Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fish were less play in May

After a steller start to the 2014 season in April, May was marginally less productive but still a good month of Salmon and Trout fishing. Changes in conditions and how each portion of shoreline would see the effects of those changes resulted in changes to our fishing success. Like the David Bowie song.. "Ch-Ch-Ch Changes". Flexibility to move from one port to another was critical, and more so, having a network of fellow anglers keeping the lines of communication open to help keep on top of what was happening from Hamilton to Niagara-On-the-Lake.

The April rains and periodic East winds set up the shallows for excellent fishing in April and the very beginning of May. The creeks flowed with warm and coloured water that emptied into Lake Ontario at Grimsby, Jordan, Charles Dailey Park, Port Dalhousie and Port Weller. This provided excellent fishing the first two weeks of May in shallow. We continued our April shallow water stickbaits presentations towed behind inline planerboards and got into some excellent Brown Trout, Chinook Salmon and Coho salmon coming to the boat.

Top producing stickbaits were the Perch Ripplin Redfin, Clown Bomber Long A (silver and gold) and A steller stickbait that outfished the rest on the Saturday before Mothers Day was the LiveTarget Emerald Shiner Bait Bail Jerkbait. I found the stickbait set-ups were best using 9 ft Shimano TDRs with my 25 lbs test main line with 20 feet of 12 lbs test fluorocarbon. The heavier pound test mainline created “lift” to keep the body baits from diving down into the bottom and were perfect to hook up to the releases in the inline planerboards. The stickbaits were stretched back behind the board 100 to 200 feet. Three boards on either side of the boat, and two flatlines run straight back off the boat, rounded out a 8 rod spread. We trolled having the boat ran the depths between 12 to 16 feet knowing the far board closest to the shore would be in much shallower. That was where the LiveTarget Baitball jerkbait excelled since it ran shallower and had that great finish of emerald shiners that the browns couldn’t resist. The Jefferies family had a great morning trip with a number of Browns and smaller salmon. Winds were blowing, but they were from the southwest so close to shore was no problem.


The Alewife baitfish showed up in huge numbers, raiding the waters along the beaches in less than 18 feet of depth. One trip with John, a Photographer from the Ontario Out Of Doors, was out with the plan to photo Brown Trout for the magazine. On May 3rd at Jordan Harbour the sudden visit of Alewife in typical Brown Trout shallows meant the browns already had enough to eat and they didn’t have to move too far to get to the dinner table. John’s trip, only resulted in one small Brown Trout for a picture.

Different stretches of the shoreline warmed up faster or were coloured more by heavy run-off coming out of the creeks. The balance of just the right temperature, coloured water and to what depth that water would find its way out to comfortable depths for wary spring salmon and trout, was puzzling.

The second week of May we had yet more rain, overcast and cold temperatures and this continued to add favourable conditions for shallow water salmon and trout. On May 16th I fished with a friend out of Grimsby and we found Chinook Salmon in the green coloured water in 25 Feet of waters. Action in a short 4 hour trip would suggest another week or so of great fishing along the shoreline.

On May 17th we had a very special guest on board. Aaron and his parents joined us for a 4 hour morning fishing trip. Aaron in his pre-teens is already taken a liking to fishing. His excitement for the trip was evident even as a shy and quiet kid, you can tell his eye’s sparkled with the thought of trying something new in fishing. We left the Foran’s Marina in Grimsby and turned west where we had success the evening before. But after 1 hour of trolling those waters, and only catching one small brown trout, Aaron’s first brown trout mind you, we decided to troll back across the front of Grimsby and down along the shoreline towards Beamsville.

40 Mile Creek was pumping brown run-off water and the currents of the lake looped the outflow to create a mud-line from the mouth and then parallel to shore running for nearly 2 miles to the east. Immediately as we entered the coloured water the downrigger set 10 feet down with a custom tapped Northern Dancer Magnum size spoon hooks into a 6 lbs Chinook salmon. This was Aaron’s first Ontario King Salmon.

From Photo_Gallery14

It wasn’t long we started to receiver more action in the stained coloured water. Aaron brought in another brown trout as well as his first coho salmon. We lost a few other fish and a few short hits, but the shallow water bite was still around thanks to the rains and cool temperatures.

While we fishing shallow at Grimsby on the Saturday of the long weekend with some success for Aaron, the reports of incredible catches from Jordan Harbour to Charles Dailey Park area filled my phone with text messages. Then again on Sunday Port Dalhousie was met with a flurry of action of salmon. We were out on the lake on the holiday Monday and due to the past two days of success, I told John to meet us down at Port Dalhousie for as early as you can. We left the dock at 5:45 and motored out to Port Weller where we set up in 45 feet of water. 10 minutes into our troll the wire diver with a flasher/fly starts clicking away with our first salmon on. John’s grandson manages a nice silvery king to the boat. The rest of the morning was a slow bite picking up a few smaller salmon. It slowed to as little as no bites in 2 hours so we moved in shallow it hopes of resorting to Brown Trout and coho in those waters. We reached 30 Feet of water and the rigger down 22 feet with a spoon fires and the drag sings a welcoming sound to indicate a decent king salmon. Handed the rod over and the John’s other Grandson takes a hold of the downrigger rod and watches as many feet of line leave the reel in quick fashion. Then moments into a powerful run the line goes limp and we reel in nothing on the business end of the fishing line. We trolled for another 2 hours without a strike, but they had a few good eating salmon for the smoker to take home.

