It’s been a record summer of fishing for salmon, trout on Lake Ontario

Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters holds up a 32-pound Niagara Bar king salmon caught by Kyle Kraft of Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Bill Hilts Jr.)

Altmar, N.Y. — While the attention is rapidly turning to Lake Ontario’s tributaries for the annual fall spawning run of salmon and trout, it has already been a record-breaking season of fishing on the big lake.

How good was the fishing this season? Based on catch rate statistics compiled by the DEC, the best it has ever been.

DEC’s preliminary statistics based on the number of fish caught per boat, per trip showed the catch rate for all salmon and trout species combined was at a record high, and more than 37 percent above the five-year average.

The catch rate for chinook salmon, the marquee salmonid in Lake Ontario, during April through June set a record that was 227 percent above the previous five-year average.

“It’s the best chinook fishing I’ve seen since 1989,” said Capt. Vince Pierleoni, who operates Thrillseeker charters out of Olcott.

Captain Bob Songin, who operates Reel Excitement Charters out of Point Breeze, said the fishing “out of Wilson Harbor to the Niagara River has been spectacular, with many chinook and coho salmon hitting as well as the occasional lake trout mixed in.”

The red-hot fishing has also extended into the lake’s eastern basin, with salmon and brown trout caught in both size and numbers. Oswego produced a 28.1-pound chinook that won the grand prize in the Spring Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) Trout and Salmon Derby.

Fishing for brown trout and coho salmon has also been excellent in 2018, with catch rates 38 and 21 percent higher than their respective previous five-year averages. Atlantic salmon represent a relatively small portion of the Lake Ontario fishery, but catch rates for Atlantics were 73 percent above the previous five-year average, preliminary numbers showed.

“The New York waters of Lake Ontario provide a world-famous recreational fishery for trout and salmon, and fishing has been exceptional this summer,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a news release.

“This is the second year in a row that the take of chinook has been above average at Oswego, as reported by council members,” said New York State Conservation Council President Chuck Parker. “There are so many variables that can and do affect the quality of the fishing opportunities we have. We at the NYSCC recognize that the science-based management practices of the DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries are an integral force in sustaining New York’s world-class Lake Ontario fishery.”

A recent statewide angler survey estimated that more than 2.6 million angler days were spent on Lake Ontario and major tributaries. The estimated value of the fisheries topped $112 million annually to local economies.

A big part of that economic impact actually comes in the fall, notably along the famed Salmon River, where chinook salmon, brown trout and rainbow/steelhead make their way into the river and create a fishing frenzy that lasts through the end of the year and beyond.

Some of that fishing activity has already begun as early runs of chinooks have started pouring into the Salmon River, Oak Orchard Creek and other tributaries to the lake.

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