Big Brown Trout In the Golden Crescent

Captain Bob Dick

Big Brown Trout In the Golden Crescent

Mention the term “Golden Crescent” and fishermen automatically think of the big brown trout. Although the browns are plentiful, it is not always easy to locate and catch these trophy fish. For those who like to plan ahead we will share a few of the tips that help put these bragging sized trout in the boat this spring.

Brown trout fishing on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, nationally known as the “Golden Crescent,” has been outstanding the past few years with many factors influencing a day’s fishing.  Stocking programs are working, there’s less cormorant predation, anglers have more knowledge about fishing clear water due to quagga and zebra mussels, and advanced technology in our electronics are all part of the success.

Anglers wonder about the setup. How do you locate these football browns with miles and miles of beach in April-May?  What lures and tackle do I use?  What’s the best method to put more fish in the box?  These are the most commonly asked questions.  Most captains agree on a few basic tips that make the difference in catching brown trout.

In early April the sun has started to heat the sand and warm the water close to shore from Stony Creek to Sandy Pond.  Discharges of warm water from Stony Creek, Sandy Creek, and South Sandy Creeks increase the temperature providing many warm water breaks.  Smelt and alewives start hugging the shorelines looking for these warm breaks, and brown trout follow to feast on their favorite food.   The warm water plumes from the tributaries are typically one of the best spots.  The edge of murky water can produce fast action on many days.

Temperature units are essential for chasing browns as you can sometimes have as much as a 10 degree change in water temperatures.  Planer boards, downriggers and flat lines all take fish, but planer boards generally are more productive in getting lines out away from the boat and boat noise. 

We have had outstanding success using masts and bases made by Great Lakes Planers.  These planer board accessories have many options for positioning and are nearly indestructible from being made with the highest quality material.  They also make accessory racks and rocket launchers that are easy to install and adjust to any height.

There are many fishing lines available to use on your reels but most captains have their favorite.  It can never be stressed enough how important it is to use 100% fluorocarbon leaders.  Fluorocarbon ensures near invisibility underwater with low stretch and near zero memory. 

Our favorite is P-Line with “UV-Guard” that blocks suns rays ensuring much longer life on the reels without losing valuable breaking strength and abrasion resistance.  We stick with 10 to 12 pound test leaders.  We run 15 pound test on our main lines with some of the captains’ favorites being Trilene, Big Game, Cortland and Stren.

Line counter reels really help in knowing that you’re putting out the same amount of line each time and how far the fish is away from the boat when hooked .  Diawa SG27 or 47LC are reasonably priced quality line counter reels that let you know right where your lure is for precision presentations.  We’ve used 7 ½ ft. Diawa Heartland graphite rods for many years for browns, and they have always been highly dependable.  Captains run 60 foot leads out to as much as 250 foot. leads off planer boards depending on boat traffic and clarity of water.  When using downriggers, many captains run about 80 – 100 feet behind the ball.  Flatlines can be run about the same.

  Most of your early spring fishing is done in 3-15 feet of water but moves to deeper water as winds and temperatures change.  Speeds are critical, especially on days when the browns are finicky.  Many experiment with speeds between 2.1 to 3.1 mph depending on lures being used.

Of course, one of the most asked questions in fishing is, “What are you using?”   Many fishermen have their favorite lures to use when fishing shallow water in the spring for lunker brown trout.  Our all around favorites are Michigan Stinger spoons.  These spoons have proven to be effective in a variety of speeds while being able to take abuse from constant action from a fishes’ jaws. 

Some of our favorites are Hud special (Houdini), Green Wiggler, Sunkist, Yellow Jacket, Emerald Shiner, Natural Born Killer, Orange Shankster, Alewife, Tuxedo, GBT Brown Trout, and Michael Jackson.  Brown trout love Michigan Stinger spoons, and they are also an excellent choice for king salmon, steelhead, walleye and northern pike. 

Our preference with body baits are old reliable Jr. Thundersticks, which have always produced.  Smithwicks, Yo-Zuri’s and Rapalas will also fill the box.  For the last 30 years your normal colors of blacks, orange and gold have been mainstays, but if you look at the wall of your favorite sport shop, it’s amazing how they come up with so many color schemes.  It’s easy to see why wives try to keep husbands out of these fun stores.

When browns start moving off shore to the 40-70 foot. depth of water, downriggers are the preferred weapon.  We’ve always been happy with Cannon downriggers and have never had reason to switch.  Some days lunker browns are sitting right on the bottom so it’s always best to stick the lures right in front of their face.  Again the importance of fluorocarbon leaders is immeasurable.  The best places when this transition happens are usually in front of Stony Point, Stony Creek, Rays and Sawyers Bay and “the Trench.”

Among the things to consider when fishing football browns is that early mornings can be hot and fishing can slow down as noon approaches.  If you are looking for “wall hangers,” sometimes less lines out are better and stay away from heavy traffic while running longer leads off planer boards and downriggers.

Most baitfish start heading towards structure and/or thermoclines as spring progresses; and of course, the brown trout are right behind.  Browns can be found in water temperatures between 48 and 65 degrees so it’s good to have a quality graph which can pinpoint exactly where they are. 

When it comes to electronics, there are plenty out there to choose from.  New boaters always ask what fish finders they should buy, and I always ask if they have a marine radio.  The first thing to purchase is a radio, one of the most important pieces of equipment needed. 

For the last 30 years we have had a variety of sonar, GPS and lorans on our boats, but Lowrance products have always been very dependable for us.  When buying sonar-GPS, I would suggest one with at least 480 x 480 pixel resolutions for superb target detail and exceptional chart definition.

Captains like to use fixed or sliding cheaters to get lures away from downrigger weights.  One of the most valuable pieces of equipment off the downriggers that help catch more fish is a “winger.”  These attach to the cable and will spread your pattern out to fish farther away from the boat.  Locally you can buy them at Great Lakes Planers and Henchen’s Marina in Henderson Harbor.

Browns have a great sense of smell, and some captains like to use scents.  Some that have produced are herring, anchovies and WD-40.  If fishing shallow water, you can add weight to get your spoons deeper.  Keel sinkers work fine or you can add split shot above your leader swivels, which are easy to add or remove any time. Deep diving body baits can also get your bait down to the active fish.

Cormorants and seagulls working an area is a definite sign of bait nearby.  Gulls alone are still a good sign as they might be working injured or dying bait.

We have put some small and basic tips together here, and hopefully they will help put a few extra browns in your boat.  Don’t be afraid to experiment as sun, clouds and wind affect areas you fish and the color of lures you are using.  The one thing we always try to remember when fishing  is “HAVE FUN!”  and take a kid fishing.  

Captain Bob Dick owns and operates Moby Dick Charters out of Henderson Harbor on eastern Lake Ontario.  Captain Bob specializes in sport fishing for trophy walleye, king salmon, lake trout, brown trout, northern pike, and smallmouth bass. He has lived and fished the eastern end of Lake Ontario and its tributaries his entire life and is a member of the New York State Outdoor Writers’ Association. Contact him at (315) 938-5871 or e-mail

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