Salmon Fishing On The Salmon River NY

Salmon Fishing On The Salmon River Header

Salmon Fishing On The Salmon River New York, can be so good that people from all over the country and Canada will visit the area during this two-month window.

Salmon fishing on the salmon river consists of the prized Chinook salmon, Coho Salmon, and Atlantic salmon. There are also steelhead and migratory Great Lakes brown trout mixed in. Huge numbers of fish move into the river from September through November.

We discuss everything you need to know to take advantage of the great salmon fishing on the Salmon River.

Salmon Fishing On The Salmon River

Fishing the salmon river

The Salmon River New York is the most renowned salmon fishing hotspot in the Eastern United States. The Salmon River flows from New York’s Finger Lakes region through Pulaski City into Lake Ontario. It is located near Selkirk State Park. 

The river is famous among anglers who visit to fish Coho and King Salmon, which run the river annually. It also contains sizable lake-run brown trout and rainbow trout, which also migrate from Lake Ontario around the same time as the salmon.

Even the rare Atlantic salmon can be caught on the Salmon River. Thanks to ongoing stocking efforts of Atlantic Salmon, frequent catches now occur, and occasionally, anglers will catch Atlantic Salmon up to 20 pounds. Few places around the great lakes region will offer Atlantic Salmon fishing like this.

Annually, the Salmon River is stocked with approximately 80,000 Coho salmon, 300,000 Chinook salmon, and 30,000 Atlantic salmon. This is the major reason why the Salmon river gets such large runs for salmon ever fall.

One disadvantage of the salmon river is the crowds which can get especially bad on the weekends.

NOTE: Fishing regulations can change at any time and there are two famous salmon rivers so be sure you are looking up the regulation for the Salmon River in New York State. It is the responsibility of the angler to check and know the fishing rules and requirements before you fish.

Salmon River Size Records

One of the reasons these salmon entice anglers to come such a long way is the abundance of very large salmon. Where else do you have a chance to hook over 30 salmon a day that are between 15 and 40 pounds.

Two major fish records have been set in the Salmon River. These two records which include the Great Lakes record for Chinook salmon with a huge 47 lbs. 13 oz Chinook salmon, followed by an impressive state and world record Coho salmon which is 33 lbs. 4 oz.

Water Levels and Fishing

An angler fishing low water. Low water levels make salmon fishing tough.
An angler fishing low water. Low water levels make salmon fishing tough because the salmon struggle to get up the river.

The Salmon River is dam regulated which means water levels can rise, or lower unnaturally and at any time.

The water levels and discharge rates in the river are relatively stable during the fall, but they are subject to change due to the release of water from the dam or heavy rains.

There are ways which we will discuss that you can find out before you even leave the house. I will also discuss fishable and not fishable levels.

You will want to know the water levels since the water level can trigger uns if they are high, or prevent runs of salmon if they are too low.

August often marks the beginning of the fall salmon run with very small sporadic runs of salmon, which often follow any rains or increase water levels.

Best Time for Fishing The Salmon River

Fall is good time to be salmon fishing on the Salmon River.
Early fall salmon fishing on the Salmon River can be excellent after rains and cool nights.

The best time for fishing the salmon river for Coho and King salmon is usually mid to late September.

This is because the fish start staging in the estuary by late August and some will move in and out of the lower river during low light hours.

Anglers will target these close to shore salmon by casting lures or baits, or trolling the river mouths by boat.

The salmon runs are usually at thier peak by late September and early October and the spawning run usually ends by late October, with only older spawned out salmon in the river in November.

Lake run Brown trout prefer temperatures around 60 F
Migratory brown trout will enter rivers when the river temperature is suitable. Photo by our team Photographer Matthew Kuesel – Instagram @wisco_castin – Click on picture to see more from Matthew.

Lake-run brown trout, steelhead and Atlantic salmon can also be found in the river during this period. 

Large lake-run brown trout, also known as migratory brown trout are present in the river from September to April.

Some will enter the river in September but the fishing for them gets better through October to December.

For more information, check out Great Lakes Brown Trout Fishing.

Steelhead can show up as early as September, however, steelhead fishing really starts to get good later in November through April. Check Out Steelhead Fishing: How To Guide.

There are small numbers of a summer run steelhead known as a Skamania Steelhead. These steelhead can be found in the river from June to March. See Skamania Steelhead Fishing: A Complete Guide.

Best Places For Fishing the Salmon River

The Salmon River consists of over 13 miles of salmon and steelhead hotspots from the Lower Reservoir Dam to Lake Ontario. The Salmon River’s upper reaches between Altmar and Lower Reservoir have two sections dedicated to fly fishing only. 

