September is almost here and the anticipation of Salmon and Steelhead Season arriving in about 4 weeks is causing fly and spey rods to twitch. In other words, get ready! Salmon fever inflicts all types of ailments: brain cramps, delusions, and peculiar visual maladies that result in difficulty differentiating between suckers, salmon and even the shadows of overhead clouds.
I am sure you’re all wondering what the fall salmon season will bring, especially given the low water conditions due particularly sparse rainfall this summer. Though I don't have a crystal ball, I do have the benefit of having experienced several previous seasons on the Salmon River with similar weather conditions. The way these past seasons have played out, combined with the current conditions on the lake, suggest we could be in for a particularly good king and coho season.
As fish begin to search for rivers for their fall migrations, many rivers are currently a mere trickle. On the other hand, as a virtue of being a tailwater, the Salmon River has a consistent outflow that reaches miles out into Lake Ontario. This outflow also has intermittent pulses from dam releases and the occasional rain storm. Soon-to-be migrating fish can sense these conditions miles off shore. With the relative lack of competing outflows, the majority of fish are likely to target the Salmon River for their migration.
A few years back we had a similar situation, with low water conditions all summer long followed by some good rainfall that arrived in late September and continued into October. Once the rains hit, everything broke loose. First, the Cohoes ran in great numbers with steelhead mixed in. Then, as the river swelled and temperatures dropped, some browns and more steelhead mixed in with a massive migration of kings.
Reports from charters and individuals on the lake indicate that an abundance of bait has led to a very strong growing season. Salmon numbers are reportedly very strong. Additionally, there are reports of large numbers of brown trout in front of Sandy Creek and Oak Orchard, including browns over 20 pounds. Finally, reports of a very strong steelhead population have been consistent all summer. The ingredients are all there.
When the rains come in September, history may repeat repeat itself by offering the Salmon River another blockbuster season. Ultimately however, like all forecasts, only Mother Nature can determine what autumn will bring.
Walt Geryk has been a guide on the Salmon River in Altmar, NY for over 25 years. To learn more about Walt visit our profile of Walt.