Fishing Methods of Master Angler, Ted St. Onge,
on Lake Winnipesaukee
in New Hampshire


60 years of fishing methods while angling on Lake Winni in New Hampshire...






Ted St. Onge lowering his down rigger ball with Davis spinners attached and his live sewn shiner just above and behind it to 44 degrees where the salmon are and where he will soon catch one.



I first encountered Ted while trolling in August with Mario DeCarolis just north of Diamond Island in 2002. He was in a small "low tech" open boat with a small hand crank downrigger attached to the rear.

At first we thought he was still-fishing or stranded, as he appeared to be sitting still, but we could see that his small kicker was firing and that he was moving very slowly with his rods almost straight down.

In contrast to Mario and I, he kept netting large fish. We were curious and approached him, asking what fishing methods he was using and how deep. He said he was fishing at 54 degrees. "Don't you have a thermometer?" he teased.



Ted St. Onge trolling with Osippee Mountains in the background. You can see the Dave Davis spinners attached to the downrigger ball on this side of the boat. He uses them as an attractor and has his release device 18" above them on the cable with his sewn shiner spinning slowly just behind the Davis spinners and he always catches salmon and trout with this rig.Ted always fishes for salmon at 54 degrees and takes the temperature frequently. And Ted catches fish!  I videoed him for a few minutes, watching his fishing methods and unconventional technique and success and thought to myself, "This man is a Master Angler."



Three years later, I was watching a Wildlife Journal show on New Hampshire Public TV called, "Salmon Legacy - Part I" when I saw Ted trolling on the TV demonstrating his techniques. I jumped for a pen when his name was flashed and scribbled it down.



Some months later, while speaking with Fish & Game biologist Don Miller, I mentioned the TV show and asked if he knew the angler in the show, St. Onge. He confirmed that he was a friend of Ted's and that Ted was, indeed, a Master Angler. I got his phone number and, at last was able to connect with this unique angler.
Ted St. Onge in his boat.

More so than all the other Master Anglers, Ted relies on temperature readings for his fishing methods to direct his trolling depth. He fishes MUCH slower than any of the other Master Anglers at a 1/2-MPH crawl. Ted is almost jigging while moving slightly to cover more water.



He sometimes uses his own home-crafted lures but mostly he uses a fairly large shiner sewn onto his hook so as to give the bait a spin. I know no other Master Angler who can make this statement, but Ted St. Onge makes the claim that he has never fished on Lake Winni in New Hampshire for salmon or trout without catching at least one using his fishing methods! 



That's an amazing record for one who has been fishing the lake for 60 years! And if he were any other angler I know, I wouldn't believe him. But I do.



Fishing Methods of Master Angler Ted St. Onge

“My Dad and Mom liked to fish for warm water fish such as horned pout and eel. They never had to go very far to get them. My brothers and I were started on fishing on the banks of the Merrimack River and the nearby ponds around Manchester, New Hampshire.Ted trolling very slowly for salmon or lakers.



Every Friday night after work our parents would take us fishing. I was 7 years old and that was how it all started. As I got to be 13 or 14 years old, my Uncle Oscar Nault would bring in a large lake trout that he had caught on Lake Winnisquam.



I used to marvel at these big wild looking fish. I knew that I had to catch some of these fish.  I passed on my fishing methods and the things that I have learned to my friends and family. My son loves fishing as much as I do and I know that some day I'll still see the beauty of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and those beautiful Salmon through his eyes and I told him so.



  • Number of Years angling in Lake Winni?

60.  Started fishing when I was 18

 

  • Who taught you to fish here?

Larry Roy, a well-known sport fisherman in New Hampshire.

 

  • Who is your fishing hero/mentor?

My dad, Bill St.Onge and my Uncle Oscar Nault.

 

  • What were the principal things you learned from him/her?

To read all I could about the professional anglers in the outdoor magazines and to be persistent in the fishing methods that they used.

 

  • What is your favorite Lake Winni game fish?  Pound for pound, which fish is the best fighter?  Why?

Landlocked salmon, because of the spectacular jumps and endurance when using light tackle.

 

  • Which do you prefer, lead core, fly rod, or down rigger fishing for salmon and trout? On which of these fishing methods do you catch the most fish?

I prefer lead core for the first month after ice out because I like to see the fly rods snap back when the fish are on top, but down riggers are better when it forms a thermocline.

 

  • Favorite fishing months in New Hampshire?

June, July, August or September

 

  • Best time of day?

10:00 AM to 12:30 PM, when the fish are down and not so light sensitive. After ice out, dawn and dusk

 

  • Best trolling speed?

1/2 mile per hour

 

  • Chart of fishing depths/colors of lead core (pound test) and best lures?

“By using a thermometer, I know exactly where the fish are holding and at 1/2 mile per hour. One color of 18-pound-test lead core will take my lure down 10 ft. 3 colors - 30 ft. down, 4 1/2 colors - 45 ft. down. I prefer to use down riggers when the salmon are down at least 15 ft. and more. I use sewed on bait, Mooselook, Warblers, Suttons, Hinkleys, Needlefish and streamer flies.

