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Fishing enters new age with instant fishing reports via Twitter

 Leo Roth • staff writer • May 9, 2010


Bill Ruth once drove from his home in Ithaca to Oswego to troll for trout and salmon on Lake Ontario using a 3-day-old fishing report for his inspiration and planning. When he got on the water, however, he quickly learned that the notorious Lake Ontario winds had changed everything. The fish were no longer there. "I didn't have a network of charter captains to turn to then and I felt that pain," Ruth said. Rochester's Rick Hajecki, Ruth's good friend and fellow part-time captain, had been let down by his share of fishing reports he read in print or on Internet blogs, too. The same went for recorded phone "hot lines." That's because water temperatures in Lake Ontario — the world's 14th-largest lake at 7,500 square miles — can be more unpredictable than spring weather in Rochester. And trout and salmon migration are directly influenced by temperature changes and baitfish availability. "The currents in Lake Ontario wreak havoc on that water," Hajecki said. "The water is moving constantly that even a day-old fishing report can be useless. So many variables can move fish around in a single day." In other words, Ruth and Hajecki thought, the only useful Lake Ontario fishing report was an instant fishing report. After a winter of brainstorming and planning, the two men, who share a passion for netting fish and social networking, launched Lake Ontario Tweets last month. The free service available through a partnership with the wildly popular anglers website Lake Ontario United (, based in Rochester, uses the short-and-sweet messaging phenomenon of Twitter and is the first of its kind anywhere in the fishing industry. Twitter provides real-time public information via the Internet through 140-character messages called "tweets." In this case, the tweets are fishing reports from a network of more than 20 well-respected and experienced Lake Ontario charter captains out on the water. In between setting a downrigger, these captains and their first mates working out of all the major lake ports are now punching the keypads of their cell phones or hand-held smart devices. The more technically savvy are even posting pictures and video of their catches. The beauty of L.O. Tweets is that all of these posts are collected on a single Web page with filtering capabilities and refreshed every 30 seconds.


"It's been a lot of fun up to this point," said Hajecki, 30, who operates Crazy Yankee Sportsfishing with his dad, Rich, and brother, Craig, fishing out of Wilson and Oak Orchard. "When on the boat, I can tweet exactly what's going on. Last Sunday, I was able to tweet that I hooked up a nice fish and had it working and 10 minutes later I tweeted a picture. It's as instant as you can get."

Through the LOU website, which gets 3 million page views a month, fishermen can customize the tweets by captain or region of the lake for both the American and Canadian shores. The tweets so far have included information on weather and wave conditions, species that are biting, how far down and what setup was used. Some tweets even come with nautical maps pinpointing the exact location of the charter boat.


A sample platter:


Great bite in sodus 2 day. browns on the shore then moved out to 60 to 80 fow. took a few good kings some steelies and a coho

— Post made on May 4th, 2010 at 6:00 PM EST, By Capt. Ryan Williamson of Fishin Magician.


More cohos with browns, bows mixed in 10-12 fow. Steady pick 2.5 mph at the ball. Spoons off the riggers and sticks off the boards

— Post made on Apr 22nd, 2010 at 10:43 AM EST, By Capt. Jeremy Sage of JDS Custom Charters.


Great morning at genny cohos and browns 8 to 12 ft of water

— Post made on Apr 22nd, 2010 at 2:09 PM EST, By Capt. Sam Zucco of Dream Catcher Charters


5:15 AM VERY WINDY stay in bed ! 3-4 waves

— Post made on Apr 10th, 2010 at 5:16 AM EST, By Capt. Jerry Felluca of Rebel Charters


Since going online April 16, Lake Ontario Tweets has been more active than a boat deck during a triple hookup of king salmon. "We've gotten fabulous feedback so far," said Ruth, 42, who owns Billy V Sportfishing and docks at Wilson and Sodus. "We had 9,000 hits the first week alone and we expect that number to grow exponentially. It's mushrooming and not everyone has their boat in yet. Once the salmon season really kicks in by Labor Day, I wouldn't be surprised if it's 5,000 to 6,000 hits a day."


While each of the captains is able to promote his own business through links to his website on each tweet, the bigger promotion is Lake Ontario itself. In a business that's highly competitive and putting fish in the cooler is the name of the game, these sportsmen see the benefit of sharing information publicly and luring anglers in. "We see this as another way to promote the fishery," said Hajecki, who like Ruth learned to appreciate Lake Ontario's beauty and its bounty as a young boy. "So many things are threatening this lake, from windmills to Asian carp. We want fishermen to come here, bring their dollars, and make sure it's protected for years to come. I've got kids and I want them to enjoy the lake like I have." When setting up a tweeting network, Ruth said it was critical to promote the entire fishery and not favor one port over the other. "This is designed for real-time reports so guys can make educated decisions on where to go, when to go," he said. "We want to put people onto the fish, not driving around wasting gas." That's a reward that's priceless. "We've got time and money tied up in this that we're not sure if we'll ever get back, but we didn't do it for the money," Ruth said. "When I get comments like 'Your tweet helped me catch fish today,' that makes it worth it. We're enhancing a guy's fishing experience." And probably his daydreaming. For avid anglers, logging onto Lake Ontario Tweets is fast becoming a guilty pleasure, even for the inventors. Ruth works in software sales and Hajecki for a distributor of educational science materials. "Some days I can't turn it on and see how good the fishing is," Ruth said. "I don't want to know."


