Spring Landlocked Atlantic Salmon
This gorgeous fish (note the girth!) put up a terrific 20-minute fight after being hooked on a small wooly bugger on the swing. Note that this is April! The Landlocked Atlantic Salmon, a native fish to Lake Ontario, is a summer run fish; June / July. So, what is this fish doing in the River in April?
Over the years fishing Douglaston Salmon Run (DSR) I have experienced this early run. One year Landlocked Atlantic Salmon showed up the last week of March. If this is NOT a spawning run, what’s going on. From research and experience I believe this is an “opportunistic feeding” run. These fish are attracted to the Salmon River because of the high spring flow, the scent of Steelhead spawning or a combination of both. These are very aggressive fish and we have seen them chase Fall Fish (Chubs) up on the bank! They have made this early run to feed!!!
How can we predict when these fish will show up in the Spring?
1) High Flow: I’m not sure how high but it seems that at least a 1,000 cfs is required. The fish above was attracted to the lower portion of the DSR by 2,400 plus cfs!
2) Water Temp: The key factor for me has been 50-degree water temperature. By mid-morning before this fish was caught the water temp had warmed to just over 49 degree’s!
3) Suckers: Lake Suckers show up in the lower river to spawn and the trimming of this run is at the end of the late Steelhead spawn and usually indicates water temps of about 50 degree’s. Drop-Back Steelhead will often hold behind these spawning Suckers to feed. We noted a couple of Suckers in the pool before this Landlocked Atlantic Salmon hit.
How long does this run last? I have experienced these fish in the lower river during this spring run for as long as 5-6 weeks. There is not significant experience here as historically there have been few fishermen on the DSR after early May as at some point the Drop-Back Steelhead fishery is over. Now the DSR is open all year there are more late spring fishermen, often targeting the outstanding Smallmouth Bass Fishery in the lower River.
In years past, working for the DSR, I have had the opportunity in the summer to fish the lower river when the DSR was closed. I have hooked Landlocked Atlantic Salmon during their spawning run and have fished for them in late summer through early fall in the Upper Fly Zone and other headwater areas. As summer run fish, they can certainly tolerate 70-degree water. They spawn in late September through October and drop back to the lake. These “Drop-Back” Landlocked Atlantic Salmon are dark in color and are occasionally caught at the DSR as they return to the lake during the King Salmon Run.
On a final note, the size, appearance, girth and fight of this Landlocked Atlantic Salmon is an indicator that there is forage available in the lake and that the fishery is recovering.
Fishing conditions have been challenging lately here on the Salmon River. For this time of the year, it is slow to moderate for the amount of action. Anglers throughout the river system are reporting very few hook ups throughout the day, and they have been spending a lot of time walking the river trying to find fish. Many people have reported that they have seen fish staged ether in the estuary or river mouth. These Steelhead seem to be wanting to make their runs in the river, but due to the the lack of water, they haven’t. We have seen a few Steelhead making their initial push through the Douglaston Salmon Run, but not the large pods we are custom to seeing. Fresh-run Steelhead and some Browns are being caught at the DSR with a trickle of fresh King Salmon reported earlier in the week. Fishing upriver can be described as “right time, right place” at the major pools with some good activity below the Altmar Bridge. The Lower Fly Zone has fished well at times while the Upper Fly Zone has been more sporadic. Drift Boat Captains continue to report some steelhead from Altmar through Pineville to the 2A Bridge.
The reservoir levels are currently low with the lack of rain we experienced this season. The low level is preventing an increase in the river’s flow, which is required to help bring in staged fish. As of right now, there isn’t much rain in the near forecast to help increase the water flow. Forecast calls for sun and clouds with temperatures in the 60s. The current Salmon River conditions in Pineville, NY are 500 CFS and 50 degrees.