We are often asked what lures to run on Lake Ontario for salmon out of Oswego,NY. Our answer is it depends and that’s not meant to be evasive. So what does “it depends” really mean? What does it depend on? What are some of the variables? Lets dive in!
Where is The Temperature
Before we can determine what lures to run, we need to know where the preferred temperature of our target species is, in this case for king salmon. We have discussed how to find this in previous posts. We typically choose our lure presentations based upon where in the water column this temperature is. There are typically four scenarios that we may encounter.
Upper Water Column
When we find the preferred temperature in 25 ft of water or less, stickbaits and spoons get the nod. Colors will depend quite a bit on water clarity and time of day. Overcast or clear sunny skies also matter in the equation. In muddy waters, baits with glow, or green and chartreuse produce well. Patterns such as firetiger, glow pearl, and glow frog are our favorites to start with.
Second Quadrant of The Water Column
If temps are 50 to 60 ft. or a bit less in the water column, spoons are our go to choice. The old adage “bright day bright lures” typically holds true. Don’t forget water clarity. Dark stained water can change things as well as a well defined thermocline or temperature break. Please check out “keys to fishing flasher flies” as well as “matching the hatch” to further shed some light on that scenario!
Generally speaking, when temps are in 60 ft or less of water, salmon rely more on sight than their lateral line to home in and feed on prey. But there will be times, as mentioned above, when the water will be stained or cloudy. Salmon must then rely more on their lateral line to feed. This is taken advantage of by running flasher and flies, or cut bait!
Third Quadrant of The Water Column
When we find temps in the 60-90 ft range in the column, are program is usually a mix of spoons with attractors. Most often, we run our spoons in the higher positions, and attractor fly, or meat patterns in the bottom positions and adjust accordingly to the bite. We let the fish tell us what they want and ad or subtract items as appropriate.
Deepest of The Water Column
When temps are deep, like below 80-90 ft or more, flies or meat get the nod. Salmon in deep water rely almost totally on their lateral line to home in on prey. I’ve always thought of it as a percentage thing. The higher the temps are in the water column, the more, or higher percentage, the fish rely upon sight to commit to the bite. The deeper we fish, the salmon use much more of their lateral line to find bait. Sight is still used for the final commitment as evidenced by certain colors working and others not.
If you follow these principals on what lures to run, or at least start with them during your trolling endeavors, you will be well on your way to successful outings. Adaptation to water temperature location is key. Also keep in mind that mixing things up a bit, like running spoons deep, can also pay dividends on certain days. Reading the water and its conditions will help you adjust. The fish will tell you, too, when they bite!