Save a weekend for King Salmon
Sure, it is tough to tear ourselves away from Lake Erie walleye. But there might be a pretty good reason for a weekend fishing trip. About the same time that steelhead should be moving into our Pennsylvania Lake Erie tributaries, chinook salmon should be increasing in the Lower Niagara River and creeks emptying into Lake Ontario. By mid-September, things should be getting into full swing.
Checking the Lake Ontario fishing reports brings back memories of the years when I spent a lot of time fishing Lake Ontario and its tributaries during the latter 1970s and the 1980s. At that time I saw more people I knew along Lake Ontario than I did in Warren. That was due to writing some of the first national magazine articles about that fishery.
Those were great times and great fishing. Yet reports read recently indicate that Lake Ontario fishing might be even better now.
It is my understanding that chinook salmon have not yet entered the Lower Niagara River or the tributaries along the southwestern shore. Off Point Breeze, the chinook is down 40 feet to 80 feet over depths of 85 feet to 125 feet.
By the time you get there, the kings will probably be in, or at least right at the mouths.
My best days for chinook salmon were fishing out of Point Breeze and Olcott during about this time frame. These fish are at their best just before they enter the tributaries. The rod explodes when they hit a downrigger line or a Dipsy Diver line. The first run typically pulls the line out by the hundreds of yards. Their jumps usually are not high, but porpoise-like so as to not interrupt the run.
For those who have yet to try this fishing, probably your best bet is a charter trip. Ask around for recommendations, or just check the Internet for Lake Ontario fishing guides.
If your first Lake Ontario chinook salmon fishing will be in your own boat, if it is safe for Lake Erie it should be fine.
No great expense in gear is absolutely necessary, assuming you have sturdy rod holders, and trolling rods and reels loaded with at least 12 pound-test line. Actually, for chinook salmon, I recommend 20 pound-test line, but we have done it with 12 pound-test.
Remember, these fish commonly weigh more than 30 pounds
A pair of Dipsy Divers will get your lures down to the kings. You can find these at most sporting goods stores near the Great Lakes. Several sizes are available. Start with a 4 1/8 inch model 001, or if you run 12 pound-test line starts with a 3 1/4 inch model 000.
Now I have pained myself into a corner. To run Dipsy Divers you need a fairly long rod that also is stiffer than standard trolling rods. Get up to Erie and ask for a Dipsy Diver rod.
The same lures you may use for Lake Erie walleye should be fine for kings, except you might want to leave the smaller lures home. When you get up to Lake Ontario you probably will stop at a local tackle shop and buy a few of the hot lures. This is how I wound up with more fishing lures than I ever could use.
Even if you fish from a very small boat, you can still get into this game. Just stay in a creek, one that can be boated such as Oak Orchard Creek. This creek can be trolled when boat traffic is not too heavy using short lines. Chinook will grab lures right in the prop wash. I like 15 feet behind the propeller. They appear to be attracted by the prop wash. Hits on a short line are about as thrilling as freshwater fishing gets.
I suggest a Bomber Model A, size 7, in chartblush color pattern, or any other color that trips your trigger, in the prop wash. In years past when we trolled Whitey and the Plug in lower Cattaraugus Creek, we used such a lure to great effect. Those lures were ones from which I had stripped the paint, then repainted with clarise (Looks like yellow to me.) Whitey was an old Fenglass flipping rod, white of course.
There is also casting and bait fishing in the creeks. This can be done from shore in several places.