Where Is The Best Salmon Fishing In New York?

UPDATED 01 AUGUST 2022

by Robert Ceran

While most people associate New York with skyscrapers and congested traffic, few people know that upstate New York offers some of the best salmon fishing in the country.

So if you’re based in New York, or just going there for a visit, it’s definitely worth trying out the salmon fishing.

But in order to catch salmon in New York, it’s essential to know where and when to go fishing, as that will make the difference between getting skunked or catching your limit.

Best salmon fishing in NY

In this article we’ll introduce you to the top salmon fishing locations in New York, as well as the best time for catching salmon there.

Where can you catch salmon in New York?

The best salmon fishing in New York is found in lake Ontario and its tributary streams, which are stocked with more than a million salmon every year.

By far the most commonly stocked salmon species in New York are chinook and coho salmon. 

These salmon species thrive in Lake Ontario, where they feed on alewives and grow to massive sizes within a few years, before returning to the streams where they were born in order to spawn.

You can also catch salmon in several other lakes that are stocked with Atlantic salmon, as well as several types of Pacific salmon, including chinook, coho, pink salmon, and kokanee salmon.

Best rivers and streams for salmon fishing in New York

The best salmon fishing in New York is undoubtedly found in the tributaries of  Lake Ontario, which are regularly stocked with several salmon species, including chinook, coho, and Atlantic salmon.

In order to catch river salmon in New York, you can use salmon rigs for shore fishing, as well as fly fishing tactics.

And while you can catch huge salmon in almost every stream and river that feeds Lake Ontario, let’s take a look at the top rivers for salmon fishing in New York.

Salmon River, Pulaski

There can be no doubt that the Salmon River at Pulaski, NY provides by far the best salmon fishing in New York. In fact, it has developed a national reputation as one of the best salmon rivers in North America, attracting anglers from all over the US every year.

Large chinook salmon caught in the Salmon River, Pulaski
Large chinook salmon caught in the Salmon River, Pulaski

The Salmon River is stocked with 250,000 chinook and 80,000 coho by state authorities every year, which is significantly more than the salmon stocked in other tributaries of Lake Ontario.

Young salmon spend their first year in the river, and then migrate downstream to Lake Ontario, where they grow to huge sizes north of 30 pounds.

After spending 1 to 3 years in Lake Ontario, adult chinook and coho return to Salmon River in order to spawn, resulting in an amazing fall run of these two salmon species.

Chinook are on average 15 to 20 pounds in the Salmon River, while coho are generally in the range of 8 to 10 pounds.

What is the best time for salmon fishing in Pulaski, NY?

The peak season for salmon fishing in Pulaski is from mid September to late October. At this time, Salmon River attracts thousands of anglers that come here to catch trophy sized king salmon.

However, the first salmon start migrating upriver in August and continue to come until early November, so it’s definitely worth fishing outside of the peak season too.

As an added bonus, you can also catch other species, such as steelhead, brown trout, and smallmouth bass.

But keep in mind that if you want to fish in the Salmon River, you’ll need to get there very early in the morning during the peak salmon season, since the river is so popular that it’s hard to find a free spot on the river bank.

Another option is to hire a salmon fishing guide, since they can guarantee access to the river, but many of them are fully booked several years in advance.

Oswego River

The Oswego River is another great fishery for catching trophy sized coho, king salmon and Atlantic salmon during the fall run. Anglers catch big chinook in the middle of downtown Oswego, and at the Oswego dam.

Chinook salmon migrating upstream to spawn
Chinook salmon migrating upstream to spawn

Many salmon fishing charters in Lake Ontario also specialize in targeting schools of chinook staging at the Oswego river mouth before ascending the river. They use salmon trolling tactics with rigs that consist of colorful flashers combined with artificial lures or cut bait.

If you find that the Salmon River is too crowded for your taste, it can be a good idea to try either the Oswego River or one of the other rivers described below, since they tend to be less crowded.

Black River

While the Black River is most famous for its steelhead fishing, you can also catch big coho and chinook during the fall run from September to late October. As a bonus, expect to hook into some big brown trout and rainbow trout.

South Sandy Creek

South Sandy Creek is very popular among fly fishermen that come here to catch trophy sized king salmon every fall. Following the chinook run, steelhead also migrate up South Sandy Creek, and can be caught here until April.

Lower Niagara River

The Lower Niagara River connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie, and provides 15 miles of prime salmon fishing during the fall, with chinook and coho traveling through it as they return to the streams where they hatched.

As an added bonus, you can catch a wide variety of other species in the Lower Niagara River, ranging from largemouth and smallmouth bass to muskie.

In addition to the rivers covered above, it’s also worth mentioning Oak Orchard Creek and Eighteen Mile Creek, which both provide excellent salmon fishing opportunities.

Best lakes for salmon fishing in New York

In addition to the excellent salmon fishing action in rivers and streams in upstate New York, you can also catch salmon in a number of lakes in New York state. 

Without a doubt, Lake Ontario is the best salmon fishing lake in New York, and this is in no small part due to the 250,000 coho and 1.7 million chinook that are stocked in Lake Ontario tributaries by New York State every year.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario provides excellent salmon fishing opportunities, and accounts for many of the state salmon records. King salmon weighing over 30 pounds are regularly caught in Lake Ontario.

However, on the downside, this is a huge lake, and it can be challenging to find salmon and target them with the right fishing tactics. That’s why it’s advisable to hire a charter boat with a fishing guide specialized in salmon fishing.

The advantage of hiring a good guide is that they can almost guarantee catching salmon, and they’ll also supply you with the most effective fishing tactics and salmon trolling rods= and reels.

Lake George

Lake George is stocked with 30,000 Atlantic salmon every year, which grow up as landlocked salmon in the lake.

They feed on the local smelt population, and grow rapidly, reaching sizes up to 5 pounds. 

The best time for salmon fishing in Lake George is in fall, when the water starts to cool. 

Skaneateles Lake

Similar to Lake George, Skaneateles Lake is stocked with landlocked Atlantic salmon, which can be caught both from boat and from the shore. 

In addition to the lakes covered above, you can also catch salmon in the following lakes in New York state:

  • Cayuga Lake
  • Lake Champlain
  • Keuka Lake
  • Piseco Lake
  • Otsego Lake
  • Schroon Lake
  • Seneca Lake

All of these lakes are regularly stocked with salmon, making them worth a fishing trip.

How many salmon can you keep in New York?

You’re allowed to keep a daily bag of 3 salmon in New York. However, this limit also covers Steelhead and other trout species.

So if you’re only going to keep salmon, you’re allowed to keep up to 3 fish, but if you include trout in your bag, your salmon limit goes down. Also, only one of the 3 salmon in your daily bag can be an Atlantic salmon.