Catching My First Salmon
There is certainly one word to describe fishing for salmon from shore, and that word is persistence. From early September, when the salmon run in the river normally begins I would drive up to the Lower Niagara River trek down 400 stairs and then scour the river for a nice slack or slower moving current where I know the salmon would be resting. Reading about salmon fishing in the Niagara is like reading about an angler's paradise. Yet I have never worked as hard or been pushed to nearly breaking as I have anywhere else trying to catch a fish. Losing lures hooked up on sunken rocks or logs sometimes made me think burning money or throwing twenty dollar bills into the river would've been a better use of my time. Through all the struggles however I did not give up, the stairs nor the lost lures would deter me from catching my first King Salmon. Over the course of four weeks I descended and climbed over 7,000 stairs, I did not count but I probably threw out over 10,000 casts and lost around 30 lures to the rocks in the river. I saw a handful of salmon jump and surface too, but I could not entice any salmon to strike. I managed a smallmouth bass here and there to ease the pain of being skunked every time, but most days I would go hours without a strike at all. River fishing has been something I have been learning over the last year and it's still the bane of my existence.
I worked every promising spot and could not get anything. I would read the fishing reports, what other people were using and looking up local advice to unlock the secret of the Niagara Salmon run. I would see boats drift fishing for salmon and they would not be catching anything either. So why weren't the salmon jumping into the boats and onto shore like all the articles I had read. The weather and water temperature. Salmon will migrate out of the great lakes and into rivers and streams to spawn in the fall when the water temp drops to around 55-60 degrees. This summer was incredibly hot and lake temps got up into the high 70s in August. No wonder I was not seeing any fish, and if I had been able to get a reading on what temperature the river was it would probably have read in the low 70s upper 60s for the first three weeks of September. During this time the Salmon would've held in the deepest parts of the river or just at the river mouth where the water gets to about 100 feet deep and stays nice and cool.
The week before the weather cooled off significantly, it dropped from the 70s and 80s down to the 50s with overnight lows into the 30s. That dramatic change kickstarted the salmon to move into the river, the fishing reports turned from sparse salmon to people starting to pull them in from shore and boats. The day before I went with optimism, but with the sun shining high in the sky and the daily temp getting up into the mid 80s the fish once again were deep. Casting spoons and inline spinners did not draw much attention.
The skies were gray and it was in the low 50s when I left the apartment with my gear. I decided to change locations and I would be fishing a mile upstream from where I normally fish. Despite not seeing a lot of fish downstream I just had this feeling that this was the right place to go. I started out fishing on the downstream side of a deep pool just outside the main current of the river, after about twenty minutes with no strikes or seeing any fish I decided to move downstream a bit. The next spot I picked was on a big rock upstream of a pool right before some rapids.
Again, after about ten to twenty minutes without any luck I decided to move. The spot called to me, and it was a pristine spot. Up stream there was a maze of rocks jutting out of the river, right in front of me was open river with one or two rocks under the surface. The current right in front of me was slow, about twenty feet out the current picked up and down stream a large boulder rose from the river.
I was casting a double bladed number 3 Mepps Aglia with green, yellow and red blades and chartreuse fur. On the first cast I cast out into the current and let it drift down and retrieve. The second cast I cast a little closer to shore and still upstream, and again it drifts down steam. On the third cast I put the lure between the two previous casts and let in drift down to about 2 o'clock on my left. I start to retrieve and then the rod snaps over in an arc and I set the hook, there is a fish on my line. The fish takes out some line and starts to run, keeping the line tight. I tighten the drag and bring the fish back into the slack current. I do not want it getting out into the main current then it's as good as gone. I get it back closer to shore and it jumps trying to shake the lure, I see it and it's a Salmon. My legs start to shake from excitement. IT'S A SALMON! Now the pressure is on even more, I need to get this fish into shore. It runs again, making me tighten the drag more. I keep an eye on the rocks, I don't want the line to snag and snap. It makes another run and I regain the line pulling it over to my right where it does a death roll and shakes to try and lose the lure. I grab the mighty king salmon and carry it up the shore to unhook it. I am over the moon, all my hard work and determination paid off, I achieved my goal and the fish I caught was well worth the wait. Coming in at 32 inches and between 17 and 18 pounds this fish comes in at one of the biggest fish I have caught, and certainly is the biggest fish I have ever caught from shore.