To have A Great Fishing Trip Be Sure You Ask The Right Questions

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Let me introduce myself, I am Captain Bill Van Wormer, I have been guiding fisherman on Lake Ontario since 1987 and over the years I have heard many stories about clients who booked fishing trips that didn’t live up to their expectations. I am going to share with you what you need to ask before you book your trip.

If you have any questions or you want to reserve a date to go fishing with me send me a email or give me a call at (315)402-9556


Lucky Dutchman II's Captain Bill

Captain Bill of Lucky Dutchman Charters

1. Is the Captained licensed by the US Cost Guard? How long has he had his license and how much experience do he have fishing on their chosen body of water both professionally and before they started chartering. Does he fish full time or only on weekends. Before you book you need to be comfortable with your captain and crew. There are a lot of good young captains that haven’t been a captain for very long but they have been fishing for most of their lives. To be a good captain they have to be a people person and they also need to have a love of fishing. If you like the answers that you received about the captain’s competency then the next thing you need to know about is the boat.

2. Ask about the boat. What size is the boat? Does it have an enclosed head (rest room). Does the boat have liability insurance and does it have the required safety equipment to be in Coast Guard compliance? You also should ask if it has all the necessary electronic equipment to catch fish such as Fish Finders, Speed indicators, Global Positioning System. If you only have a couple of people in your party then a 22 to 24 foot long boat should accommodate your party, but if you have a larger party then you might want to look for a boat that is more in the 26 to 30 foot long range.
3. How long will the trip last? Some captains sell their trips by the number of hours such as 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours or more and some captains sell full or half day trips with a full day usually being 8 hours and a half day being 5 to 6 hours. Some trips are from dock to dock and some are fishing hours. You need to know which it is, dock to dock or fishing hours before you book your trip.
4. What about catch and release? Some captains will do catch and release and with some captains it is your limit of fish or your hours which ever comes first. It is nice to know what the policy is before you land your limit in the first few hours on a eight or nine hour trip will you have to quit, or will you get to catch and release, or can you fish for something else till your time runs out.
5. How many people can go on the fishing trip? Most all of the charter fishing captains on the great lakes have what is know as a six pack license and with that license we can carry six passengers for hire. It doesn’t matter if you are fishing or just along for the ride we are limited to six passengers on the boat. Usually most fishing charters are priced from one to four anglers and most captains charge extra for any additional passengers over four. But their are captains that don’t charge for the extra people, ask what the policy is.
6. Can I bring along my favorite rod and reel to fish with? Generally the charter boat provides all of the rods reels and tackle you need to catch fish and usually because of the high demands that trolling on the great lakes places on tackle it is better to use the tackle the captain provides.
7. Are children welcome on the tip? Some Captains are family friendly and some are not, so be sure to ask first. In New York all children under the age of twelve must wear a life jacket whenever they are on the open deck. If you have children under the age of twelve it is best to bring your own children life jackets. Because the commercial off shore life jackets that the Coast Guard requires that charter boats carry are not very comfortable.
8. Do you need a New York State fishing license? All anglers over the age of sixteen must have a New York state license. Licenses they can be purchased at Walmart stores, most sporting good stores, on line at or by phone at 1(866)933-2257
9. Ask if there is a mate on board? and if you will be involved in the fishing or will you just crank the fish in after it’s hooked. When there is a mate he or the captain steers the boat and the other one usually does the rigging. But it is always more fun if you are allowed to help out when you can.
10. What should we bring with us? You should have a New York state license, clothes that match the weather, rain gear, a hat, sunblock, sunglasses, water, and lunch. All beverages should be in cans as glass bottles can be a hazard on a boat.

Planning for the 2017 Season

This year (2017) we plan on launching the Lucky Dutchman II as close to April 15 as we can, but when we launch the boat is dependent upon the ice conditions. For us to have a good early season we need to have normal weather during the winter. If the ice goes out in late March to early April like it should then the rivers and streams flowing into Lake Ontario will push nutrient rich water into the lake. All of this nutrient rich water will attract the baitfish which in turn attract the trout and salmon into the shallower water along the shore line. Because our prevailing winds are from the west this west wind pushes the warmer surface water into the east end of the lake and warms the east end very fast. In the spring when most of the lake is cold the fish are looking for the warmest water they can find.
We start our spring off by fishing the first couple of weeks almost exclusively for Brown trout. We target the near shore water with planner boards and shallow set down riggers using spoons and plugs.But if we limit out on browns or the browns aren’t biting good we have Lake trout as a back up. Lake trout are a bonus fish for the eastern end. The normal way to for us to catch lake trout in the spring is to fish the bottom anywhere from 100 to 150 feet of water. Fishing for Spring lake trout is usually very good and some of the lake trout are also very big. Besides lake trout and brown trout we also catch the occasional salmon or Rainbow in the spring.