From Photo_Gallery14

The fifth week of May following the long weekend was the mark of the transition from very shallow water patterns to open water patterns. The Alewife that was so plentiful along the beaches was now splintering off into smaller schools and began migrating away from the shoreline. On May 24th we had a special event where we host a Big Brother/Big Sister and their little, out for a day of fishing on Lake Ontario. Mark Penner and I had a few hours to look for some salmon first thing in the morning, before making our way to Fifty Point Marina to the event. We launched the boat in the dark and set lines before the sun poked up on the East horizon. It latterly took less than 5 minutes before we had our first salmon in the boat and 3 more would come quickly after.

Then it was time to pull lines and run to Fifty Point. We gathered our Big Bros/Big Sister with two littles named, Madison and Oscar. We set lines not far from Port in waters in the 35 feet depth. After setting lines we waited. Then a fish pulled back a planerboard, but shortly after came unpinned. Short strikes would continue to plague us as we missed a bunch more and then the time was getting short so at 11 pm we turned out over deeper water and lowered the speed and put out Cowbells and Peanuts to manage a few bites from Lake Trout in 70 – 90 feet of water. Hooking three Lake Trout but we only managed to boat 1 and pulled in a small salmon as well on a leadcore line. It was a great event as usual. And with a total of 29 Bigs and Littles ready to see what fishing on Lake Ontario was all about, we just had enough boats to accommodate the crowd.

From Photo_Gallery14

After the event BBQ, Mark and I were off to pick-up our afternoon clients at the dock in Grimsby. Larry and his grandson Carter were ready to board and we set off at 3 pm to fish until dusk. Larry has been battling poor health in 2013 and had this trip booked but had to reschedule it three times last year due to health and poor weather conditions. This was the day, and because Mark and I saw that the kings were catchable in the 30 foot depths during low light, but near impossible to catch when the sun was up, made our game plan a little less obscure. We were going to target Lake Trout and then turn into the shallows for the evening bite for salmon.

We motored out to near the weather marker and set lines in 65 FOW. Within minutes one rod went off and then the other. Double header! Both Lakers were around 10 lbs and nearly clones in colour and size. We thought it would be easy pickings for a few more Lake Trout, but we trolled for some time without a fish.


Then by 6:00 pm the wind picked up and turned the flat calm lake into a chop from a brisk south wind. Immediately we made the plan to turn into the shallower salmon waters and reset our presentations to match. In doing so we had a massive line tangle that weaved both a 10 colour leadcore (too deep for our shallow water program) with the 5 colour leadcore that was optimal for our program. I knew we need to salvage the 5 colour and in doing so the next 30 minutes while Mark trolled our way slowly in shallower, I patiently took apart the leadcore “knitted scarf” and success! Both came out ready to do battle again.

Once we reached 40 feet of water, I sent a diver on 3 setting out 85 feet with a HogWild SpinDoctor and matching A-Tom-mik Tournament fly and this 14 lbs Lake Trout would be Carter’s biggest fish.

From Photo_Gallery14

10 more minutes we reached 30 feet of water in front of Murray Street Park in Grimsby and the 5 colour we just salvaged towing a Magnum Michigan Stinger Chicken Wing on an inline planerboard pulls back. The drag is peeling and the rod handed over to Carter again. The fish is an obvious Chinook salmon and not a bad one at that. After 10 minutes we pull the board off and then Carter wrestled this nice 17 lbs Chinook Salmon to the boat.

From Photo_Gallery14

We release the fish and the rigger rod hooks a fish with the ball only down 12 feet. I slip on my footing falling directly on the gunwale beside the downrigger with both hands trying to free the strained rigger rod from the downriggers rod holder. The drag is singing and I hand the rod over to Larry and he kindly decides to hand it to Carter again, but during that transfer the fish comes unhooked. We trolled until the sun disappeared off the west horizon with a spectacular sunset to cap off a very long, very trying, but very good result to a dawn until dusk fishing day on Lake Ontario.

To tail out the Month of May, Lanny from Toronto, a serious derby fisherman, joins us again this year with hopes of catching a decent Chinook Salmon for the St Catharines Game and Fish Spring Derby. I hold a boat ticket that covers everyone on board for the Spring, Summer and Fall Derbies held by the St Catharines Game and Fish and Lanny was happy to try his luck in catching a derby fish. We launched from Port Dalhousie and the lake had a nice ½ foot wave from the west. We ran to about 120 FOW off the ledge of the Niagara Bar and first stopped in front of 4 mile point and the screen revealed a great picture of baitfish and fish in the top 40 feet. Just to illuminate water we ran another couple miles to near the border to take a look there as well, but there wasn’t much to see so we ran back to 4 mile point and set up a six rod spread.

We were looking for derby fish and Lanny has a great amount of confidence running cutbait for bigger fish, our six rod spread started out with two cutbait rigs on each rigger, flasher fly on one diver, Lanny’s apex on the other diver and two leadcores (5 colour and 10 colour) with spoons. We had the toughest day ahead of us as we watched countless fish come in under the boat to the downrigger weights inspect our gear and then scurry off. We managed only 2 small coho to the boat on a 42nd Michigan Stinger on 5 colour leadcore.

The month of May had tough fishing at times as we adjusted to the "Ch-Ch-Ch Changes", but we had wonderful people to share the boat with and great conversations and laughs. Warmer temps are coming and that can only bring wonderful summer sunsets and more hard fighting Salmon and Trout.

Shane Thombs