For salmon anglers on the north shore of Lake Ontario the most anticipated time of the year is within sight. In fact, our fall run of Chinook and coho are staging at many river/creek mouths. Boats owners can easily target salmon from April until October in the depths of Lake Ontario, whereas shore anglers, like myself have a small two- month window to catch salmon off piers, beaches and marinas across the province.
As nighttime temperatures cool and days shorten salmon migrate to river and creeks mouths where they stage and wait for cool rains and high water levels prior to bolting up tributaries to spawn. Meanwhile, until the rivers and creeks start to blow out across the province this month, salmon stay in lower stretches of rivers or in Lake Ontario. Keeping a close eye on the weather is important when it comes to having success when targeting staging Chinooks. A little bit of rain and a couple cold nights during a warm week is enough to get these fish moving.
To target these early season from piers and the bank I cast spoons and various crankbaits if I don’t have roe or skein to fish with. Lately, my friends and I have had success float fishing rivers and harbors with skein chunks cured with either Red or Pink Fire Cure and Pautzke Nectar. While salmon are not present in huge numbers yet, there are always a few early fish to be had. These early fish are usually the strongest and hardest fighters in the system.
From the bank several methods are effective when targeting these staging salmon. While I often float the Fire Cure roe, you can also cast and retrieve Little Cleos, ½ and ¾ ounce Gibbs Koho, ¾ ounce Moonshine spoons, Wally Divers and J-10 and J-13 Rapalas and Mepps No. 3 spinners. For spoons, spinners and crankbaits I recommend a 9 to 11 foot casting rod paired with at least a size 3000 spinning reel with lots of 8-12lb (14-20lb braid) monofilament line depending on the action of your rod.
If float fishing I suggest a 12-15 foot rod with a decent backbone, paired with a spinning, bait casting, or centerpin reel loaded with 8-14lb monofilament line. For terminal tackle I have been using CoolWaters slip floats (9-16g) with 20 inches of Drennan 5-lb fluorocarbon leader. The size of my hook varies with the size of the bait I am using, but I generally fish size 6 down to a size 2.
It’s important to concentrate on deep areas off piers or in harbors. Late in the evening and early in the morning are best. Although it has been a rather slow start to pier fishing season for salmon in the GTA I’m feeling quite optimistic and I know that it will be a stellar fall season. Recent cool temperatures have started to get the salmon going, but we are lacking precipitation. Why don’t we all do a little rain dance!
Play it safe on the waters edge and don’t forget to show or teach some shoreline etiquette since the next couple of months will be busy! Keep in mind, weekends will get crowd on the beach and pier heads. Weekdays and nights see less pressure.