lake trout caught 4/18/16

4/18/16 Berry trip a couple of nice Lakers for the girls

brown trout and lake trout caught on Lucky Dutchman II

Brown trout and Lake trout caught 4/20/16

As the spring progresses the water will warm and the cold water will be pushed off shore and eventually sink forming the thermocline. When this will happen varies from year to year but usually it will occur from early to mid summer. When the thermocline sets up it makes it easier to target the different species of trout and salmon as each species has it’s own water temperature preference. In the spring we look for the warmest water available but in the summer we look for the cold water. We find brown trout and Rainbows/steelhead higher in the water column and further down in the colder water we find Salmon and lake trout.
Usually in June, July, and most of August we are fishing deep with down riggers, dipsey divers, and wire lines trying to find active fish. I like the summer fishing as the weather is usually mild and we can catch a mixed bag of fish. Summer fishing is a good time to introduce trolling to youngsters, ladies and novice fisherman.
By the middle of August we usually start the mornings off looking for Chinook Salmon and if they are biting we will fish for them, but after a couple of hours of trying to catch kings (chinooks) if they are not biting we will change our tactics and fish for something else.

Lake Ontario Summer Salmon

Nice summer salmon caught 7/19/16

In September we are fishing for mature chinooks (kings) salmon as these salmon are nearing the end of their life cycle. Before they die they will enter the streams and rivers where they were spawned or stocked and they will try to spawn. This spawning urge will bring them out of the deep cold water and into warmer water as they try to find the river or stream they came from. This is what we call Salmon Season, although we catch lots of salmon earlier in the year the fall salmon season is when it gets intense. Fall kings are big, mean, and looking for a fight and thats about as good as it gets.

Lake Ontario Summer Salmon

Nice summer salmon caught 7/19/16



Lake Ontario Ice Conditions

ice Oswego, Harbor 2/28/15

Lately I have seen a lot of posts online about how much of the Great Lakes are ice covered. I have seen some reports claiming the the lakes are as much as 85% covered in ice. Saturday February 28th was a cold but sunny day so Barb and I decided to check for ourselves how much ice is on our end of lake Ontario.

The first place that we stopped was the Mexico point boat launch where we took a couple of pictures and as far as we could see out on Mexico Bay there was solid ice.

Taken from the cemetery bluff looking east at 4 mile point from Cemetery bluff Oswego Harbor

We then drove to Oswego where we went to the bluff at Saint Paul’s Cemetery and from our vantage point there we couldn’t see any open water either. To finish our fact finding trip we went to the West side of Oswego overlooking wright’s Marina and the Oswego Harbor from there I think I saw a little open water in front of the lighthouse but I’m not 100% sure of that.

The river is ice covered from the bridge street bridge all the way to the light house and from Wrights landing marina to the Maritime Museum the ice looked thick enough to fish on. There must be some open water out in the Lake somewhere because we are still getting lake effect snow and if the lake was frozen over we wouldn’t be getting any of that. This winter is one for the record books and I’m hopping that it will pass sooner rather than later because I’m chomping at the bit to get the boat in the water and catch some brown trout. To book a spring brown trout trip give me a call at 1(800)368-4467 or for more information on booking a trip with me go to my website at

Small Boat Fishing on Lake Ontario

brown trout caught on small boat
Bob Lockwood with brown trout

Bob lockwood with a brown trout

Nick Lockwood with a spring brown trout

Nick Lockwood fishing lake Ontario with his dad

Nick lockwood fishing with his dad in their own boat

Last week Bob Lockwood and his son Nick from Thomson, CT brought their own boat and stayed at our place Feeder Creek Lodge from the seventh of May through the ninth. It was their first time fishing here so I tried to explain to Bob what to use and where to go so he and his boy could catch a few browns. Bob is a good angler and all he needed was for me to point him in the right direction. I am not sure of the number of fish that they caught but I did see a couple of nice chunky browns that they were taking home with them.

Oneida Lake Walleye Fishing

Onedia lake walleyes

Report for May 18 through 20th. On monday May 18th John Angerosa invited me to fish Oneida lake for walleyes with him. Monday morning the was a frost warning so we decided to leave the dock a little later than usual. I met John at Marion Manor at 6:30 and we launched his boat and started our first drift in 20+ feet of water in front of Oneida creek. We made 3 or 4 drifts and only fished till 9:30. We boated a dozen walleyes and kept six nice fat walleyes to eat and released the rest.

