Great Lakes salmon are like no other fresh water game fish. They’ve got what sport fishermen like; muscle and lots of it.
Hook a mid-size king salmon and enjoy the fight. Hook a big one and tie yourself to something solid because a mature king salmon is nothing short of one big bully with the shoulders to back it up. Indeed, a fully grown king salmon delivers the most power of any fish the majority of us will ever catch.
Because of that, big game anglers head for New York each season. That’s where they find access to Lake Ontario and that’s where the action is. Yes, the trout and other fish offer plenty of action and excellent table fare, but it’s the giants of Lake Ontario that fishermen hope for.
Lake Ontario is like no other of the Great Lakes chain. Deep and cold, this second deepest of the five Great Lakes, Lake Ontario has proven itself to be the perfect place for growing big fish and offering equally big thrills to all who chase the monsters.
According to Captain Bob Cinelli, a highly respected charter guide, the western New York ports of Lewiston on the Niagara River, Wilson, and Olcott, offer consistently good fishing for not only the heavy weights, but coho salmon, steelhead trout, brown trout, and lake trout as well.
Cinelli said that the nutrient rich Niagara River is the most powerful influence of any factor affecting Lake Ontario’s fishery. It’s like a multi-million gallon per day faucet that pumps everything that salmon like into the western basin of Lake Ontario where the lion’s share of the lake’s salmon and trout congregate in early spring to begin their annual chow-down, a seasonal protein buffet that puts pounds and girth on every fish.
A recent early season trip to Wilson allowed Cinelli and fellow charter guide and friend Danny Evans to show case one of their favorite fishing holes, just off the shore line of Niagara County.
“Look at the green water, it’s the best water for salmon and trout and we’ve got it every spring as the river currents bring all that Lake Erie water into our area,” Cinelli said.
As the weeks pass, the good water will course down the shoreline bringing with it good fishing to the ports further east.
Salmon and most trout are not native to the Great Lakes but they are welcome guests, stocked first in Lake Michigan and later in Lake Ontario and most of the other Great Lakes.
While Lake Michigan has a half century of salmon stocking success, although not as consistent as that of Lake Ontario, it’s the New York ports that produce year in and year out.
“We’re fortunate to have a lake in balance,” Cinelli said, indicating that stocking efforts and some natural reproduction provide the right number of year class salmon while the forage base that feeds the quick growing fish is sufficient, too.
And as one big fish after another attack our baits, it become apparent that Cinelli knows what he’s talking about. The right number of predatory salmon and Trout, the right amount of forage, the right water, and easy access to it all makes western Lake Ontario is the right place. Chinook, or king salmon are five-year fish. On this trip with Cinelli and Evans, we caught several juvenile king salmon, just two or three years old and already weighing in the mid-teens. In another two years of 24-7 gorging, these same fish will top out at 25 to 30 pounds, some even more.
It’s a troller’s game here, the only way to get shiny lures to the perfect depth. Rods, reels, and lures are all designed for the kind of abuse they are sure to endure. A full grown king can and often do spin a reel backward and bend a heavy rod to its breaking point. It’s fun, exciting, and nothing short of one of fishing’s best sport.
I have great memories of big Lake Ontario salmon. The last and largest fish my aging dad ever caught was a chunky salmon. I still see the picture in my mind and still remember the glow of pride as he tried hard to lift his fish for a photo.
Dad and I talked about a return visit but it wasn’t in the cards.
For more information about western New York’s big water fishery, contact Bob Cinelli at 716-433-5210, or Dan Evans at 716-863-0018.