Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

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.).

The recently completed Salmon River Fisheries Management Plan (PDF), which was developed with stakeholders input, provides succinct descriptions of the river's trout and salmon fisheries and lays out the framework of major objectives and the strategies which the Department intends to employ to meet the Plan's stated goal: "DEC will manage the River and its tributaries as a premier, high quality, year-round sport fishery with the opportunity to catch a diversity of trophy sized lake run trout and salmon species". The Plan calls for development of a yearly workplan to guide actions and to share with stakeholders at annual "State of the Salmon River Fishery" meetings.

A complementary plan titled the Lower Salmon River Restoration and Recreation Enhancement Plan (PDF) was also recently completed and provides a more detailed description of the history of the river and its fishery. The management objectives of this plan primarily cover the 1,700 acres of recently acquired state property which borders much of the river between the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir and the Village of Pulaski. The purpose of acquiring these lands was to improve and ensure protection of the natural resources, construct several restoration structures to stabilize river banks and improve aquatic habitat, and to improve public access to the rivers world class fisheries.

Watch a clip on Salmon & Trout Identification in the Lake Ontario Tributary and check out other clips on our YouTube Channel.


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. Parking.
Long Bridge Pool (Staircase) - South Jefferson Street in Pulaski.
Short Bridge Pool - Rte 11 Downtown Pulaski.
Ballpark - Rte 11 Pulaski. Parking

Haldane Community Center - North Jefferson St. and Maple Ave. Parking.
County Route 2A - County Rte 2A. Parking (Not Completed Yet).
Compactor Pool - County Rte 2A. Parking. Drift Boat Launch.
Sportsman Pool (North) - Centerville Rd. Parking.
Sportsman Pool (South) - Rte 13. Parking.
Fishing Museum - Rte 13. Parking
Pineville - Rte 48. Parking. Drift Boat Launch.
Trestle Pool (North) - Sheepskin Road. Parking.
Trestle Pool (South) - Rte 13. Parking. Parking area will be closed starting on March 29th.
Ellis Cove - Rte 42. Parking.

Wire Hole - Rte 42. parking.(Not Completed Yet).
Altmar North - Rte 52. Parking.
Lower Fly - Rte. 52 Altmar. Parking. Drift Boat Launch.
Paradise Pool - Rte 22. Parking.
Upper Fly - Rte 22. Parking.
Orwell Brook - Tubbs Rd. Parking.
Trout Brook - Rte. 48. Parking.

For more information on these boat launches including Google Maps driving directions, visit the Boat Launch Sites for Oswego County page.

Salmon River Public Fishing Rights Brochure (PDF)

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.

Fish Species:

Chinook salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon (or landlocked salmon), steelhead (rainbow trout), brown trout, smallmouth bass, rock bass, fall fish, shorthead redhorse and white sucker.


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.


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 Central New York 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.

Stocked fish

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.

Wild fish

Natural reproduction does take place in the Salmon River. Thanks to the purchase of an automated fish marking trailer (Autofish) in 2008, we are starting to understand to what extent natural reproduction adds to the fishery. The Autofish is capable of adipose clipping and/or applying coded wire tags (CWTs) to salmon and trout at high speed and accuracy. To determine the proportions of wild and hatchery Chinook salmon in Lake Ontario, all Chinook salmon stocked by New York and Ontario from 2008-2011 were marked with an adipose fin clip. Percentages of wild Chinook salmon in Lake Ontario varied by year class and age, and among regions from 2009-2015. The wild study was completed in 2015. Overall, wild Chinook were an important component of the Lake Ontario fishery averaging 47% of the age 2 & 3 Chinooks harvested in the lake. The estimated percent of wild salmon in the Salmon River also varied by year, but overall approximately 70% of angler-caught Chinook salmon (excluding age-1) are believed to be wild. Coho salmon are being marked from 2016-18 to compare the survival rates of fall fingerling versus spring yearling stocked fish. Steelhead will be marked in future studies. For more information on Lake Ontario research, please view Lake Ontario Fisheries Unit Reports.

Egg collections

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:

Lake Ontario and Tributaries Fishing Regulations Apply.

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 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.