Our first lake trip for this week was on Wednesday the 20th I fished with Mike Hudock and Henry Mostek a couple of nice guys from Hellertown, PA. We started our day fishing for Brown trout and later in the day we switched over and fished the deeper water for salmon or rainbows. The best I could do for Mike and Henry were a couple of brown trout. Try as hard as we could, we could not find any salmon or rainbows in the deeper water.

Oswego County Tourism

Oswego County Tourism workers

Thursday the 21st of May I took three young ladies from the Oswego County Tourism office fishing they were Jessica Trump, Jessica’s sister Alycia Trump, and Mary Ellen Barbeau. Jessica writes a blog for the county and I wanted to show these ladies a good time and to also provide Jessica with some material for her blog. It seems like anytime I take someone out fishing and I want to show off I am doomed. We got a later than normal start and as luck would have it about the time, we were setting up, the brown trout were shutting down. All three of the girls managed to catch a fish but two of the fish were under 21 inch rainbows that we released and one small brown that was legal. I am hoping that I will be able to get the girls out again so I can redeem myself. Check out Jessica’s blog at

Full Moon

fall salmon

One other thing about this past weekend was that the moon was full and I don’t really like a full moon when I am fishing. It seems to me that I have more slow days a couple of days each side of the full moon than I do when the moon is not full.

I usually fillet the fish for my anglers and when I am cleaning fish I quite often check their stomach contents to see what they are feeding on and how much they are feeding. When I am doing this if the stomachs are empty someone usually says boy they must be hungry and I think that is totally opposite from what is really going on. Empty stomachs means to me that the fish are not feeding and the only reason we caught them was because we got our lures right in the fishes face. What I like to see when I am cleaning fish are stomachs stuffed right full, that tells me the bite is on and the fish are actively searching for food.  Of all the fish I cleaned this weekend only one of them had anything in their stomachs and that was one almost totally digested bait fish. I feel extremely fortunate that we did as well as we did this past weekend with the full moon.


What a Way to Start a New Season

Our first group of fisherman arrived at Feeder Creek Lodge on the 15th of April and they fished for steelhead on the Salmon river Thursday and Friday. These guys were also my first charter trip of the year. On Friday a cold front blew through and saturday morning the wind was still blowing from the W/NW around 25 miles per hour. With the wind blowing so hard we couldnt fish outside of the protection of the harbor so we were forced to fish on inside. We made a few passes but the cold front the night before had slowed the fishing down. We managed to boat one brown and had a couple of others on but not for long. About ten in the morning my crew and I noticed a couple of people walking on the outer break wall toward the light house and big waves breaking over the wall every few minutes. We were astonished that anybody would try to walk on that wall in that kind of weather so I called the coast guard on the radio and gave them a heads up on what was going on. A few minutes later a wave took both people off the wall and into the water. I called the coast guard again and let them know what had happened then I tried to get to the people to get them out of the forty nine degree water. Luckily they managed to get back on the wall and a few minutes later the coast guard got there. While we were trying to render aid everything we were fishing with got tangled up and one of my planner boards was cut off and was drifting around the Harbor. It took quite a few minutes to retrieve my planner board so after we did that we decided to call it a day.
The next day Sunday wasnt much better weather wise than it was the day before, but the cold front had passed and the wind was a little less than Saturday. I had just two anglers Art and Joe. Art is a long time customer he has stayed at the lodge and fished with me numerous times. Last year he had some serious health issues so this was his first time fishing with me in a long time. We waited for it to warm up a little so we didnt leave the dock till seven AM. Like the day before we didnt want to leave the harbor because it was so rough on the lake. We decided to at least try to fish in the harbor and see if we could catch a few fish. We ran six rods, four rods on planner boards with smithwick plugs and two downriggers set shallow with Michigan stinger spoons. Long story short we boated around fifteen fish and we kept a limit for Art and Joe and released the rest. The fish we released were nice chunky healthy fish and I hope that they survived the handling and they live to fight another day. On the east side of the harbor we were catching mostly browns and on the west side we caught mostly rainbow / steelheads.
Altho we didnt catch a lot of fish on Saturday it was a good thing for those people that we had decided to at least try and fish.

