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September 18, 2018

After the Storm


Fishing in the public access parking lot, Altmar, October 1.

Last week’s hurricane generated rains swelled Lake Ontario’s tributaries to the bursting point. By Friday afternoon, the Salmon River peaked, but not until it ran over the north end of the CR 52 Bridge in Altmar.

“That don’t happen often,” said a village resident. “When it did this time,” he continued, “a few guys fished on the bridge, in the ripples running over the pavement. One nailed a 20-pound king and another took a nice 10-pound male.”

I’ve heard of pounding the pavement, painting the pavement, laying pavement…but fishing the pavement???

By the time I arrived on the scene at 5:30 p.m., the water was on its way down. But it was still way up there, higher than during your average spring thaw. A side channel with a good current plowed through the fishing access site on the northwestern corner of the bridge. I watched two kings get hooked in the parking lot. They were huge, at least 35 pounds each, and when they decided to head back to the main river, the anglers couldn’t stop them and they broke off.

An eddy developed at the drift boat launch on the other end of the bridge. I saw a guy holding a bowed rod high over his head. It danced in time with the thrusts made by the mighty king on the other end of the line.

Now, a sight like that normally doesn’t warrant a second glance. But this time, the guy was Ron Haney, an Altmar resident who only has one arm. You gotta see this guy fighting a fish to believe it. He holds his rod high while the fish has the upper hand, letting the drag, current and bent rod do all the work. When the fish tires and starts giving a little, Ron hangs the reel over his thigh and reels in the line.

He actually got the fish to shore, but it was a stubborn critter full of hope. Right when everyone watching thought the game was over, the fish waved its tail good-bye and snapped the line.

“That was a nice fish. But the conditions are tough,” Haney stoically remarked, staring out over the raging river.
Ron Haney holding on while an angler tries tailing his king. It got away at the last minute.

High water is good for salmon and they were everywhere. Unfortunately for “sports,” the water was too much to chase after the beasts and few were landed. Sunday saw the water down enough for anglers to have a fighting chance. I saw fish get taken in every pool I visited on the Salmon River. Kings mostly, with a few browns and steelies mixed in.

Water in the River Park’s walkway, downtown Oswego, October 3.

South of the plant, more than two feet of water surged along the concrete wall lining the riverbank, forcing folks to fish from the sidewalk. Some brave anglers entered the water at the trail’s end but heavy current wouldn’t let them get more than 15 to 20 feet from the staircase.

Anglers fishing on the walkway upstream of the power plant, an area they usually fish from a dry bank.

Above the power plant, the stairway ended in water on Sunday.

Under normal conditions, salmon mill around in the lake waiting for high water before storming in. Usually, it comes after autumn showers that only raise the river a few inches to a foot per storm. As a result, the runs are staggered.

This year three months of rain fell in one day and the water rose to Global Warming proportions. It’s a good bet that a lot of salmon will take advantage, and come in groups to spawn, offering super fishing over the next several weeks.

So, there’ll still be plenty of salmon to catch, with late-running fish all month long.

In addition to kings with record-breaking potential, steelhead and brown trout runs should be off the charts. The high water will draw massive quantities of both species into the Salmon and Oswego Rivers; browns until the end of the month, chromers from now through spring.

The fish are huge, so’s the water. Put the two together and we stand to have the best fishing Oswego County–aka water of champions–has seen in 25 years.

When the water came down on Sunday, anglers began landing fish again.
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A happy Sunday morning angler on the Salmon River

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