Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Salmon River New York
The King Salmon are in the river to spawn. Eating is not on their minds. Even so, they are very
territorial and will strike flies purely out of aggression.  The best time to catch them is when
they first arrive in late August and early September. After they have seen a few flies, they
become much less likely to take one. These are very large fish, averaging between twenty and
thirty pounds. They remain in the river until early October.

The steelhead trout are what most anglers (key word here is “anglers” - those that come for
the salmon are a whole different breed better known as Snaggers) visit the Salmon River to
fish for. They average from about 8 to 10 pounds but they have been caught over 20 pounds.
These fish can be in the Salmon River anytime from late September until May of the following
year. They are very aggressive and in the river to feed on the salmon eggs during late
October and November. These fish can also be caught during December, January and
February but the weather is usually very cold with deep snow along the banks. The lower part
of the river is usually closed because of ice. These winter fish are not nearly as aggressive.
They can be almost lethargic in the cold water during the winter months. It is best to fish the
slow moving parts of the stream in the deeper pools and holes during the cold water. The fish
want fight the current because they can actually spend more energy than they can find food to
replace.

The steelhead can move up into some of the small feeding or tributary streams to spawn in
March but they mainly spawn in the river. They can still be caught during March and April and
they can be just as aggressive as they are in the Autumn season They are feeding to add
weight after spawning, before they return to the lake.   From late May to early April, the
steelhead move back into Lake Ontario. At this time, after the spawn, they again become very
active. They can be caught on a number of different type of flies.

There's also the Coho Salmon, called the Silver Salmon by most anglers. These fish can be
found in the Salmon River during the fall months from September to December (On this
particular day this was written, it was reported that there were thousands of them in the
hatchery). They are very aggressive and will take most flies much more so than the King
Salmon. The Coho Salmon are not one of the prime reasons the Salmon River is a destination
stream, but they do provide plenty of action. They fight hard and often jump similar to
steelhead.

The brown trout can be in the river at the same time the steelheads are there. These are very
large brown trout, averaging from four to eight pounds. They are caught over fifteen pounds.
The best season for them is probably from near the end of September until early December.

Remember, the special regulation areas have some special requirements. For example, the
gap in hooks cannot exceed a half of an inch. The maximum length of the leader is 15 feet.
You can use weighted flies but the maximum length between the fly and any additional weight
placed on the leader is 4 feet. You can only use one hook.  

There are several very good access points along the river. There are designated areas as well
as plenty of places you can just pull off the road to park and fish, as well as State maintained
parking areas at all the major holes and pools. There are several roads that provide access
including routes 2, 11, 13, and 81. There are other miscellaneous roads that lead to the river.
You will need to purchase a permit to fish the Douglaston Salmon Run. A daily pass is $30. It
borders the mouth of the river for the first two and a half miles and offers a chance at fish that
are fresh in from lake Ontario.
Salmon River
New York
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Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy
Photo Courtesy of
Dennis McCarthy