The Kings are Comin’ Back to Town

By Spider Rybaak

Kings at Sunrise

Dick Stanton is one of the best charter boat captains on Lake Ontario. So when he looked me straight in the eye–as serious as death, I may add–and said: “Spider, the big kings are comin’ to the end of their cycle; they gotta come in,” I knew I had to go fishing with him to his sweet spot out in front of Oswego Harbor…And fast.

We arranged to go last Wednesday (August 20). Sue Bookhout, a writer I know from Cazenovia, came along; Mike Gagliostro, a real estate agent from Auburn, served as first mate. We launched Dick’s 10 meter Trojan (a sweet craft 33 feet long with a 13-foot beam) from Wrights Landing, 6 a.m. sharp.

“The bite’s been tough, lately,” Stanton admits as we’re heading out, blaming it on the weather. “We’ve had four or five days of pretty good wind, and it drove the temperature deep, 130 to 160 feet down.”

“So what’s the plan for today?” I ask.

“We’ll go see,” he replies. “We were 10 for 16 yesterday, including a 30-pounder, so we’ll probably fish the same way.”

Once past the lighthouse we head due north for a couple miles.

“There’s a lot of bait and fish out here,” Dick announces. “They’re from 80 to 137 feet deep.”

Mike goes to work setting out spoons and flasher/ fly combos on downriggers, and sets a couple on copper lines on planer boards.

About half an hour later, one of the rods goes off. Before anyone knows what’s happening, Sue’s on it like a bobcat on a cottontail.

The battle lasts a respectable 10 minutes or so and ends with an 8-pound king flopping around on deck. He hit a UV Gator Michigan Stinger, 110 feet down over 137 feet of water.

Dick continues heading north. About a mile later, something grabs the flasher/fly combo on the wire to the right.
Five extremely exciting seconds later, the fish spits the hook.

After another mile or so we’re in over 500 feet of water. I’m thinking ain’t nothing out this deep. Boy was I wrong.

A fish hits so hard the boat shudders. Just like the first one, Sue’s on it like lightning. The beast is a big, stubborn cuss.

While I’m enjoying the spectacle, the rod right next to her goes off. I grab it and the fight is on. Well, sort’a. The fish tries hard, pumping this way and that, but never strips any line off the reel. I could’a swore it was a bullhead, but I know they don’t hit flies trolled 100 feet down over 525 feet of water. It ends up being a pee-wee king, the runt of his year-class.

I put the fish in our cooler while Mike sets the line back out. Sue’s still deep in battle. A few minutes later, the salmon comes in, a decent 19-pounder.

Before the slapping sound of our high-fives can fade into silence, the familiar sound of a drag starts screaming at us from one of the rods on the left. It’s another king; this one about 25 pounds.

And so it goes, over and over.

Three hours later we decide to pack it in. Our score: seven for nine; six kings and a nice chromer.

Dick says that from now until the end of September, the salmon bite off the mouth of the Oswego River is “gonna be awesome.”

It’s already starting. Some of the lake’s largest kings and cohos are staging in the area in preparation for their spawning run up the river. Their pre-spawn feeding binge is legendary and they can put on more weight in the last month of their lives than they have all year.

Unfortunately, the feed won’t last long. Indeed, the majority of mature salmon will stop eating entirely by the end of next month, and become zombies, rotting on the swim.

But that’s cool, too. You see, monster trout, and young salmon will still be around…And hungry.

For the fishing trip of a lifetime, contact Dick Stanton at (315) 685-0651 (h), or 246-4767 (c);

Sue with her biggest of the day
Spider holding the day’s biggest king
The days only Steelhead