2010, A Very Challenging Year

Over the years I have always said that the most important factor influencing fishing is the weather and in the 2010 season the weather had a huge affect on the fishing in Lake Ontario. The weather started to influence our fishing in the winter of 2009 / 2010 which was extremely mild in upstate New York. Last winter there was less than normal snowfall and warmer than normal temperatures and ice out occurred in early March. Most years when we launch the boats and start fishing, the rivers and creeks flowing into the lake are full of runoff from the snow melting and the spring rains, but the spring of 2010 was an exception. With no runoff and little rain the usually fantastic early spring brown trout fishing was mediocre at best. The browns would move into the near shore water but because there was no runoff there was nothing to hold them in the shallow water, so they would move back out into the lake and we would have to hunt for them. This made every day in the early spring a challenge. Because the brown trout didn’t want to cooperate we had to figure something else out to do, so we reached into our bag of tricks and pulled out the old cowbells and went lake trout fishing. The lakers we caught weren’t as big as they used to be in the old days, but it was better than not catching.

June fishing was better than usual

In April and May the rainfall was way below average and this didn’t change until June, when it went from unusually dry to unusually wet which improved the fishing. From Oswego we were catching a mixed bag of fish, some browns, a few steelhead / rainbows, and a few salmon. During June we were fishing anywhere from ten feet of water for browns, out to a couple of hundred feet of water for salmon and steelhead and on the days we fished we were boxing from eight to ten fish.

Late Summer Early Fall

As the summer progressed the temperatures started to climb and the west winds started to blow. We had many days in late summer where we couldn’t fish because of the high waves. Not only did these winds cause big waves they also blew the warm surface waters to the east end of the Lake and this pushed the thermocline very deep. I remember some days after a blow where we would have 72 degrees on the surface and 120 feet down on a downrigger we would still have 72 degrees. The high winds and the warm temperatures again made it very challenging to catch fish, but by fishing 135 to 140 feet down we still managed to catch fish.

Fall Salmon Season

Usually in August we fish for salmon and we don’t target other species, but last year with all the warm water and with the constant west winds we had to change our strategy. Early in the month we fished for brown trout instead of king salmon. These browns were some of the biggest we caught all season weighing in anywhere from 5 pounds up to 10 or 12 pounds with the occasional fish in the teens. In September the browns being a fall spawner quit biting. Usually this isn’t a problem because we are fishing for salmon, but this year the unrelenting west wind kept the salmon offshore and very deep where we couldn’t find them. Not only was the wind against us but 3 years ago there was a drought in upstate New York. That year the water in the Salmon River got so low that the fish couldn’t make it up the river and the hatchery couldn’t collect all the salmon eggs they wanted. Because of the low water there was also no wild reproduction from the river. These factors all contributed to the tough salmon fishing in 2010. In October the weather made the river fishing challenging with heavy rains which put the river at flood stage. During this high water we had some guys from Virginia staying with us at the lodge and in 7 days those 6 guys landed 380 fish between them. They proved that if you don’t give up and if you adapt to the conditions you can have a good time in spite of poor conditions.
In the 23 years that I’ve been chartering I have seen some tough times but things have always turned around and I’m sure that the fishing will turn around again. In fact there were a number of signs that things are getting better. One sign was the large number of 1 year old salmon that we caught last spring and summer, another good sign was the large size of the adult salmon which indicates that there is plenty of bait fish. At the risk of sounding like a broken record the weather last year was not our friend, but as I am writing this report in late December Syracuse is going to set a record for the amount of snowfall and if the rest of the winter is normal, I will be a happy fisherman come next spring.

Over The Hump

Winter on Lake Ontario

Sunday February 21 2010 Barbara and I have been in Florida since late November and it has been nice to be able to spend time with my daughters and my grandchildren and is always nice to be out of the snow and cold of upstate New York in the winter. It has been about ten degrees below normal in Florida so far this winter and this cold weather has taken a toll on the snook and tarpon. It got so bad that Florida has closed the fishing for snook and tarpon until April, many snook and tarpon died in the first cold snap that we had. I try to fish as much as possible when I am here but this winter the cold north winds took a lot of the fun out of it.

I have my fingers crossed that the weather will settle down and spring will arrive on schedule. If there are no surprises by this time in April I should have the boat (lucky Dutchman II) in the water and be fishing for brown trout. I am always excited about the new season. There are many factors that effect the fishing on Lake Ontario it could be the weather, stocking survival and how much bait is available, so some years are better than others . But even on our slow years we still have the best freshwater fishing anywhere. Where else can you go and catch trout that range anywhere from three pounds to over twenty and to catch chinook salmon like we catch. You either have to come to the Great lakes or you have to spend thousands of dollars and fish in the Pacific Northwest. Far too often Lake Ontario fishing gets taken for granted. It is one of the few places to fish that is close enough and affordable enough that the average fisherman can enjoy it.

If you would like to experience the fishing on lake Ontario this year you can contact me and we can set up a charter trip with lodging for you. If you have a boat of your own you can bring it to lake Ontario and experience the spring near shore fishing. Either way if I can be of assistance contact me. I am always glad to help out. Captain Bill