Each of these salmon river fly fishing sections contains a DEC designated parking area, and anglers must adhere to the fishing regulations that apply to these sections. 

The crowds can get bad at times, especially on the weekends but you could try the private water of the Douglaston Run, just book way in advance since they can be fully booked. In this section, they only let so many anglers in so it’s less crowded.

Salmon River Fly Fishing Only Zones

The Lower Fly Fishing Zone is between Beaverdam Brook and the County Route 52 Bridge in Altmar.

The Upper Fly Fishing Zone is located directly downstream of the tailrace of the LightHouse Hill Reservoir, which runs above the Salmon River Fish Hatchery.

From September 15 to May 15, the Lower Fly Zone is open. The Upper Fly Zone is open for fishing Between April 1 and November 30. Dates are subject to change without notice so be sure to check the official fishing regulations before you go and pay attention to the signs on the river.

There are various spots from which anglers can access the Salmon River. Parking is permitted in defined areas, and fishing is allowed in multiple locations. State-maintained parking areas are available at large pools and holes. In addition, numerous roads, including routes 11, 13, and 81, provide access to the river. 

The river runs parallel to private land, but the trail’s full length is easily accessible. In addition, there are well-defined walkways on both sides. As you may expect, this river may become congested during salmon season but anglers that are willing to walk further from the parking areas might find some solitude.

Salmon River All-Tackle Areas

Numerous DEC parking lots and public access spots to the Salmon River are located between Altmar and the city of Pulaski.

A Salmon that ran the river in high water
This river came up about 1 foot overnight and got a little off-colored and thousands of salmon started their run.

This section of the river is open to all permitted fishing methods, including spin fishing, center pin fishing, and fly fishing, and is actively fished with all methods, particularly at the peak of the salmon season, which runs from early September to mid-October.

Below Pulaski is the Douglaston Salmon Run (DSR), a 2.5-mile private section of the river’s best salmon and steelhead water. The daily rod cost for fishing the DSR is $45 per person (at the time of this writing).

Because anglers need to pay you may find less anglers in this area.

The Salmon River Estuary is located below the DSR and is primarily a Stillwater fishery, best fished by boat. Trolling and casting lures are good methods in this area.

Salmon River Fishing Reports

You can acquire Salmon River fly fishing reports from various guides, area fly shops, and websites. Some good examples that stay updated on the current conditions include; 

Fishing Regulations on the Salmon River

The Salmon River adheres to Lake Ontario tributary laws detailed in the New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

The distance between hooks should not exceed half an inch. The maximum length of the leader is 15 feet. Although weighted flies are permissible, the maximum distance between the fly’s body and the leader is four feet. A maximum of one hook is permitted.

New York state laws require that all persons 16 years of age or older possess a valid fishing license. Sportfishing licenses are offered to residents and non-residents.

Permits are required to fish the Douglaston salmon run. It runs about two and a quarter miles along the river’s mouth. A day pass costs $30 – $45 per day.

You can visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to learn about the most current rules and regulations and obtain a fishing license. 

Fishing Seasons in the Salmon River

The availability of fish in the Salmon River varies by season as described below; 

Summer Fishing

Anglers are most likely to find resident brown trout and Atlantic salmon in the summer. This was rare in the past, but the opportunities for summer angling have increased significantly due to increased emphasis on stocking such species and the new minimum river flow requirements. Minimum flow requirements mean that the flow coming out of the dam is managed and monitored to maintain good flows for recreational users.

Fall Fishing

Chinook salmon dominate the Salmon River in the fall. They start entering the river in early September for spawning. Coho runs generally occur during the same period, and both salmon varieties can be found at common parts of the river.

The runs’ start, end, and duration vary from one year to another. Typically, main runs end by mid-October, and numerous dead salmon litter the sides of the river. 

In most cases, the runs occur after major water releases at the dam or after significant rain events increase flows on the Salmon River. Runs of fish swim up the river when the risen water levels begin to drop. Anglers are likely to find large fish past Pulaski heading to Altmar or the Douglaston Salmon Run area. The power company’s significant release of water can also result in a salmon run.

The end of the salmon run often signals the big runs of steelhead which you can learn more about on my page Salmon River Steelhead Fishing.

It’s not uncommon to catch large lake run brown trout in the salmon river from September to late December. These migratory brown trout can be over 20 pounds and can enter the salmon river in huge numbers. See my page Migratory Brown Trout Fishing for information on how and when to catch these massive brown trout.

