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Salmon River

Picture of the Salmon River.

The Salmon River, located in Oswego County, stretches 17 miles from the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir in Altmar to where it empties into Lake Ontario at Port Ontario. There are 12 miles of Public Fishing Rights along the river. The Salmon River offers some of the finest sportfishing in the country. Two major fish records have been set in the Salmon River: the Great Lakes record Chinook salmon (47 lbs. 13 oz.) and the world record Coho salmon (33 lbs. 4 oz.).

Public Access

Pine Grove Boat Launch- Pine Grove Rd., off Route 3 half a mile south of route 13 at Port Ontario. Dual gravel ramps. Access to Lake Ontario. 120 cars and trailers.
Port Ontario - Rte 3, Wheelchair access. Parking.
Blackhole - North Jefferson and Bridge Streets in Pulaski.
Long Bridge Pool (Staircase) - South Jefferson Street in Pulaski.
Short Bridge Pool - Rte 11 Downtown Pulaski.
Haldane Community Center - North Jefferson St. and Maple Ave. Parking.
Railroad Bridge Pool - County Rte 2A.
Papermill Pool - County Rte 2A.
Compactor Pool - County Rte 2A. Parking.
Drift Boat Launch - Compactor Pool, County Rte 2A. Parking.
Sportsman Pool (North) - Centerville Rd. Parking.
Sportsman Pool (South) - Rte 13. Parking.
Pineville - Rte 48. Parking.
Trestle Pool (North) - Sheepskin Road. Parking.
Trestle Pool (South) - Rte 13. Parking.
Ellis Cove - Rte 42. Parking.
Altmar North- Rte 52. Parking.
Drift Boat Launch - Rte 52, Altmar. Parking
Lower Fly fishing Section - Rte. 52 Altmar. Parking.
Upper Fly Fishing Section - Rte 22. Parking.
Orwell Brook - Tubbs Rd. Parking.
Trout Brook - Rte. 48. Parking.

Public Fishing Rights Information and Maps

Route 3 Crossing, Port Ontario
Route 3 Crossing, Port Ontario

Accessible Features

accessible recreation logo

Route 3 Crossing, Port Ontario

This fishing site, located upstream from the Lake Ontario marshes, features an accessible path to a fishing platform over the river. The concrete path has railings and several landings as it zigzags down the river bank. The fishing site is located along a busy road and does not offer the back country experience of other sites. There is designated accessible parking. There is no port-a-john at this location. Directions: At the northwest abutment of the Route 3 Bridge, just north of the Route 13 intersection.

See a full listing of DEC's accessible recreation destinations.

General Fishing Information

Chinook and Coho Salmon

Photo of anglers with large Chinook salmon

Maturing Chinook and Coho salmon returning to the Salmon River usually begin to stage off the Salmon River mouth in late August. Chinook (or King) salmon are the main attraction this time of year. The fish range in size from 15-30 lbs., averaging around 18 lbs. The Great Lakes record Chinook salmon, caught in the Salmon River, weighed 47 lbs. 13 oz. Coho salmon are generally smaller and range in size from 3 to 10 lbs., averaging around 8 lbs. The world record Coho salmon, caught in the Salmon River, weighed 33 lbs. 4 oz. Trolling in the estuary with spoons, dodgers/flies, cut-bait and plugs works well for these staging fish. Salmon usually begin entering the Salmon River around Labor Day.

A caught Salmon laying on leaves.

Once salmon enter the river they are no longer actively feeding. Despite this, they do exhibit behaviors that make them vulnerable to traditional sportfishing techniques. One of these behaviors is aggression, or territoriality, and the other is their attraction to fish eggs or egg shaped lures. The peak of the spawning run usually doesn't occur until the latter half of September and the first half of October. Fish are generally spread throughout the river depending on the spawning stage they are in. Some fish will be making their way upriver (often referred to as running), holding in deeper pools and actively spawning. Fish engaged in the first two activities can be caught on egg sacs, egg imitating flies or plastics and streamers. Fish that are spawning, especially the males, can become very aggressive and will strike gaudy streamers swung past their spawning redds.

Steelhead

A fisherman holding a Steelhead.

The Salmon River offers the opportunity to fish for two strains of steelhead, the Washington strain and the Skamania strain. The Washington, or winter run, begin entering the Salmon River in late October and continue through Spring. They feed aggressively on the abundant salmon eggs in the Fall, thus making it a very good time to go steelhead fishing. Using egg sacs or egg imitating flies and plastics are your best options. Fish that entered the river in the fall will hold over in the deeper pools of the river throughout the winter. Fishing the deeper pools with egg sacs, egg imitating flies or nymphs works well this time of year. Warming periods during the winter may bring new fish into the river. Spawning usually takes place during mid-March and through early April.

After spawning the fish begin to drop back to Lake Ontario. These fish can be very aggressive. These fish feed heavily because they are hungry and finished spawning. They can be caught on plugs, spinners, flies, egg sacs and night crawlers.

Summer run skamania steelhead begin entering the river around June. They tend to run during periods of increased flow. Your best chance to encounter fish is after a heavy rain or planned water release from the hydro plant. The fish remain in the river until they spawn the following spring.

Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon were native to Lake Ontario. They are fall spawners and start their spawning run as early as July. Atlantic salmon can range from 5 to 20 lbs. Fishing techniques are similar to steelhead fishing methods.

Brown Trout

Brown trout enter the river from mid-September to mid-November. Brown trout are also on a spawning run, but will feed heavily on salmon eggs. It can be difficult to target brown trout, but one option is fishing downstream from actively spawning salmon with egg sacs and egg imitating flies and plastics. Brown trout range from 2 to 20 lbs.

For current fishing information a fishing hotline is available at Region 7 Fishing Hotline or by calling (607) 753-1551.
For current water level on the Salmon River call 1-800-452-1742 code 365123.

Fisheries Management

Fishermen standing in the Salmon river.

The five major gamefish are Chinook and Coho salmon, Atlantic salmon (or landlocked salmon), brown trout, and steelhead. Smallmouth bass are also found in the river. The Salmon River is stocked yearly with around 300,000 Chinook salmon, 80,000 Coho salmon, 120,000 Washington strain steelhead, 40,000 skamania strain steelhead and 30,000 Atlantic salmon. Natural reproduction does take place in the Salmon River but to what extent this adds to the fishery is not known. The Salmon River is an important part of the Lake Ontario salmon and trout fishery. Some of the returning salmon and steelhead to the Salmon River make their way to the Salmon River Fish Hatchery. These fish are then used for egg collection and the resulting fish are stocked into many Lake Ontario tributaries, along with the Salmon River. A total of 1.76 million Chinook salmon are stocked annually by NYSDEC into Lake Ontario.

Special Regulations

Salmon River has some special fishing regulations, these can be found in your fishing guide in the section Great Lakes and Tributary Regulations. There are two catch and release fly fishing only areas. Conventional fly fishing equipment is required. The area above the County Rte. 52 bridge in Altmar is open from September 15 to May 15. The upper section is located adjacent to County Rte. 22 above the Salmon River Hatchery and is open April 1 to November 30.