A day of fishing on Lake Ontario


WILSON HARBOR, N.Y. — The last day of April and it feels like the first day of winter. A northeast wind blowing straight from some imaginary ice field in Siberia sends chills through any amount of layers but fingers don’t feel cold at all.

On a mission

In fact, fingers don’t feel anything. Best advice? Suck it up, pilgrim, because this is the first day on the Great Lakes for most of us landlubbers and neither snow, rain, or sleet will deter us from our mission to do some fishin’.

The trolling rods, just a few of them, are loaded with shiny spoons, one black, one green, one something else. Lines are clipped to the cables of downriggers and the lure goes down quickly in the 41 degree water

. “How deep,” a shivering non-resident asks?

Charter boat

Given that slight nudge, the encyclopedia of Lake Ontario fishing knowledge opens as it appears in the book-like mind of Caption Bob Cinelli, one of the best and most highly regarded charter guys on Lake Ontario. Cinelli describes the scene we are seeing and feeling, all that and more and we also get an answer about depth.

We are catching fish in water ranging from 40 feet to 200 feet deep, Cinelli says, adding that the season is already well underway because of the unusually warm weather. The lures were set in just minutes. Water 200 feet deep is not far off shore in this, the second deepest lake in the Great Lakes chain.


Cinelli has been chasing Lake Ontario’s salmon and trout since 1978 when he was establishing his reputation as a go-to fisherman. It was back then when other less skilled anglers offered to pay Cinelli to take them fishing. Those offers motivated Cinelli to go for his captain’s license, a license to get serious about this fun activity.

That was in 1980 when Cinelli established his charter business, long before the equipment, boats, electronics, and fish catching techniques of today were even thought of. Back then, Cinelli recalls, lines of small boats would line up and form search parties trying to locate fish.

“None of us had the gear we have today and we were very timid about going too far from shore,” Cinelli said.


The new big water charter guides like Cinelli knew if it was raining when they got wet. Now they are equipped with radar, exacting navigational electronics, and color sonar that lights up when a big salmon cruises under it.

Those things plus boats that can go practically and safely anywhere, anytime, and more importantly, in any weather. As the years went on, Cinelli and handful growing to a harbor full of captains schooled themselves in the habits of salmon, trout, and how to catch them.

In today’s world of salmon fishing, captains know just how to bag a bunch from early April till late fall by hounding the big fish close to shore and far from it depending on what they know about water temperature, thermoclines, bait fish, wind affect, water clarity, and more.

Stable environment

“Lake Ontario is stable and we are fortunate,” says Cinelli.

Salmon fishing

Translated that statement refers to the well balanced natural reproduction of the salmon and the all-important stocking programs of New York and Canada. Coupled with excellent forage fish and great water conditions, Lake Ontario has become the consistent go-to lake for Great Lakes salmon fishing.

Two hours of shivering on this fine day will result in close to 20 hook ups, plenty of jumps and rods bent, and of course, enough fish kept to feed several hungry mouths.



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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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