• Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Fishing…, Fall Steelhead

    Posted on August 11th, 2011 admin No comments

    A September Chromer

    A September Chromer




    I could read Vinnie’s thoughts as he scanned the surface of Lake Ontario around my charter boat on that early November day.  “Are there really steelhead here?  If the fishing is so good, why aren’t there any other boats fishing?  Shouldn’t we have left the dock before daylight like we do for salmon, instead of heading out at 7:00 AM?”  His thoughts were rudely interrupted as one of his fishing buddies hollered, “Hey, there’s a steelhead jumping back there!”, as a noodle rod doubled over.


    Two months earlier right where we were off the mouth of the Big Salmon , boats were wall to wall fishing for staged king salmon.  Today, we were the only boat on the water.  Why?  Because anglers just aren’t aware of Lake Ontario’s fantastic fall for trophy steelhead  staged  off the mouth of spawning.


    Every year, when  the leaves start to color as fall approaches, tens of thousands of nomadic steelhead scattered the length and  breadth of 200 mile long Lake Ontario begin to feel the urge to spawn.  Homing in on ancestral spawning streams,  they make their way toward river mouths like the Big Salmon, near Pulaski, New York, in northern Oswego County.  More than a half million steelhead are stocked each year in Lake Ontario tributaries, none receiving a heavier stocking than the Big Salmon.  The fishing these stocked steelhead produces in shallow, accessible water is some of the best Lake Ontario has to offer.


    Before that November trip ended, Vinnie and his three fishing buddies put 8 steelhead up to 12 pounds in the cooler, and carefully released almost as many smaller fish, all on ultralight noodle rods and 8 lb. test line.  When we pulled the lines at 1:00 PM, there still wasn’t another boat in sight.


    Why is this fantastic fall steelhead fishery so underutilized?  The answers are simple.  First, the fishery hasn’t been publicized like the spring and summer brown trout, lake trout, chinook and coho fishery.  Most anglers don’t know it exists.  Secondly, most anglers don’t realize that the late October and early November weather along the southeast coastline of Lake Ontario is much warmer than the rest of the Northeast because of the heat sink influence of the vast expanse of warm water in Lake Ontario.  Third, anglers don’t realize how easily accessible fall lake steelhead are, and how easy they are to catch.


    Inshore fall steelhead trolling is as simple as you want to make it.  It’s great for the small boat  troller, because these fish are shallow, generally in 20 feet of water or less, and close to port.  In the case of the Big Salmon River, there is a public boat launch just inside the river mouth at Selkirk Shores State Park,  minutes away from the fishing.  Remember, though,  the waters of Lake Ontario can be extremely rough.  Caution and judgment should be used before taking a small boat out on the water Steelhead bite best in sunny, bluebird weather, perfect conditions for the small boater.


     The trolling setup for steelhead and rainbows is basic.  Trolling tight to the boat is generally not effective.  Downriggers and planer boards work best when fished 70-100 feet back.   Troll flat lines 100-150 feet back.


    As they say, steelhead and rainbows like fluorescent red lures no matter what color they are!  Lure color selection for autumn steelies is simple.  My favorite spoons are the size #41 and  #51 red/black Alpena Diamonds.  Stickbaits like Nils Masters, and Rapalas,  in red, orange, or orange/gold finishes are also effective.  


     Fine tuning your presentation is the key.  Stick to my   recipe speed of 2.5 MPH, and stay away from oversized snap swivels on lures, especially smaller stick baits.


    Have you felt the nip in the air lately?  It won’t be long before the leaves start to turn.  Fall will be here soon, and with it will come some of the best Lake Ontario steelhead fishing of the year.  I plan to be on the water every day from mid-October to mid-November and would love some company!  Bring some of those fluorescent red lures with you.  Close-in autumn steelies love ‘em.