 



Month

Salmon

(depth & lure)

Lakers

(depth & lure)

Rainbows

(depth & lure)

Bass

(depth & lure)

May On top to 10' down - Bass about the same
June 20' - 25' down My fishing methods strictly uses thermometers and it is difficult to say just how deep a fish will be.  Usually salmon are at 54 to 56 degree water.  Lake trout are 48 to 52 degree water.  Rainbows are 58 to 60 degree weather.
July 25'-35' down
August 35'-45' down
September 35'-45' down
October On top to 10' down


  • Largest salmon, laker, rainbow you have ever caught in Lake Winni?

Salmon:

Size:  10 pounds in July 2003

Lure:  sewed on bait.

Depth: 38 ft.

-- 11 pounds, 4 oz. 32'' long in 1975. (in Squam Lake)

Laker:   

Size:  14 pounds in August 1999.

Lure:  sewed on bait.

Depth: 100 ft. (Diamond Island)

Rainbow:

Size:  3 1/2 pounds in May 2003.

Lure:  sewed on bait. 

Depth:  3ft. (Bear Island)

 

  • Share your stories about the monsters you have caught with your fishing methods?
“One day when I was fishing the broads on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  It was a very hot day in August.  The kind of day that gets so hot that you keep soaking your hat in the lake to coolA photo of Ted St. Onge with a 31" 10lbs salmon in front of his boat, "The Poacher." down. I lowered my thermometer into the lake. At the depth of 90 ft. the temperature was 54 degrees - the temperature I always seek.  I then let down ten colors of lead core line.  I was using florescent orange Mooselook warblers.



The day was going pretty slow on the lake.  I was having no luck. Two fishermen came close to my boat and asked what I was fishing for. I told them "Salmon". They were trying to be helpful and said that I was trolling too slowly and that I would be capable of catching lake trout only. But I had tried my time proven fishing methods for a long time and knew that it worked.



I was thinking about changing the lure colors when all of a sudden my outboard motor stalled.  I couldn't get it started.  I was afraid that I would hook bottom with the ten colors of line that I had out. Again I turned up the throttle and pulled the starting cord.  It caught and gave me quite a thrust forward.  I said, "Too late, I'm hooked on the bottom!" 



I then noticed the rod bucking back and forth almost touching the water!  The bottom turned out to be a 31" 10-pound salmon. After a 30-minute battle, I finally got the fish in the net.



You should have seen the look on the faces of the two fishermen when they saw this fish I caught with my fishing methods. This day that started out slow, looking like a horrible day on the lake, once again become a great day of fishing for me.Photo of wife Pauline St. Onge holding two fish.



“My wife and I went fishing by Little Bear Island one day.  It was the first week of June and the salmon were starting to go down from the surface where they are just after ice-out.  Using my fishing methods, we took a water temperature reading, which I always do with a thermometer I attach to my hand crank down rigger.  We had a reading of 54 degrees at a depth of 20 feet.



We started to fish and began to take salmon almost immediately.  All the salmon were to 2 lbs to 3 lbs.  We released all the fish.  It was a beautiful day with a blue sky and white puffy clouds.  We were enjoying the beauty of the New Hampshire lake and it's surroundings. 



Then suddenly Pauline's fishing rod whipped back and forth.  This time the rod bent to the breaking point.  The reel was screaming!  After a 20-minute fight she landed a huge salmon. We had not even finished re-baiting that rod when her other rod, on the other side of the boat, got a huge hit with the reel screaming.  After another fight she landed another huge salmon.  Needless to say, Pauline did not throw these two back.



  • Have you passed on to others your fishing methods and angling skills?

Yes, my son and a lot of close friends.

 

  • Your top five tips and fishing methods for Salmon?

  1. Just after ice out, fish early in the morning and late before dark. Salmon are light sensitive and as the sun rises,they tend to go down.
  2. Use sewed on smelt or minnows, troll 1/2 milesper hour. Find the depth the salmon are. These fishing methods never fail.
  3. Always use thermometers to find the thermocline (54 degrees.) Just a few degrees off can make a difference between a slow or fast day of fishing.
  4. Fish close to the boat. 6 1/2 ft. from the ball of the down rigger and tie an attractor to the ball of the rigger.
  5. Use a Dave Davis spinner, 48 inches long on the ball of the rigger and run your bait 2 feet back of the spinner and 18 inches above the last blade on the spinner so it will not catch on the spinners.

 

  • Your top five tips and fishing methods for Lakers?
  1. Use larger baits than you would for Salmon.
  2. Use a thermometer to find 48-52 degrees
  3. Run the bait close to the bottom near the shoreline or near a reef
  4. Suckers about 6-8 inches long work fine.  Try to bump the bottom occasionally.
  5. Troll slowly (1/2 MPH)

 

  • Your top tips and fishing methods for Rainbows?

I

find that Rainbows take with the same method that I use for Salmon except that I run my bait at a temperature reading of 58 degrees for rainbows instead of the 54 degrees I use for Salmon.

 

  • Your top five tips and fishing methods for Bass?  