Winter Fishing

The Coho and Chinook salmon die after they spawn so the cold winter conditions of late November and December do not favor any decent salmon fishing, but anglers might still find the odd beat up Coho salmon and the occasional Atlantic Salmon that has finished spawning and has not returned to the lake yet.

Anglers are likely to make satisfactory steelhead catches during this season. However, fishing in the winter may be difficult due to the formation of slush and ice, especially downstream. For more information and guide tips and tactics on fishing at this time of year check out my page Winter Steelhead Fishing.

Spring Fishing

Atlantic salmon may be present in the Salmon River in spring however this is rare and usually occurs later in May. However, winter-run and spring-run steelhead dominates the river during this season. Anglers might also find the odd migratory brown trout in the river in the early spring.

Methods of Fishing That Are Best for Salmon River

Below are some of the most effective methods for Salmon fishing on the Salmon River;

Spin Fishing

This fishing technique involves casting bait or lures with a reel equipped with a smooth drag. It provides the perfect natural presentation to the fish since the spool used can hold a lot of lines.

The salmon in the Salmon River, like many of the great lakes rivers, will hit the same lures and colors and with the same lure fishing methods which you can see on my page Lure Fishing For Great Lakes River Salmon

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is another excellent method for salmon fishing on the Salmon River. It involves casting a fly lure into the water and waiting for the fish to try and catch it. 

Fly fishing for salmon is quite effective because the many salmon species find flies hard to pass up and they are less intrusive than other baits so even the weary and spooked salmon might hit a well presented fly. 

Common fly salmon fishing methods used on the Salmon River include; streamer fishing, nymph fishing, spey fishing, and even Euro Nymph fishing. 

To be successful in fly fishing, you must present the fly in the most natural way possible. 

Pheasant tail nymphs, colored egg patterns, worm patterns, and stonefly nymphs provide the best results when salmon fishing on the Salmon river. Although this fishing technique is quite demanding and challenging, it can put many salmon in the net for you. To learn more about fly fishing for salmon check out my page Fly Fishing For Salmon

Float Fishing

This popular fishing method involves presenting a form of bait such as a spawn sac or roe bag to the catch under a float or bobber. It ensures that the bait is highly visible to the fish, increasing the chances of success. See Float Fishing For Salmon.

Centerpin Fishing

Centerpin fishing is another effective method for fishing the Salmon River. This method utilizes a round reel with a braided or mono line. The reel used here is typically longer and lacks a drag. The free spool also allows anglers to make a natural presentation, likely to attract fish much faster.  See Centerpin Fishing For Salmon: A Complete Guide.

Best Lures, Baits, and Flies for Salmon River Fishing

As described below, anglers can use various flies, baits, and lures in the Salmon River. 


Worms are a scrumptious meal for fish, and they are highly effective at making a good catch. 


The bright, shiny colors on beads lure fish. Mimicking a natural movement in water is likely to attract fish faster. 


Roe is a common bait that works well for capturing fish in the Salmon River. Roe’s natural flavor and aroma are more likely to attract fish than other types of artificial bait.

Fish also tend to hold on to roe longer because their teeth become embedded in the net around which it is wrapped. But, again, this increases the likelihood of the anger latching onto it.

Despite its widespread popularity, roe is not necessarily the most efficient bait for fishing on the Salmon River. If this is the case, move to other baits and lures.


Flies are a huge delicacy for most fish varieties, making them the ideal form of bait. Fly bait comes in different forms, including; Price Nymph, Stonefly Nymph, Wooly Bugger, San Juan Worm, and the Yarn Egg, Glo Bug and the Blood Dot fly

See: 10 Best Baits For Salmon.

Salmon River Trip Planning Tips

Pulaski, New York, offers the best access to the Salmon River. It is located just minutes away and has many hotels and motels, making the river accessible to visitors. However, the Salmon River is busier from September to March, and there are special regulations during this period.

Salmon Fishing On The Salmon River New York

If you have a question or some advice for salmon fishing on the Salmon River, let us know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Graham, I’ve been fishing the Salmon River NY since 1994, till present… I caught and netted more salmon than steelhead, yet I’ve hooked more steelhead than salmon and never netted a single steelhead. Which has only pushed me to pursue this wonderful fish (steelhead) even more. I’m obsessed with your websites and how you give such detailed info. Thank you for putting all this wonderful information out there, it’s definitely worth reading and learning so much I didn’t know.

    Tight Lines,

    Jeff Parker