Eastern Lake Ontario Streams Loaded with Salmon

By: Andy Bliss

After the incredible summer fishery we saw on Lake Ontario the early returns of spawning salmon has exceeded our expectations. Our salmon typically start entering the river in mid September in good numbers. This season by the third week of September we saw a huge push of salmon in the Eastern Lake Ontario Basin. The large early run has spread fish throughout the entire river system. Right now there’s not just one hot spot. There’s salmon everywhere.

Our entire systems have salmon (yes this includes the Salmon River). What’s great about large runs like this is that it spreads anglers out and makes fall salmon fishing even more enjoyable for the angler. The crowds are more spread out than I’ve seen them in many years. In years where returns are less you would have to follow the run, which created congested fishing conditions.

In this area, typically Salmon River gets fish the earliest. The peak of the Salmon River run comes by mid October. However, action remains steady through the third week of October before it peters out pretty quick. Nevertheless, this fall the bite might go a little longer than normal due to the large run of fish. Meanwhile, places like the Black, Oswego and other tributaries will likely have salmon into early November. Keep in mind all these runs will be affected by weather. If we have a major cooling period the water cools and attract more fish. If it’s cold and wet salmon might come all at once. If we get a warm and dry spell salmon will stay in Lake Ontario longer and migrate into the rivers more slowly.

Many different techniques are effective when salmon fishing our rivers. The technique used is a reflection of the type of water you are fishing. In the shallow runs skein isn’t the best way to catch fish. In the shallower, faster water most anglers like casting flies or a using a Fire Ball on a single salmon egg hook. Pink and Chartreuse Garlic Fire Balls are best in low light, whereas Gold Garlic and Brown Trout work best on bright and sunny conditions. Early this season I caught a lot of salmon soaking my flies in Atlas Mike’s Krill/Shrimp UV Gel. I like the gel because it’s thicker and stays on better.

Anytime we are targeting salmon in deeper pools and estuaries skein is the best option. We fish skein on a single hook under a float. Normally, I cure my skein in Pink Fire Cure, but if there’s any color to the water I’ll switch to a pink/red mix of Fire Cure. If I’m fishing clear water I’m using Natural Fire Cure with a touch of pink to give it a slight hue.

On the other hand where the water is high and dirty many anglers cast spinners and plugs. In my drift boat I cast Bay Rat stick baits instead of back trolling. When casting lures if I don’t get a strike out of a certain color after 10 to 15 casts I’ll switch colors. Since I change my lure colors out frequently I started using Atlas Mike’s herring UV Scent to add scent to my plugs. It’s easier than using bait wraps like they do out West.

Editor’s Note: Andy Bliss operates Chasin Tail Adventures. For more info on his guided New York salmon trips please visit https://www.chasintailadventures.com or https://www.facebook.com/chasintailadv.