Commentary

Chinooks are crowned kings of the fighting fish by UT student

8/30/2013
BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR
Adam Hartman caught this 28-pound, 42-inch king salmon on a recent trip to Point Breeze, N.Y.
Adam Hartman caught this 28-pound, 42-inch king salmon on a recent trip to Point Breeze, N.Y.

In Adam Hartman’s mind, after engaging in an extended arm wrestling match with a muscular and stubborn chinook salmon, everything else is just fishing.

“There is nothing like it. It’s all fight, all of the way. These things are unbelievable,” said the Whitmer grad and UT senior.

Hartman has just returned from three days of intense combat with these powerful chinooks or king salmon, off Point Breeze, New York. Each time you drop a line in the water there, you had better be ready for the battle of Lake Ontario.

Matt Markey.
Matt Markey.

“When you tie into one of these fish, they make these amazing fast runs, shake their heads, and just show you how strong they are,” Hartman said. “It’s nothing like trolling for walleye or anything else. Their fight is unreal. When a king is on the other end of the line, it’s a serious rush.”

Hartman, his father Tom, and uncle Ray Isackila from Ravenna, trailered Ray’s boat on the seven-and-a-half hour drive to where Oak Orchard Creek dumps into Lake Ontario, about 40 miles northwest of Rochester.

They purchased seven-day, non-resident fishing licenses for $35, got the latest information on the best fishing locations and tactics at the local bait shop, and then intended to use the public boat launch near the river mouth to get the show started.

But Lake Ontario was serving up five-footers when they arrived, so the fishing had to wait. The next day things settled down, with a temperature of about 75 degrees and sunny skies, and the waves dropped to a foot or less. And yes, the action cranked up with the kings.

Hartman said the trio, who were making a fifth annual pilgrimage to the salmon waters of the smallest Great Lake, fished about four hours in the mornings and another four hours in the late afternoon/evenings. The mornings produced the best action.

They fished about five miles out, where they found the thermocline at about 70 feet deep. Ontario, like many lakes, stratifies in the summer, creating a warmer upper layer called the epilimnion, which sits on top of the thermocline. The thermocline is a narrow band of water with a zone of rapidly decreasing temperature. Below this band is the hypolimnion, where the temperature is very cold and the oxygen content minimal.

The group trolled in a zigzag motion, pulling down-riggers with spoons and Dipsy Divers with Spin Doctor flashers and flies about 200 feet back, said Hartman, a biology major at UT. They found a speed between 2.0 and 2.4 miles per hour to be ideal, and put their baits at between 50 and 70 feet deep. They fished with 20-pound test Fireline and monofilament on the downriggers, and used 40-pound test wire line on the divers.

“We found the fish and a lot of times we’d pick one up when the boat was making a swing,” Hartman said. “There were some slow spells, and we had some fish get off, but there was plenty of action.”

They caught enough fish, landing mostly the rambunctious kings with a few steelhead mixed in. The daily possession limit is three kings, steelhead, coho or brown trout, in any combination.

The trio brought about two dozen fish home, with the gorilla of the group being a 42-inch chinook that Hartman tangled with that weighed 28 pounds.

When Hartman hooked up with the big king, he estimates it immediately peeled off about 200 feet of line with the first of several fierce runs. When the reel finally stopped singing and the fish was in the boat, Hartman’s arms were screaming back at him after the intense 15-minute skirmish.

“That’s the way it was with all of them, even the smaller kings. They just fought like crazy,” he said. “These are the hardest fighting fish I’ve ever seen.”

King or chinook salmon are the largest of the Pacific salmon, and fish in excess of 100 pounds have been caught in the Pacific Ocean. New York’s record king is a 47-pounder caught in 1991 Ontario. These fish are not native to the Great Lakes but were stocked as far back as the late 1800s.

New York continues to stock kings in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and with these salmon feeding on alewife, cisco, and rainbow smelt, a brisk sport fishery has been created. Very little natural reproduction is believed to be taking place, so the fishery is supported through hatchery stockings.

BOATERS ALERT: The U.S. Coast Guard has issued its guidelines for boaters who plan on viewing Monday’s reenactment of The Battle of Lake Erie from the water. Boaters should not approach within 500 yards of any of the tall ships or support vessels. At all other times, boaters should stay a distance of at least 100 yards away from any tall ship, whether it is underway, at anchor, or moored. Boaters are reminded to not stop or anchor in any navigation channel, and to report any suspicious activity to the Coast Guard or local authorities. Questions related to the safety zone around the tall ships should be directed to the Toledo unit at (419) 418-6028, or the Coast Guard via marine radio on VHF Channel 16.

BASS PRO EVENT: Bass Pro Shops in Rossford is hosting a “Hometown Festival” on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a variety of outdoor activities for kids from noon to 5 p.m., including a BB gun range, duck pond, metal detector treasure hunt, casting area, face painting and crafts. There will be grilled hotdogs served from 1-4 p.m. and homemade ice cream served from 4-5 p.m. On Saturday only there will be adult cooking seminars from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on outdoor grilling, smoking and curing meats, and Dutch oven cooking. More information is available by calling the store at 419-891-3900.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.