Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Estuary Perch

Stan Oulette of Deer Creek Motel; Pulaski, N.Y.

Back in the early 1960s, catching Pacific salmon and steelhead in Lake Ontario was just a dream entertained by fish and game officials and dreamy-eyed anglers, many of whom had fished out West.

To your average local angler, the targets of choice were warm-water species like smallmouth bass, northern pike and yellow perch. The estuary, the slow-moving, lower stretch of the Salmon River running from the last set of rapids to the mouth, was one of the best spots around to catch ‘em all, especially a bucket of yellow perch.

“Still is” boasts Stan Oulette of Deer Creek Motel, located on State Route 3, a couple miles north of Port Ontario. “In fact,” he claims, "it’s Oswego County’s best kept secret.”

Stan and his brother David are local experts on the lower river. With good reason: both, along with their families, love to eat fish, and perch are their favorite. 

“The estuary always holds fish,” claims Stan, “but they change with the seasons… northern pike are plentiful in the spring, bass are in all summer long, salmon and brown trout come through in the fall, steelhead in winter and spring, and perch…ahh, perch,” he goes on, dreamlike  “… they’re always around.”

The bait of choice for these tasty panfish is a minnow fished on bottom or suspended a few inches off the floor below a bobber. Squeamish anglers and those who prefer artificial lures will catch a batch by jigging a Berkley Atomic Teaser tipped with a Power Honey Worm.

An angler inexperienced in the ways of Lake Ontario tributaries would probably conclude the perch—indeed, all panfish—flee the estuary at the first sight of a salmon.

The exact opposite is true; panfish are drawn into the estuary and spurred into a feeding frenzy by all the salmon eggs and tiny life forms that feed on salmon cadavers.


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