The Atlantic salmon is one of the most highly regarded sport fish in North America and Europe. Known to many as “the leaper,” Atlantics are noted for their spectacular fighting ability, which usually includes several jumps completely out of the water after being hooked by a lucky angler. In New York State, Atlantic salmon spend their entire lives in freshwater and are usually called landlocked salmon.
Many New York State anglers are surprised to learn that Atlantic salmon were not only native to some of our waters, but they were extremely abundant. Atlantics were historically found in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and in many of their tributaries. They were so abundant that spearing them was easy and netting could result in catches of more than 100 fish per boat on a good night. Unfortunately, the rapid settlement and development of the state occurring during the mid to late 1800s spelled doom for this species. Dams blocked spawning streams, pollution choked waters, and widespread deforestation filled headwater nursery streams with sediment. By 1900, Atlantic salmon were all but extinct from New York State waters.
New York State anglers use a wide variety of techniques and tackle to catch Atlantic salmon. During springtime, trolling or casting lures or flies that imitate preferred baitfish produce the best catches. After lakes stratify in the summer, downriggers or lead-core line are needed to place lures and bait at the correct depths where salmon occur. Fall fishing focuses on spawning fish moving near and into rivers and streams. Since spawning salmon greatly reduce their food intake, the fish must often be enticed to strike bait, lures, or flies.