If a 20-pounder is on your menu, Lake Ontario is the hot spot for recreational salmon fishing. With shores bordering upstate New York and Canada, this inland Great Lake sports tributaries where migratory salmon make their spawning runs. If you don’t own a boat, hiring a charter with an experienced skipper is the easiest way to get some action. But if you’re towing your own boat, there are plenty of angler-welcoming spots with boat ramps: Henderson Harbor, Oswego, Sodus Bay, Oak Orchard, lower Niagara River.
My husband and I own a 23-foot Triton, center console walk-around fishing boat with twin 150-HP Mercurys. For safety, your boat should be at least 20 feet if you plan to fish offshore. To give you a fighting chance against a 20-pound salmon, you’ll need some heavy equipment: downriggers, a variety of salmon spoons and dipsy divers (to make the spoons dive deeper), J-plugs, an extra-large net, and a few trolling rods with 25-pound test line and at least 400 feet of line. A fish finder can help discover “bait balls,” congregations of bait fish attractive to salmon. A thermometer helps determine depth temperature since salmon prefer 50 – 55 degree water.
So you have a boat outfitted with all the necessary equipment. What’s next?
Scope out the hot spots. Check fishing websites, talk to local charter captains, and schmooze with other anglers. Some will give you helpful information about fishing success or lack of.
Check the marine forecast. Avoid setting out during “small craft” warnings. You’ll be tossed around and possibly swamped. Although Lake Ontario is inland, wave action can imitate ocean swells in bad weather.
Hit the seas. If the weather cooperates, set out before dawn so all equipment is in position when the sun rises, trolling in a zig-zag at 3 – 5 MPH. When fishing May through August, head for the deeper, cooler water. From late August through mid-September, salmon are closer to river mouths, getting ready to run upstream and spawn.
Get the scoop. If you have a marine radio, listen to channels local anglers and charter captains are talking on, exchanging real-time information about where the salmon are, or aren’t.
Reel it in. You’ll know when a salmon hits because your line rips rapidly. If you have more than one line out, your crew should pull in the other rods to avoid tangling as the fish fights and zig-zags. Keep the rod tip high. Wait until the salmon tires (15 minutes – 1 hour), then reel it in. Avoid snagging it in the props. Net the salmon and haul it on board. For bragging rights, snap a photo!
Additional information: http://ontariosalmonfishing.com/