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December 7, 2012

Salmon fever: Catch it this summer

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The Daily Star

---- — On the subject of salmon fishing, thoughts of shoulder-to-shoulder fishermen and huge Chinook salmon come to mind. It became a regular pilgrimage to to Pulaski each fall to catch the salmon as they came back to the Lake Ontario tributaries to spawn, thus completing their life cycle.

It started in the late ‘60s when Pacific Salmon were stocked. Within a few years thousands of fish returned to the rivers and the rest is history.

Well, not exactly.

Pacific salmon, cohos and Chinooks, stop feeding once they enter the rivers to spawn. They return to lay their eggs and die. Thousands of fishermen swarm the rivers to get their hooks into these fish between September and November.

Some fishermen linger throughout the winter and fish for steelheads in the frigid water. The steelhead is a lake-run rainbow trout that stays in the ice-choked water all winter. They are amazing fighters and are fun to catch if you can keep warm enough to drift a fly.

Recently I heard about another salmon in those same waters – the Atlantic salmon. At one time Lake Ontario supported the largest population of Atlantic salmon in the nation. Over-fishing and polluted waters led to the demise of this fish, but in the past few years the state has stocked them in Pulaski’s  Salmon River.

So what’s the advantage of another species of salmon in the river? You can catch them in the summer.

The Atlantic salmon doesn’t return to the river to die in the fall. They lay their eggs and then return to the lake during the summer and while they are in the river they also feed.

Atlantic salmon are prized because of their fighting spirit, and they love to take flies and streamers.

A few years ago I was spring bear hunting in New Brunswick, Canada. The territory I hunted bordered the Miramichi River. This river is famous for its large runs of wild Atlantic salmon. As my guide and I stood along the river one morning checking the baits I watched a fellow standing waist-deep in the river hooked into a large fish. He set the hook into the fish’s jaw and the silver-sided fish was immediately tail-dancing across the surface. He fought that huge fish for more than 20 minutes before it was finally brought into the net.

Now we can experience that same thrill just a short ways from home. The Salmon River is about 14 miles long but has some wonderful stretches of water that are mostly open to fishermen. And in the summer, you can have it all to yourself. The pools will not be filled with hundreds of fish like they are in the fall, but you will have peace and solitude as well as some fantastic fishing.

The Atlantic salmon average between 5 and 9 pounds, but catching one in the 15- to 20-pound class in not uncommon. But no matter what size you hook into, you can expect a fight.

Believe me, I will be fishing for them this summer and should have some stories to tell.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.