*Please note: Night fishing during the salmon runs is only allowed in the short stretch from the last buoy, located between the breakwalls at Selkirk, to the mouth. (See page 30 in the NY Freshwater Fishing Guide for 2008-09, or page 38 in the 2009-10 guide).
Showing off a large king. Photo courtesty of Catch 22 Fishing Charters.
The most exciting time to catch salmon is at night. Problem is they don’t usually hit more than a half-hour or so after the sun goes down. In fact, Al Maxwell of Woody’s Tackle in Port Ontario says “September is about the only time of year when they hit after dark.”
You see, a king’s last September isn’t typical by any stretch. Indeed, in the autumn of its life the urge to spawn is foremost on its mind, driving it to act anything but normally.
I wanted to see for myself and called Captain Rick Miick, (315) 387-5920 late last week to learn what he knew about it. “We’re getting some fish by sitting (still-fishing) off the sticks,” he confirmed. I’m going out tonight with a couple friends. Wanna come?”
“You betcha’” I replied.
We launched at the Salmon River Lighthouse Marina; 315-298-6688) a little after sundown. Rick rowed out about 100 yards off the “long stick” (jetty with the red light) and dropped anchor. Our tackle consisted of some weight to get us to bottom and a floating egg sac to keep the offering waving a few inches above the sand.
“They usually come in a couple hours after sundown,” the captain explained. “The river’s colder than the lake and it draws them. The few fish that are ripe make their way to the hatchery. The majority are fresh and only get about as far as the Black Hole, then turn back for the lake in the morning.”
The still night was magical. The lake was asleep. Not a wave stirred. Above, a silent explosion of stars sparkled like fireworks. North along the shoreline, Brennan Beach RV Resort was lit up with what appeared to be Christmas decorations. Out on the lake, a few charter boats scurried about in the darkness. All around us sat numerous drift boats. The light sticks they attached to their rod tips as strike indicators glowed, making them look like menorahs.
About an hour into the night, a cacophony of spooky splashes surrounded us. For about ten minutes they were breaking the surface everywhere. Excited almost beyond control, we glued our eyes to the strike indicators and prepared for a fight in the night.
But nothing happened. The school must have swam under us and gone up river.
Some of the boats were luckier. While we couldn’t see anything, and no one whooped and hollered, the sound of a net handle scraping the bottom of a boat and a long spell of violent splashing at its side indicated a fish was being landed.
Soon afterwards, some boats started flatlining (row-trolling) with glo J Plugs. Photographic flashes, used to fire-up the lures, popped through the night.
Check the Great Lakes and Tributary Regulations section of the “NYS Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide” for specific regulations.
This exciting bite starts winding down the last week of the month and all but stops by the beginning of October.
Late September’s nights are extremely black, and can get cold. But this sensory deprivation is what makes this the most intimate form of salmon fishing. Indeed, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen a king rising through glimmering moonlight, an arm’s reach away.