Salmon Everywhere

By Spider Rybaak

Sue with her biggest king.

Up until this summer, the term August kings referred to the legions of mature salmon that traditionally stage off the mouths of Lake Ontario’s tributaries in late summer to await the biological urge that shuts down their hypothalami and launches them upstream to spawn. This year changed that definition.

Oh, massive quantities of kings are still staging in Oswego County’s territorial waters. Indeed, the Oswego River draws an amount proportionate to what you’d expect the smallest Great Lake’s second largest tributary to attract. Its plume reaches out into the lake for miles, hooking the hormones of fish from here to Canada, drawing massive quantities of trophy Chinooks and cohos to the city of Oswego’s north bank.

It’s obvious from all the charter boats trolling within a mile of the Port City right now. In the past, they’d be out so far the first half of September, you’d need binoculars to see half of them.

And the fishing’s great. On the evening of August 29, Captain Richard “Big Dick” Stanton (Stanton Charter Service; 315-685-0651) took outdoor writer/online visibility expert Sue Bookhout fishing less than a mile due north of the city. It only took her about two hours to land (it was her first time out so she lost some) her limit of salmon: kings weighing 10 and 23 pounds, and a 12-pound coho; all of ‘em on a fly dragged behind an echip flasher.

Out in the lake, action like this is expected this time of year; and lots of guys plan their vacations accordingly. So this kind of excitement, within easy sight of the big city, is typical and loads of fun.

The Salmon River is a different story. Normally, only small groups of kings climb the stream in August; usually on reconnaissance runs up to the Black Hole, sometimes a little further, with the majority falling back to regroup and join the major runs of mid- to late September.

This year kings began trickling in by the first of August, running the entire stream. The second week saw noteworthy runs. And they haven’t stopped coming.

Fran Verdoliva, the state’s program coordinator for the Salmon River, says these are all wild fish, surmising that naturally bred kings run earlier than hatchery fish.

Captain Rick Miick concurs. “In the past, fish that ran this early would come in and out. This time they’re spawning and dying.”

September 1st saw lines of anglers at all the popular spots in Pulaski. Anglers interviewed for this blog claimed the fish upstream were all taken and a new run was shooting through town that morning.

The fish being hauled up the bank were all silvery, indicating they were fresh-run.

“These salmon are at their peak,” claimed an unidentified angler. “Unlike hatchery-bred fish, they’re super aggressive, avoid man…and fight!!!

“With all these wild fish around, it’s like mother nature giving us another month of salmon in the river,” adds the New Jersey native. “I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for us when the browns and steelies start running.”

This season promises to be another for the record books; Oswego County’s getting good at doing that.

Captain Dick adjusting the drag during the fight.
Pay-off for two hours of trolling.
Boats trolling for kings less than a mile off Nine-mile Point.
Stairway to Home.
Viewing platform on Maple Ave., Pulaski.
Discussing theory.
Hey buddy, give me a hand.