The Salmon River is without a doubt, the most famous salmon and steelhead river in the entire northeast.The Salmon River is located in Oswego County, and stretches 17 miles from the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir in Altmar to where it empties into Lake Ontario at Port Ontario. It is considered to be the best place in the Northeast United states for salmon angling. It has a high diversity of trophy-size salmon and trout including Chinook salmon, coho salmon , steelhead trout, Atlantic salmon, and brown.
Two major fish records have been set in the Salmon River: the Great Lakes record Chinook salmon 47 lbs. 13 oz. and the world record Coho salmon 33 lbs. 4 oz.
Starting around the first of August, schools of chinook and coho salmon begin staging in Mexico Bay. This is deep water down rigger fishing, and it can be fantastic! By mid August a few "eager" male salmon begin to appear in the Salmon River. Weather conditions dictate how many fish and how soon. Cool weather, offshore wind, and heavy rains all "move" fish in to the river. Minimum river flow at this time of year is 185 cfs.
Labor Day weekend signals the start of salmon season. The river flow will be increased to 750 cfs. for the weekend, which brings the first good run of salmon. The base flow for the rest of September, October, November, and December will be 335 cfs. But this can vary due to rainfall or drought. During the super dry fall of 2007 we fished in 100 cfs. - Great for sight fishing but really tough on the fish. Many fish spawned in the lower section of the river instead of migrating upstream. Lots of rain last fall meant 750 cfs. flows - Lots of fish moving with the higher flow and moving fast. It's surprising how far and how fast the fish can move when they have good water flows. Most of the true spawning areas/gravel bars are upstream of the Pineville bridge and that's where the bulk of these fish end up. Chinooks and Coho are fall spawners and they all die after spawning. By November they are pretty much gone.
picture of Atlantic salmon
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The Atlantic salmon is one of the most highly regarded sport fish in North America and Europe. Known to many as "the leaper," Atlantics are noted for their spectacular fighting ability, which usually includes several jumps completely out of the water after being hooked by a lucky angler. In New York State, Atlantic salmon spend their entire lives in freshwater and are usually called landlocked salmon.
picture of coho salmon
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Cohos, or silver salmon, are smaller in size than their cousin the chinook. Although larger specimens over 30 pounds have been captured, a typical adult coho weighs ten pounds.
Chinook Salmon Also called king salmon, chinook salmon are the largest of the Pacific salmon. While specimens exceeding 100 pounds have been taken on the Pacific coast, New York State's record fish is a 47 pounder caught in Lake Ontario. Chinook salmon have a limited distribution in New York State and are only found in lakes Erie and Ontario. Non-natives of New York State, chinooks were first stocked into the Great Lakes in 1873.
Two distinct strains of migratory rainbow trout called "steelhead" are stocked into Lake Ontario. These are Washington (a winter run strain) and Skamania (a summer run strain); both originally came from the State of Washington. All rainbow trout strains are native to Pacific coast watersheds of North America and Asia. Quite variable in size, mature rainbow trout may weigh one or two pounds in streams and more than 15 pounds in the Great Lakes.
The brown trout has long been a popular game fish all over the world. Brought over from Europe in the 1880s, brown trout can be found in waters all across New York State. Its ability to tolerate warmer water than either of New York State's native trout has allowed this species to do well in waters otherwise not able to support trout. Brown trout are primarily found in streams, but also live in ponds and lakes
Skamania are a summer run/spring spawning strain of steelhead which was developed by the State of Washington from wild stocks on the Washougal River. Currently Skamania strain steelhead are only stocked in the Salmon and Little Salmon River's. These fish can enter the river as early as May with the bulk of the run coming in the June - September period. Skamania fishing tends to be "hit or miss" and is very dependent on the river condition. Conditions which can stimulate a run on the Salmon River are special recreational water releases or rising water levels caused by heavy rain showers. Skamania tend to race up the river quickly, so timing is critical. Your best chance of catching one of these powerful fish is during and immediately following one of these periods of increased flow. Even though Skamania enter the river during the summer, they will not be sexually mature and ready to spawn until late February through early April.