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Get your hooks into trout, salmon

Sushi anyone?

That was the menu during a Lake Ontario trout and salmon fishing charter out of Newfane Marina in Olcott Harbor on Father's Day morning. And the buffet brought many a hungry salmonid to hook, net and a legal limit to the fillet knife.

For about five years, Capt. Mark Vilardo and I had tried to get out on a fishing trip on one of his chartering ventures on Lake Ontario or the Niagara River.

Finally, after many a holdup, slow-up, computer crashing and the usual gusts of ill winds, we made plans to fish the June run of trout and salmon early Sunday morning.

"For years June had been my dead month," Vilardo said of the Ontario trout and salmon fishery. He did a stint as a tackle-store operator in Wilson Harbor but closed shop for lack of trade during down times such as June salmonid runs.

Not now. In recent years, both steelhead trout and king (Chinook) salmon have held close to shore, within 3 miles of most ports rather than 10-15 miles off shore.

Today, anglers can book highly productive charters with licensed outfitters from late May to well into late summer. Trollers out of the Wilson Harbor to Oak Orchard Point area see remarkable numbers and sizes of trout and salmon.

That's what Lancaster physician Dr. Albert Addesa Jr. and I did last Sunday for a release rate (number of fish that set off downrig and side planer release) somewhere close to 50 fish.

The Solar-Lunar Table reading called for a peak period at and after we departed shore at 6 a.m. "This overcast sky might make things even better," Vilardo said as he left port, pushed throttles up, and headed slightly eastward to an area less than 2 miles from shore that had been fruitful in recent days.

First Mate Josh Kane of Hamburg had rigs tied and ready to hit the water, but he also kept a fillet knife and bag of processed alewives/sawbellies at the ready. Instead of using a whole baitfish, Kane deftly removed fillets from each side of the bait and hooked one on each of a series of Sushi Flies run behind a Spin Doctor. The Spin Doctor, a fish-shaped attractant, wobbles and weaves in front of the fly and really gets the hits.

Walter Thompson of GLT Supplies in Elma designed this Mylar-stringed fly pattern with hook placement for a short strip of cut bait.

Dr. Al had no difficulty using this Spin Doctor and Sushi Fly rig, reeling in many a salmonid sampling. One 20-pound-plus king took about 20 minutes to get to the net.

Kane, at the relatively early age of 27 for charter rigging, possesses the skill of a Roy Larson, a veteran captain often working with Capt. John DeLorenzo. Kane often had to hand rods to Dr. Al and me as he set a rig depth and was about to place the rod in a holder.

Vilardo pointed out the wide band of salmon cruising from bottom to within 50 feet of the surface. Often, these kings went down to depths close to 300 feet, but the active feeders swam in the top 100 feet.

Even closer to the surface, Ontario's abundant bait schools attracted steelhead trout (steelies) that would hit a bait set 50-80 feet down and get to the surface for a jump faster than a smallmouth bass.

Hard fighters, the steelies would often kill themselves despite the best handling for a release. The ones showing blood and exhaustion went in the box with the 10- to 20-pound salmon we kept for the grilling and baking.

Other boaters saw similar action that morning. Vilardo called friends cruising nearby in waters off the power plant east of Olcott and got good catch reports from all. Less than 30 boats fished this area on Father's Day, but passing boaters often had a landing net cocked and ready for a retrieve.

Even with increased sunlight -- the cloud cover moved off by 9 a.m. -- the biting continued. Kane set and reset lines that resulted in a 12-fish limit well before noon. And that count included another 20-plus fish carefully unhooked and released.

Trolling spoons normally take over as the top trout and salmon sticker in late spring and early summer, but this new Sushi fly (gltsupplies.com) has extended the use of Spin Doctors off both down rigs and side planning devices (Dipsy Divers).

"With all the bait and these fish so close to shore, we could see record fish later this summer and fall Lake Ontario Derbies," Vilardo said as we weighed in a couple of big ones at the Newfane Marina cleaning station. Others were doing the same.

Vilardo books his Kingfisher Lake Ontario Salmon Charters throughout the summer season. For updates and outings, check with him at 751-3474 or see Lake OntarioSalmon.com.

e-mail: odrswill@gmail.com

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