Lake Ontario offers world-class fishing in our backyard

Leo Roth • Staff writer • May 9, 2010


Pollution control and a massive stocking program that began in the 1970s brought Lake Ontario back from the dead. Despite new challenges presented by invasive species, aquatic diseases and a stocking reduction by the state, it remains a world-class fishery where anglers can hook into trophy-sized salmon and trout. Chinook, or king salmon, tip the scales at 30-plus pounds in the fall. "People in Rochester have no idea what's sitting right in their backyard," said Rochester's Rick Hajecki, who operates Crazy Yankee Sportfishing. "Of all the Great Lakes, we have one of the best for salmon and trout fishing, especially when it comes to size. These are trophy fish and they are right here. You don't have to travel far to have fun." Private conservation clubs operating pen-rearing projects have greatly improved survival rates of hatchery-raised fingerlings. The Lake Ontario Counties Spring Trout & Salmon Derby concludes today with an awards ceremony at 5 p.m. at Captain Jack's in Sodus Point. Check the leaderboard at Lake Ontario is 7,500 square miles and locating fish takes experience, patience and high-tech gear. But it's well worth the hunt.


How to get started:

When to go: Spring is ideal along the entire New York shoreline because warm tributary flows attract baitfish. As the water warms, salmonids head to deeper, cooler water. By fall, they stage in front of tributaries getting ready to spawn.

Trolling 101: It requires putting a lure down to where the fish are. Techniques include using heavy lead-core and wire line, or a downrigger, a device that uses a weighted ball and puts the lure to a specific depth. Planer boards get the lure away from the boat and work well on wary breeds like brown trout. One can spend many thousands of dollars equipping a boat for trolling.

Tackle: A universal rig would include a medium-sized trolling reel with 15-pound test line on a 71/2- to 81/2-foot rod made for heavy or downrigger action.

Lures: Picking colorful artificial bait is half the fun and you can customize with tape, paint and various scents. Lure styles include stickbaits, spoons and J-plugs.

Electronics: Today's excellent all-in-one units combine a fish locator with depth, boat speed and water temperature indicators.

Good eating: Take only the side fillets and leave the fatty bottom.


Team YANKEE TROLLER wins the 2007 Orleans County Pro-Am!

The second annual Orleans County Lake Ontario Pro-Am Salmon Team Tournament went off without a hitch over the weekend at Point Breeze. There was quite a bit of excitement in the air to see Yankee Troller come from behind and win the Pro Division.

In the Amateur class, it was Screamer/A-Tom-Mik continuing where they left off in 2006, taking the lead in the Challenge Cup race, an overall title they’ve held for two years running.

Fishing was generally good and the weather cooperated nicely for this year’s Orleans County competition. New rules were in place this year to limit a team’s catch in both the pro and amateur divisions, keeping teams close together until the very end. After the first day of action in the Professional category, Capt. Pete Alex and his Vision Quest team from Erie, Pa. stood atop the leader board with a score of 220.64 points — based on 10 points per fish and one point per pound.

Yankee Troller, led by Capt. Rich Hajecki of Rochester, would have been in first but something odd happened while they were on the water. After boxing one of the salmon they caught in the cooler, the fish literally flopped so hard that he knock the top open and bounced back into the lake.

They managed to bring 11 fish to the scales and still recorded an impressive score of 217.16 points, with one less fish than Alex’s squad. There were two ways to look at that: Either they had some terribly bad luck going their way or it was meant to be and it was bad luck to be in first place going into the second day of fishing. It turned out it was the latter.

On Sunday, it was Vision Quest with an 11 fish day. Yankee Troller, on the other hand, brought in their limit of 12 — with three of those being caught in the last 10 minutes of the competition. It was one of those picture book lessons of never give up until the last minute. When the weights were finally tallied up, Yankee Troller was at the top with a score of 430.53.
Vision Quest was a close second with 425.25 points. A pair of Oswego boats finished third and fourth. Cold Steel/A-Tom-Mik led by Capt. Tom Burke jumped from ninth to third place after a great second day, finishing with 413.59 points. Fourth place went to Capt. Greg Gehrig and Top Gun with 406.20 points. Fifth place went to Maui Jim/Sure Strike led by Mike Gustin of Webster. They scored a two-day total of 404.93 points. You can see it was a tight finish among the 28 competing pro boats.

By Bill Hilts Jr.
Greater Niagara Newspapers