I am basically a salmon fisherman. I do catch a lot of bass, but only by accident. The same goes for rainbows. Last season I caught real nice rainbows and salmon on New Found Lake but all and all the best fishing last year was on Winnipesaukee.

 

  • Do you practice catch & release? 

Most of the time. I'm looking for trophy fish and will usually keep a very large fish.

 

  • What do you think has happened to the Lake Winni Yellow Perch?

I have seen Yellow Perch disappear in the lake also. I don't know why.

 

  • What do you think has happened to the Lake Winni White Fish (“shad”)?

I still catch a few. My son, Scott and I had just caught a nice salmon while actually watching him on the fish-finder come up to the lure behind the down rigger. Scott said to me,   "As soon as we mark another fish in the sonar, I'll try to jig the rod up again and see what happens.



"It wasn't very long after we had caught the Salmon that another big fish appeared on the sonar. After waiting a few minutes of watching the fish shape following the bait but not taking,Ted St. Onge's son, Scott with a big whitefish and a big salmon. Scott picked up the rod and popped the lure free from the release.



This time after pumping the rod just a few times, the rod bent down as if stuck on the bottom. After a fifteen-minute fight, he brought the fish to the net and we couldn't believe the size of this fish -- a whitefish!



We believe this whitefish was a record fish but we didn't have it officially weighed. On our scale, the fish weighed 5 1/2 pounds and was 24" long.  After showing the picture of this fish to Mr. Wheeler at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, he said that we should have had it weighed because it probably was a new Whitefish record as the current record is 5 pounds 1 ounce!

 

 

  • If you were New Hampshire Commissioner of Fish & Game, what initiatives would you take to improve Lake Winni angling?Ted St. Onge with New Hampshire Fish & Game Wildlife Biologist - Don Miller.

“The fishing I experienced last season was some of the best I have seen in 30 years so I don't think it needs much improvement. I would like to see more state launching boat pads. Paugus Bay charges 20 dollars to launch a boat.

 

 

  • More fishing stories?

“My wife and I were fishing Squam Lake in 1975 and one morning we fished near Church Island. We had not had a hit for about 3 hours. We were using live minnows and that is usually very good bait. Finally a little breeze came up and it started to break up the surface.



Shortly after, we got a little chop. The rod on my side of the boat went crazy. It turned out to be the largest salmon I have ever caught in New Hampshire. It took me almost 40 minutes to net it. It weighed 11 pounds, 4oz and was 32 inches long.



A lot of salmon fishermen including me like to fish the Big Lake, but often overlook PaugusTed St. Onge.  Here is a picture of what the salmon were like 3 years ago. Bay. Some of the friends that I hunt with in New York came to New Hampshire to do some salmon fishing with me. They are never disappointed with the great fishing on Paugus Bay.



That's why they come back year after year. This year, they arrived on June 15th and the Salmon were 28 ft. down. We caught salmon up to 5 lbs. but most were between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 lbs. Here is a picture of what the salmon were like 3 years ago.



“I was fishing Alton Bay, New Hampshire a few years back. It was a gray day with no breeze. The lake was like a mirror and I wondered if it would start to rain. It goes to show you that you never know. It turned out to be one of my best days of the season.



I set the 2 fly rods with long leaders of 100 feet because the smelt were still going up the brooks and also up on the gravel banks on the side of the lake to spawn. The long leaders help to get the salmon that the boat scares off, close to the shore where the smelt are running.Fishing in Alton Bay on a gray day, Ted St. Onge caught these two beauties.



After the boat goes by, the salmon come back to catch the spawning smelt. About 100 feet behind the boat, the smelt that you are trolling come up to the surface. After catching and releasing many salmon.  I got these two beauties in the picture.  About the rain? It never rained a drop the entire day.  I had a great day of fishing on the lake.



“One morning I decided I would fish Lake Winnipesaukee from Brown's Boat Basin.  It was a beautiful day with a blue sky and a light wind. This is what we call "a 4 inch salmon chop".



I launched my boat then headed out past the U.S. Post Office on Bear Island, near the ledges on the side of 3-Mile Island.  I had no sooner put out one rod when the action began.  I caught quite a few salmon in the next two hours using my fishing methods. 



These salmon weighed up to 3 pounds and most were about 19" to 21" in length.  At 11 o'clock I had a wicked hit on my rod.  The way the reel screamed I knew that I had a good one.  After about twenty minutes of this fish putting up quite a fight, I reeled it in.  I had landed the fish in the photo that you see here.



Ted St. Onge fishing in Brown's Basin on Lake Winnipesaukee landed the fish in the photo that you see here.

  • Are you concerned about mercury levels in Lake Winni fish to the degree that you restrict your fish intake?

Yes

 

  • What is angling really about?

“With me, fishing is an addiction. I can't get enough of it. It's constantly on my mind. It's a thrill that I can't explain and I just want to keep doing it and using my fishing methods.”



To order the complete award-winning book, Angling in the Smile of the Great Spirit, or its accompanying DVDs featuring live interviews with the Master Anglers of Lake Winni, please go to: www.deepwaterspress.com





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