no point in that for me. If you want to become a better fisherman (or musician or what have you) YOU DON'T PRACTICE WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW!
To answer the question is that I grew up in Penfield NY, about 10 or 12 miles from the lake. So that's where I did most of my fishing from 1977 or so up to 1995. So the big lake is near and dear to me.
2016 is shaping up to be a very interesting year on Lake Ontario in terms of King Salmon fishing. In a nutshell, the June - early August fishing was top-notch west of Rochester out to the Oak and beyond. It was spotty east of Rochester. Earlier than that, it was good from the Niagara Bar east. A recent article in the Syracuse Post Standard featured interviews with top-notch charter Captains both east and west of Rochester. Guys like Bob Songin and Tony Buffa are the cream of the crop. I know Tony from my days at Bass Pro Shops and might add that he's a great guy as well. I've never met Bob, but I just discovered that he's taken over the "At the Oak" reports and I enjoy clicking on them.
Over the past week, the salmon action has moved east big-time. The guys are finally creaming the salmon from Oswego out to Mexico. The fish are staging and a few have already showed up in the Salmon River. Yet the fish out west have more or less disappeared! They haven't moved "inside" yet. And the guys aren't catching a lot of giants deep. Very intriguing!
It may be early, but I'm going to put a theory out there: Wild fish have a knack for finding the bait. In Seneca Lake, the typical big lakers we catch from May - July up around Geneva are predominantly wild fish. I'd say 90 to 95% wild, despite the fact that DEC nettings and surveys suggest that about 65% of the Seneca fish are wild. Fish most years from Watkins to Lodi, and the fish tend to be 50% or more stocked. The wild fish get on the bait! The stockies tend to be more homebodies on Seneca. Fast forward to Lake Ontario. I don't know what the wild fish numbers are up there, but I believe it's got to be around 50% or more by now. Could it be that the Kings that found the best bait, the Chinooks that were chowing all summer west of Rochester were mostly wild Salmon River bred fish? And now they've moved east? Will the Oak see poor runs and very few "inside fish" this year?
This year is very reminiscent of 2014 on Keuka Lake. Great angling, lots of bait in some areas and then nothing a year later. I think we are going to be in for some big surprises on Lake Ontario. One Captain in the Syracuse article mentioned boosting brown trout stocking. I think that would be a great idea on Lake Ontario. People love catching browns. Browns also eat gobies. Cut back the Kings and boost browns, Atlantics and steelhead. Time to transition away from the giant eating machines. The food trough is closing. Best to prepare rather than be rudely awakened!