Lake Ontario offers area anglers easily accessible salmonid fisheries, ones that could only be topped in North America with a trip to the Columbia River or waters in Alaska.
Capt. Jerry Snyder, known lakewide as simply “Capt. Jerry,” has spent a lifetime on Lake Ontario waters starting as a pre-teen mate to a chartering dad out of ports at Pultneyville and Sodus Bay. For nearly 10 years, Snyder has chartered out of the Sodus area all season and out of Wilson Harbor during the spring king salmon run.
He has presented seminars each day during the outdoors Expo in Hamburg and is on stage at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. today. His techniques for finding and hooking up with sizeable salmon and trout are adapted to the changing conditions of the Lake Ontario fishery.
“Water clarity has pushed fish out deeper and this fishery is basically a matter of speed and temperatures,” he said of finding the big sizes and nice numbers of salmon and trout.
Fishing from ice-out conditions in the spring until late-fall runs for near-shore Chinooks, Snyder has put together a trolling program based on consistency.
“All my rods and reels are matched so that clients have the same rig in hand when fighting a fish,” he said of drag settings, line layouts and terminal tackle items.
His first seminar audience, small in numbers but diverse in their interests, asked questions and offered insights on trolling for fish in both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
On both Great Lakes zebra and quagga mussel, filtration has increased clarity and forced fishermen to fine tune techniques, especially when trolling. Open waters of Ontario and Erie offer trollers greater advantages for hooking into trophy fish, but much of the quest involves digging deeper and running rigs at distances farther down and away from the boat.
“In general, the farther out you go, the shallower you have to set rigs,” Snyder said of the early spring king salmon run. His Wilson Harbor outings begin with a hunt for 41- to 47-degree water, which can be moved up and down the water column by winds and currents.
To set his rigs he uses 19-strand Torpedo wire line. “Unlike mono or 7-strand wire, 19-strand will not break at a kink and you can tie knots in it to add rigs,” he said of a line that can be fixed with a neat Torpedo Deep Sea Diver. This side-plainer diving device can then be affixed with a diver weight that has a tail fin that can be set to the right or left to help the plainer travel farther to the side away from the boat. This combination takes less line to reach trolling levels as deep as 400 feet.
The trick to avoiding tangles with this and all down- and side-plaining devices is to let lines out slowly.
The trick to increasing the catch is to set up these trolling rigs to present a cluster illusion. Snyder uses short leaders on all rigs to keep them close to each other; these short leader also make it easier to spot “shakers,” smaller fish that hit the lure but do not trip a release.
“Bait schools in Lake Ontario are like saltwater bait,” he said of his terminal tackle set to simulate a tight school of baitfish. “Trollers use a V pattern,” vertical or inverted, “to lay out their lines, but the key is to give an illusion of a bait cluster to draw in fish as the rig set passes,” he said, adding that often the first hits come on outside lines.
Attendees raised the question of hook points on spoons. Snyder said, “You get a better hookup rate on spoons with single hooks, but buyer demand is for treble hooks.” Both the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie trollers liked the ease of hook removal with a single-hook spoon.
Snyder used his matched-set approach from the early-spring shoreline troll for brown trout to the last run of salmon in the fall. He books trips out of ports at Sodus Bay and Wilson Harbor at times of the year that offer the best catching peaks.
If you cannot make it to his talks today at the Expo in Hamburg, check out his charter options at (585) 261-4929 or go to dandyeyes.com.
Next week, look for a detailed column on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s State of Lake Ontario fishery meeting that will be held at Cornell Cooperative on Thursday evening.