Lake Superior Salmon Season Recap

By Tom Armstrong | 11/20/2013

As late fall rolls around here in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, many sportsman head for the woods, chasing any number of furry or feathered creatures. With generous hunting seasons for small and big game, and waterfowl, there are endless opportunities for hunters in this region. Conveniently for anglers, this takes a lot of pressure away from local lakes and rivers, leaving many exceptional fall fisheries with very low competition and pressure.

Having Lake Superior and its tributaries at our doorstep is one of the greatest things about living here in Thunder Bay, as it offers anglers endless opportunities year round. Meanwhile, this time of year many folks head to the rivers chasing spawning Chinook salmon and fall run steelhead that make their way up the rivers. While the fishing in rivers can be excellent, so can fishing the big lake. With most fall anglers targeting the river, there is little activity on the lake, although still plenty of salmon to be caught.


I recently got out fishing on my 14-foot aluminum near town for a fall salmon trip, only driving about 15 minutes from my doorstep. I got out with a friend early in the morning, and trolled around in the fog for sometime before being able to see where we were going without using the GPS.

As the fog lifted, we were met by a beautiful fall morning on Superior, but some initially slow fishing. I had started the morning trolling some glow in the dark downrigger spoons, with no success. We had trolled through some decent looking bait balls and had been marking the odd fish, but couldn’t connect.

I then changed tactics and took out my bag of Pautzke Fire Brined smelt and herring out of the cooler. I rigged them on some bait heads, hooked them up to the downriggers, and sent em down. It didn’t take long before we were into a fish. Using Fire Brined herring we soon had our first Chinook on board. It was a smaller fish, as seems to be typical for me when fishing late in the season like this, but still a great fish, and one of many we got that morning. We ended up with a decent number of Chinooks, lake trout and even a steelhead in a half-day fishing.


When prepping my bait, I took some frozen smelt I had from the spring, and also got a package of frozen herring from a local sporting goods store. I used a combination of Pautzke Fire Brine, Nectar and sea salt; mixing the better part of a bottle of purple Fire Brine, some blue Nectar, and a cup of sea salt up in a Ziploc, adding my bait, and letting them sit in the fridge overnight.


With this deadly combination, the bait took on an absolutely deadly colour and flash and the added attraction from the Pautzke products. They were firmed up perfectly for trolling and stayed together well. With these baits behind the downriggers on some bait rigs it was a lethal combination for Superior Chinooks.

Shortly after this trip, my wife and I got out for a fall trip on a few Superior tributaries, hoping to catch some Coho Salmon. As they appeared to be more intent on spawning than breeding, fishing was a bit slow, so I decided to try something a little different. I took the smallest egg hooks I could find in my vest, rigged up with single Orange Deluxe Balls O Fire salmon egg and bottom bounced these baits. Using this bit of a finesse tactic proved to be the ticket, and my wife ended up putting some beautiful Coho’s on the bank (and out-fishing me).



Editor’s Note: Tom Armstrong resides in Ontario, Canada. To learn more about him please visit