Some Big Salmon Starting To Show On Lake Ontario

It’s been a weird spring and summer on Lake Ontario. We had really cold weather to start, then tons of wind and now it’s extremely hot and humid. Similar to last year our salmon are spread out and while we’ve been getting them, we’ve had to work harder than we like. Finally, the last few weeks have been promising. Things are coming together and the bite has been improving.

We are getting a few adult salmon a day and they are starting to get bigger. It’s weird though. The other day we had six adults and bunch of two-year-olds. Yesterday we caught two adults, a bunch of two-years-olds and plenty of lake trout and steelhead, and even browns when we target them. Meanwhile, everyday is different.

This summer is still developing. Our cold water still has the fish off their normal pattern, but I’m concerned with the lack of adult salmon (those fish bound for our rivers to spawn this fall). I don’t know how many adults there are, but I don’t see a huge run of three-year fish so far.


What we are seeing is several year classes showing. There’s tons of two-year-old fish and a lot of one-year-olds. Right now we are only catching a few three-year-old fish a trip, but then again the water is so cold the three-year-old fish could still be spread out. I personally think it’s not going to be that great of the year for adults, but time will tell when they start staging to go in the rivers. That’s a month away still.


The good news is future classes of fish have big numbers. Last year we caught very few two-year olds. There simply might not be as many three-years-olds out there this year. The great news is the there’s a bazillion one and two-year-old fish.

The next few years will be awesome. We’ve had a mother lode of skippies this summer, which is those year-old fish. They are like 15-18 inches and are piranhas. They’ll eat anything. And, compared to last year I’m happy with the two-year fish we have. The future looks bright.

The reality is we are catching fish everyday and have for several weeks. They aren’t all adults, but action has been steady and several species are showing. As usual, we start in shallow first thing in the morning. We begin at 150 feet because there’s been more adults in tighter and everyone wants to catch those larger fish. Once the inshore bite slows we’ll go out to 350 feet of water. There have been more two-year-olds in that deeper water and fewer adults.

A mix of everything is working. When the thermocline is below 70 feet bait has been the best. When the thermocline is high, I’d say 40-60 feet down, spoons have been the best. The largest salmon always come on bait.


There are a few rules you can follow when running bait. I always have a few different colors of brined bait on the boat. This is to combat different light penetration.

Condition 1 – Bright Sun: My best rig in the sun is a chartreuse attractor with a Chartreuse Fire Brine and Chartreuse Fire Dye alewife (or herring if you don’t have alewives).


Condition 2- Low Light: First thing is the morning I’ve been running a white glow attractor with a white glow head with Natural Fire Brine bait.


Condition 3 – In Between Light: For these circumstances I’ve been running a green attractor, with a green head and Green Fire Brine bait.

Condition 4 – Overcast: When it’s overcast I’ve been running white attractors with Blue Fire Brine/Blue Fire Dye bait.


For the last few years we’ve been using Fire Brine daily, but this year I’ve been mixing the brine and the dye when using blue, chartreuse and purple. The Fire Dye makes the bait wicked bright. The bait is so bright after I use the Fire Dye I put it back 30 feet when I hook it on the rigger. That stuff freaking glows back there. The fish can see it from a long ways out and come in to grab it.

When we switch over to spoons I run custom Finger Lakes spoons. I’ve been using some of the Stinger spoons too, but to get the exact colors we need on the lake I’ve been dragging mostly custom stuff. Keep in mind when we are fishing deep we mix Atomic flies in with the meat.


Editor’s Note: Kevin Davis operates Catch the Drift. For more info on his Lake Ontario trips please visit