By Spider Rybaak
OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Early calculations from the angler survey that New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation cast over America’s major Lake Ontario tributaries late last summer suggest the tiniest Great Lake’s feeders provide world-class trophy salmonid fishing in the off-season, between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Initiated in September 2011 and scheduled to run through April of this year, the study is part of a protracted effort (similar surveys have been taken over the years) to monitor the Lake Ontario tributary fishery during the salmon and steelhead runs.
Although it’ll take at least until autumn for the survey to be completed, analyzed and its findings published, the figures for September 1 through November 30, a period known in these parts as salmon time, show the salmon fishery is growing, rapidly gaining the popularity it enjoyed in its heyday 1989.
“The overall number of [angler] hours was more than I expected. It put the tributaries into the realm of what the boat fishery was all summer,” claims DEC Fisheries Biologist Scott Prindle, who co-authored the paper “Fall 2011 Lake Ontario Tributary Angler Survey,” along with colleague Dan Bishop.
Anglers Spent More than 750,000 Hours on Salmon River in Two Months
Not surprisingly, the Salmon River provided the Herculean contribution to angler happiness. Of the 21 feeders studied in the first two months of autumn, the world-famous Pulaski stream claimed 751,127 angler hours — over half of the angling time (1,111,362 hours) recorded for all of the Lake’s tributaries –a cool 68%.
In that period, 85,106 chinook salmon (68% of the survey’s total) and 29,113 coho salmon (95% of the total) were landed. Equally important, more than half the chinooks and two-thirds of the cohos were released, reflecting the growing catch-and-release ethic capturing the hearts and minds of America’s anglers.
2,800 Chinook Released Back into Oswego River
Another stream playing a lead role in the survey is the Oswego River. Anglers reported fishing roughly 49,482 hours in the first two months of autumn (a figure beaten only by the Salmon River and Eighteen Mile Creek). Approximately 4,088 chinooks were landed from the Oswego River; 2,876 were released.
Salmon weren’t the only ones studied. Figures were also taken for brown trout and steelhead, the rainbow trout’s ocean running form.
Steelhead Follow the Salmon
In mid-autumn, steelhead enter the streams on the wakes of spawning salmon to feed on their caviar. Draped in colors running from deep green on their backs to chrome sides streaked in light pink to blood red, these attractive critters thrive in the imaginations of anglers because of their incredible leaping abilities, hang-time and stamina.
Once again, the Salmon River provided the greatest number of chromers (39,697), and the Oswego River placed fifth with 1,227.
Brown trout stage their spawning runs upstream from mid-October through December. Thirteen of the 21 waters surveyed offered the species. For brown trout, the Salmon and Oswego Rivers placed fourth (3,523) and sixth (2,930) place, respectively, on the list.
Lake Ontario’s tributaries are among New York State’s most valuable resources. By providing some of the greatest fishing on the planet, they pour millions of dollars into local economies.
Now that’s something to brag about.
For year-round fishing conditions and visitor information in Oswego County, go to www.visitoswegocounty.com, or call 1-800-248-4FUN.
Spider Rybaak is an award-winning outdoor writer who has been published in more than 20 periodicals. He is the author of “Fishing Eastern New York” and “Fishing Western New York” guide books that cover 429 streams and lakes in New York State. Contact him at [email protected]. Check out his blog at http://fishingandhuntinginoswego.blogspot.com/