By: Isaac Zettle
Western New York is in the heart of another strong salmon return and fresh fish continue to migrate into these tributaries daily. We have also been seeing brown trout and steelhead for a few weeks now. Personally, I think the trout are early this fall. I just got back from another successful trip between Buffalo and Rochester this week and experienced excellent fishing. We caught steelhead, browns and salmon in several well-known systems. Action should remain hot for at least a few more weeks.
As well all know the major WNY tributaries are no secret. In fact, when you walk into Burt Dam there’s a sign that states more than 10,000 anglers fish this system annually, most of which are here for the salmon run. Crowds were heavily as they always are this time of year. We were shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of other anglers and witnessed many anglers catching fish.
Keep in mind most of these tributaries are very popular, which means during peaks hours you can expect large crowds. Weekends will be super crowded. Fortunately, crowds were less during the week, but early in the day still brought large numbers of anglers to the stream. Midday crowds thinned. Meanwhile, crowds should be expected particularly near the dams.
There are salmon, trout and steelhead in all the tributaries now and more are coming daily. Our highest concentration of catches was salmon, but we also caught plenty of steelhead and browns. During the time we spent in these tributaries the salmon bite was good at first light and then fresh groups of salmon migrated in during the late afternoon. While that pattern may change it’s what we experienced over several days.
We caught our fish two ways: drifting Fire Balls under a float and tying Mike’s Garlic Eggs and Mike’s UV Glo Chartreuse eggs in Atlas Spawn Netting. For Fire Balls I tied Coho, Chinook and Chartreuse Garlic Fire Balls into sacks. Normally, I put seven Fire Balls into the sack and fished them on a size six Gamakatsu octopus hook. The chartreuse worked best on the brown trout. The Mike’s eggs were good for catching steelhead and browns. Most of the salmon we caught came on Coho and Chinook Fire Balls, always fished in netting. We didn’t fish any of the above on a single salmon egg hook.
Depending on the water we were fishing we either fished the eggs off the bottom or used a bobber to enable them to drift naturally in the water column. At Burt Dam, when we bottom bounced I used 20-pound Stren Big Game. At Oak Orchard I used a centerpin with 12-pound Stren. When using 12-pound test I was more focused on catching trout. That’s a bit light for salmon.