Lake Ontario Browns Pinned To The Shore

By Chris Shaffer | 05/11/2014

Even though I’ve traveled more than 250 days a year since working for Pautzke for the last decade, I’m technically born and raised a Californian. Here on the West Coast, catching large numbers of quality brown trout is often a chore. Sure, there’s fisheries that offer trophy browns and stable populations of them, but for example, when I go fishing in the spring or fall with Mike Nielsen of Tahoe Topliners and we target browns, catching three is a damn good day. Landing one over 10 is a fish of a lifetime.

Ironically, a day like that on the southern shore of Lake Ontario would be a bust. Pautzke pros Kevin Davis and Andy Bliss would have felt like someone kicked them in the jimmy if that’s all they caught on a spring brown trout charter. They’d probably call me a skunk and not invite me back. These guys are spoiled.


Having been in Toronto last week, I had another fishing trip cancelled in Tim Horton country and rather than wasting a valuable day in the region, I called Davis and asked if he could cram a few hours into filming an episode of Pautzke Outdoors. Fortunately, he had a cancellation, and with the weather favorable he gave me the nod to make the five-hour drive from Toronto to Oswego where the boat he runs was docked.

In the spring, for roughly two months, this section of Lake Ontario is a brown trout factory. There are days when we catch and release dozens of browns in three hours. Of course, it depends on water conditions, but a seasoned veteran like Davis knows where to go in all conditions. The day prior Lake Ontario saw huge swells created by nasty winds and while they were coming from the direction that brings browns to the shore to feed, the wave energy stirred up so much mud that the areas we first cruised to were too muddy to troll.


Not surprising, Davis and Bliss, who came after a steelhead trip (in May, yes) on the Salmon River, weren’t nervous. They altered course, dropped lines and within minutes we had fish on. After landing a dozen fish in an hour, Davis wasn’t thrilled. They weren’t large enough for his liking. Keep in mind, we had caught a big walleye, Coho, lake trout, steelhead and nearly a dozen browns to five pounds already.

“This sucks,” he told me.

I was like, “What the…”

If this was bad, what’s good? Where else on the planet can you go and catch this many species, in an hour, on a scout trip, three hours before sunset, having run less than one-mile from the concrete? Not very many places. Sure, there’s areas of Lake Michigan where salmon fishing can be epic during certain times of year, but nowhere that this many species attack hooks. I’ve been to Alaska more than a dozen times and the fishing isn’t this good. Too bad there weren’t whales on Lake Ontario! I’d never go to Alaska again for big water trolling.


What surprised me the most was the simplicity of the fishery. Back home, Nielsen trolled Krocodiles, Storms, Rapalas, Coyotes, Shad Wraps and about a dozen other lures just to figure out what they were biting. Davis and Bliss dragged Michigan Stinger spoons, which we coated in Pautzke Liquid Krill, and we rarely felt compelled to change them.

“Die Hard, again,” said Bliss, referring to the pattern on the spoon. “Hey Kev, you have anymore of those?”


With Bliss heading back to the Salmon in the morning, our two-hour scout trip was a success, but Davis wasn’t happy. We didn’t catch enough big fish on video for his liking. Yes, you read correct, we only fished two hours and had roughly two dozen fish aboard (all released, but the walleye, who was destined for the grill). I’m not a morning person, Davis told me to be back at first light. We needed larger fish, he said.

Davis and I, and his world-famous violin playing buddy Dave, pushed off and in another few short hours put the hammer on them again trolling Liquid Krill covered Michigan Stinger spoons in straight lines. We caught a 13-pound brown, more rainbows, steelhead and enough 10-pound lake trout for a lifetime.


To me, it was an epic outing and destined to be a great episode of Pautzke TV. To Davis, is was just another day; a few dozen browns, bunches of lakers, some steelhead and rainbows, all within a few blocks of home. Rough, huh?


Editor’s Note: Kevin Davis operates Catch The Drift in Oswego, NY, roughly a 30-minute drive north of the famous Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Oswego has both Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons. Get the maple bagel at Hortons; light on the cream cheese and a large steam tea with five sugars and you’ll have enough energy to reel in Davis’ fish.