Ten Tips For Catching Salmon in Rivers

November 1, 2016

Fishing in Oswego NY

I have been asked to write up a detailed list of my top ten tips for catching migratory salmon in Lake Ontario tributaries. Well, here you go.

  1. Treat salmon like a fish. You don’t wade out waist deep in the water and get on top of the fish and drop a heavy weight on their nose and lift. Back off. Pretend you are trout fishing on your favorite stream. Stay back and cast to them, allow the line and the bait or fly to work through the current. So many say that salmon will not bite, if you went to a bass lake and chased the bass through the lily pads and threw heavy sinkers at them, they would not bite either.

  2. Fish the fast moving waters and deep pockets. So many anglers congregate in big, flat holes. The fish will spook easy and are not active when they are staging. Think bubbles and green water and you will be more successful.

  3. Lighten up. You don’t need rope to land a salmon. Try a 12 pound leader or lighter, you will be surprised. Always use a fluorocarbon leader.

  4. Experiment with colors. While not feeding, chinooks are aggressive when not harassed and will strike. Salmon can and do see colors. Certain colors will trigger an aggressive strike. I can’t count how many times I go from a bright color to a subtle color and immediately hookup.

  5. Try fishing skein eggs under a float. With so many swing flies and rubber eggs, you really should try skein. Especially if you are fishing a deeper river like the Oswego, the Genny, the Black, or if any smaller tribs are running high and colored. Eggs are easy to cure and it is fun to know that they crushed the eggs that you cured. For tools and ingredients to cure eggs, check out Pautzke products.

  6. Stay away from the crowds. Easier said than done, but if you don’t mind walking a little you might find some good undisturbed water and the fish will be more relaxed. I avoid holes where anglers are casting from both sides right onto the fish. They will spook and you’ll have little or no chance of a good hookup.

  7. Quality equipment. Salmon run hard and if you follow my advice and lighten up on your leader and you don’t have a good smooth drag, you will pop them off and be frustrated. A quality rod and reel will pay you back tenfold.

  8. Follow the run. For example, today the lower river was on fire. There is a good chance it will be slower there tomorrow as the fish move upstream. Don’t be afraid to move with them. If I am on a big pod of fish today and conditions don’t look right for another run tomorrow, I am going to head two to three miles upstream and get ahead of yesterday’s push of fish.

  9. Ask for advice. If you see guys hooking up, you can politely ask what they are using. Some will help and some will not, just keep asking. Don’t think you alone can figure this program out in a few days on your own. Migratory fish are a different breed. They are here today and gone tomorrow. Conditions change quickly: sun to clouds, clear water to mud, rising and falling levels. Hiring a guide can help you learn these changes and navigate to the best location of the day.

  10. Be respectful of others. Give your fellow anglers some room to fish and don’t be afraid to ask for the same in return. Please be respectful of the resource. Pick up your trash, including fishing line, and follow all fishing regulations.

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