Observations from the Water – 03/28/2021

by | Mar 28, 2021

Days on the Water: 3
Who we fished with: friends, clients
Where we fished:Lake Ontario
What we caught: lake trout
Tactics: spoons


Observations from the Water – this Past Week (22-28 Mar)

It was another great week! The weather was excellent…except for that crazy windstorm on Friday and the cold, wind, and rain that’s building up right now. Friday’s storm kicked up some huge waves on Lake Erie thereby churning it up and sending some much-needed color (mud) downstream. Unfortunately, that made the Niagara River unfishable yesterday and today. However, Lake Ontario stayed nice and blue.

The boat was in the shop Monday and Tuesday – I had some trolling equipment installed. After a practice run with my new toys on Wednesday, I was back on the water with clients on Thursday, and Saturday. I gotta send some love to Capt R.J. Brandt and Capt Matt Yablonski. These guys put me on the fast track to getting good enough to perform well with the new toys. I also have to give a shout out to Capt Michael Trifiletti for sharing the chaos with me during the learning process. It was a steep learning curve, but I got comfortable/confident enough to excel later in the week. If you’re reading this – thank you gentlemen! My clients are grateful as well.

As you’ll notice from the pictures below, it was the week of the lake trout for us. After a couple weeks grinding out small numbers of fish in the lower Niagara, I felt compelled to change up the program. Don’t get me wrong, I cherish the memories made with those clients that endured the struggle with me, but I eventually lost my patience with uncooperative fish and decided to do something a little different until that pattern changes.

Looking Forward (29-Mar – 4-Apr)

The forecast for this week is…grim. As I mentioned above – the Niagara River is pretty darn muddy right now and will take a couple days to clear. The wind and rain in today’s forecast isn’t going to help that. Add some huge waves on both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario for the next day or so and pretty much everything except for walking the tributaries and inland trout creeks is out until about Tuesday.

Beyond Tuesday it’s looking more like winter than spring until the weekend. It’s going to be a day to day call about getting on the water. However, when this little bit of chaos stabilizes, I’m betting the fishing is going to be excellent.

If you’ve read any of our recent Observations from the Water, you noticed that the fishing in the Lower Niagara has been slow lately. There are many reasons for this – low water, wild clarity (I’ve seen rocks and structure on the bottom I only new existed due to my sonar), bluebird skies, spawning activity, etc. In short – Mother Nature stacked the odds against you if your goal was to catch big numbers of fish. All this “transition weather” will rectify that. I’m betting by the time everything calms down and the river clears, the fishing is going to be excellent. If you haven’t booked a trip yet – now is the time!

A Case for Trolling

Background/Scene Setter

To most of our readers, what follows may come as a surprise. At minimum, it’ll seem strange that I’m taking the time to explain. At best, it’s a glimpse into the various cultures of the angling community and may help the reader better understand what he/she would like to do when considering booking a trip. I’m aiming for the latter – here it goes.

There are a considerable number of anglers that don’t want to/aren’t willing to troll. The reasons are many but they all center around the idea that holding a rod and feeling the strike when the fish eats is incredibly stimulating. When you troll, rods are in rod holders and some sort of gear to gets the bait into the strike zone (divers, downriggers, planer boards, bottom bouncers, snap weights, etc.) thereby denying the angler the opportunity to get that feeling. For years, I was in the anti-trolling camp for this reason, so I empathize with folks that hold this position.

What It’s All About

Things change. As a captain (or a recreational angler with your own boat), trolling is incredibly stimulating and is a lot of work. In effect, the captain and his/her boat are setting all the conditions and the clients are reaping the benefit of hauling in the fish. Here’s a short list of the conditions set by trolling:

– You’re always moving/constantly covering water, which helps you identify patterns and keep yourself in the action.
– Rods are in rod holders and you can have many rod holders on your boat. Regulations are different from state to state but in short – you can fish with more rods than there are anglers on the boat. The benefit here is that you can fish multiple baits and parts of the water column.
– By covering water, presenting numerous baits, and being able to fish multiple parts of the water column, you increase the likelihood of catching.

From the perspective of a client that’s interested in booking a fishing trip where trolling will be the program for the day – you don’t have to put in a lot of work (well – other than in hauling in monsters). Many people who book fishing trips simply want to spend quality time on the water with friends and family. The priority may be that you want to hang out/bond, maybe have a couple drinks, and allow the stimulation to be brought to your attention (i.e. a rod starts pulsing like crazy in the rod holder indicating that a fish is on the end of the line) instead of owning the responsibility of finding it yourself.

Another benefit of trolling is that it’s something kids can take part in with ease. For example – a lot of the fishing we do in the lower Niagara River (late fall through early spring – so half of the year’s worth of angling opportunities) requires a level of skill/coordination beyond the capabilities of anglers younger than around 14 years old. Trolling negates that concern. The number one thing I hear from parents is a concern that their kids will get bored/won’t stay engaged. Allow me to mitigate that concern here:

– There’s enough technology and equipment involved to keep them asking questions and we love answering all of them – often, kids ask questions their parents didn’t think of but are relevant and interesting. If learning occurs, it’s a win.
– The action is consistent enough to keep them engaged all day
– Here in the Buffalo Niagara Region, chances are they’ll reel in the biggest fish they’ve ever seen creating a memory that’ll last a lifetime.

In short – if you want a great way to introduce your kids to angling, trolling is a great option.

The Importance of a Diverse Portfolio

I could keep spelling out the pros of trolling but I’m betting I’ve lost many readers by this point so let me wrap this up. If what you want to do is catch a ton of fish in the most efficient way possible, trolling is the best choice. If you’re a client – trolling is relaxing, it affords you the time and space to engage with your friends and family, and it’s a wonderful way to get kids involved throughout the year. If you want the pride of accomplishment and stimulation that comes with casting, presenting, feeling the eat, setting the hook, and reeling in/fighting a fish, trolling isn’t for you. In short – to each their own – I understand both positions and can accommodate both.

There are windows throughout the year where rod-in-hand angling is tough – we’re coming out of one now and there is another one in late July through the end of August. Those windows are tough for folks that prefer that kind of angling because the fish are often deep and spread out, making them hard to reach/stay in contact with using rod-in-hand techniques. However, if you’re down to troll – those windows can be the most productive of the year as trolling allows the anglers to get deep quickly and cover a ton of water with ease.

As a captain, my job is to educate, entertain, and ultimately provide the client what he/she wants but often times, perspective clients don’t really know what they want – they are simply intrigued by the opportunity to connect with nature. Hopefully, this little explanation gave some clarity. Trolling isn’t my preference – rod in hand angling is what I love – but if the rod in hand game isn’t producing, trolling is an appealing choice (my opinion – I get it) if you’re in search of action. That’s why keeping a diverse portfolio of angling options is important to me – I want to be able to share this fishery with as many people as possible so they can understand what an incredible resource we have.

Stay healthy my friends – mentally and physically,