Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Salmon at the Gate

By Spider Rybaak

Stairway to Salmon Heaven.

Early birds have been complaining the kings and cohos are running late this year. But as anyone with a little knowledge about the species can tell ya, they gotta run sometime; and that sometime is soon.

Last Saturday sparked a few into moving. Not massive numbers, mind you, just enough to keep things interesting. In Altmar, visitors attending the hatchery’s annual open house were treated to a steady stream of cohoes and a smattering of kings climbing the fish ladder all day long.

Downstream, cohoes were porpoising all along the river, challenging anglers to come and get ‘em. Those who were savvy in bait presentation, and knew how to handle a rod connected to an angry salmon, caught their limits.

Rob, over at Fat Nancy’s, says guides are reporting the mouth of the Salmon River is loaded with fish.
Rick Miick, owner of Dream Catcher Charters and Guide Service (315-387-5920) agrees. “I was out last Sunday night and the place was loaded with fish. The mother lode of kings is 50 feet deep, about a mile straight out in front of the mouth,” he adds.

“The cold temperatures and rain the weatherman predicts for this week are bound to drive them upstream,” predicts Miick.”

Once the ball gets rolling, salmon will continue running heavy all of October, slowly petering out by mid- November, just in time to make room for the steelhead that’ll be lured upstream in search of salmon eggs swept from the spawning beds by the current.

Presently, Beaverdam Brook in Altmar is swollen with salmon making their way to the hatchery.

Visitors to the facility, located on CR 22, can expect to see cohoes averaging 8 pounds and kings weighing up to 40-something pounds climbing the fish ladder all day long.

While loads of salmon are already milling around the gate waiting to be admitted into the hatchery, the vast majority is still too green to be stripped of spawn. Hatchery personnel are expected to start collecting and mixing the ingredients around Columbus Day.

The public is invited to watch. Call the hatchery (315-298-5051) for details.

At the last rung.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Kings are Back in Town

By Spider Rybaak

At the west Dam in Oswego.

Boasting one of the most popular campuses in the State University of New York system, Oswego sees its share of out-of-towners. But the return of students in late summer isn’t this port city’s only surge of visitors. A river slices through the heart of town and when the salmon run its rapids this time each year, the license plates in the parking lots on both banks hail from all over the country.

The first fish trickle into the inviting current as early as late August. They don’t all come at once, but stagger their return: one here, a couple there, a dozen up the middle. A few today, more tomorrow, none the third day, and so many on the fourth day the river seems to push upstream.

Typically, late September sees the migration accelerate. Conditions are never exactly the same from year to year so there’s no sure-fire formula for when great quantities of fish will be there. The only thing that’s certain is that the fish will come…and anglers will follow hot on their tails.

One magical morning--sometimes as early as the second week of the month, other years not until the beginning of October--so many fish ascend the fast water, colorful locals swear the river rises a foot or more. Guys who wade the river encounter so many fish they have to dodge ‘em or risk being knocked over.
Last week saw groups of fish ranging from a dozen to a couple hundred running the rapids each day.
By Sept. 17, word got out and anglers punctuated the rapids like waving, multi-colored ribbons. Saturday saw massive numbers of anglers weaving through the fast water, many tugging straining stringers attached to salmon averaging 20 pounds.

The action petered out by Sunday, but enough fish kept climbing upstream to keep patient anglers plugging away at them all day long.

Ritch, an employee over at the west bank’s Larry’s Salmon Shop, claims “salmon are stacked up in the pools below the dam.”
“As a matter of fact, we get a good morning-bite right behind the bait shop,” he adds.

Salmon numbers will increase in the river steadily until the end of the month, when they’ll stabilize, offering  action bordering on fantasy through the month of October.
Football-sized browns will join them next month, offering world class trophy fishing for this popular species until December. They’ll be followed in mid-October by large quantities of bragging-sized steelhead which will continuously run upstream until early spring.

From the looks of the run so far, the bubbly in the city of Oswego will host another bumper crop of salmonid this season.

Come on up and cast some flies or egg sacs at this big water’s monster trout and salmon. The only thing that’s certain is your arms will get tired. You'll have a better than even chance of hooking the fish of your dreams; a thrill that’ll turn your aches into bragging rights.

Off the wall. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lighthouse Hill Reservoir

By Spider Rybaak

Sign at the parking site on CR 22.
Cool September nights are starting to spur salmon into spawning mode. As of Monday, 9/14/2015 a few fish are trickling into the Salmon River, but “nothing too exciting yet!” according to an angler throwing streamers last weekend in the rapids upstream of the US 11 bridge in Pulaski.

From the looks of it, the run will follow the usual pattern: A few fish here and there up through this week, followed by major runs from next week through October, and then slowly petering out, all but disappearing from the stream by mid-November.

If you decide to head up this week and good numbers of fish aren’t in yet, a good alternative is to hit the Lower Reservoir for rainbows and browns. Also known as Lighthouse Hill Reservoir, this 164 acre impoundment is stocked annually with 4,000 yearling rainbows running 8 to 9 inches, and offers naturally spawned browns up to 5 pounds, and holdover rainbows averaging 2 pounds.

Summer sees the fish move to the 50-foot depths out in the middle where they’re pretty much ignored by anglers because the impoundment’s small size makes trolling for them hard work…and relatively boring. Still, the water filling the reservoir is drawn from the cool depths of the upper reservoir. Carried down the hill by a huge pipe, it’s protected from the sun and remains cool all the way to the powerhouse at Bennett Bridge.

September’s longer nights conspire with the flow released by the powerhouse to lower water temperatures enough to draw trout into shallow water. By the middle of the month, the fish move in close enough, especially at dawn and dusk, to be within range of guys casting spoons and spinners from shore.

The hottest action is at the reservoir’s tailrace where the cool, highly oxygenated rapids run at the perfect temperature and pace for trout. A good way to target them is by casting streamers across the current and letting them swing downstream. The fish usually strike when the fly hits the edge of the fast water and straightens out. Hold on tight because the strike is always violent, leading to the phrase: “the drug is in the tug.

Spinners and spoons cast upstream and across the current produce, too; and worms fished on bottom along the currents edge work after a rain.

Getting to the fish is easy, too. A fishing access site, complete with parking for about 10 cars, sits right off CR 22, between the bridges--one goes over the tailrace, the other over what’s left of the original Salmon River. Another access site is off Hog Back Road, on the east bank. The state’s regular trout regulations govern the water above the reservoir’s dam.

Tailrace Point powerhouse discharge on the left