Blog Archive

Site Navigation


Featured Post

Skip to main content

Lake Ontario Fall Salmon Run Fishing

 Fall is approaching faster than you think and with that, Salmon start their journey up stream to spawn. For most of us living around the Great Lakes area, it is not everyday that you get to fight a 20-30 lbs fish on average, this is what the fall run provides us. The Great Lakes holds Chinook (King), Coho, Pinks, Kokanee (Sockeye). and Atlantic Salmon.

So how do you get started on fishing for Lake Ontario Salmon in the fall you ask? Lake Ontario holds Chinook, Coho, and Atlantic Salmon, We will look at when and where to catch Salmon, the time of day to go fishing, the gear to use, the lures and/or flies, and the setup. We'll also look into preserving them for future generations. We'll focus on shore and wade fishing as this is the most accessible way to fish for Salmon for the majority of anglers.

When to Fish for Salmon

Salmon can start their run at the end of July. The run peaks around the end of August and can go up to October and sometimes even early November. But this can vary year to year as it is mostly dependent on the weather. Speaking of the weather, if you are planning to target Salmon, or even trout, you will need to learn to love the rain. Rain brings colder water to the streams, which runs down to the lake, and in return triggers Salmon and Trout to go up the river to start their spawning cycle. After a rain fall might be the best time to go fish for these beautiful fish.

Where to Fish for Salmon

River mouths, and Piers are a good starting point. This area is where you will find the freshest of the freshest fish. Fishing the mouth of the river early in the season can be productive, especially if you can avoid the crowd. Make sure to hold on to your rod when you hook into one, the fish in these areas tend to have a ton of energy.

Later in the season, you can follow them up the river and fish for them in deep pools. Pools provide a resting place for Salmon while they try to swim upstream to get to their spawning grounds.

For more information on how to find fishing spots, visit my post about Finding the Best Fishing Spots.

Time of Day to Fish

Salmon tend to go deeper in the water column the the sun is high, like on a blue bird day. The best time to fish for Salmon is during low light conditions so dawn and dusk are some of the best times to go. Cloudy conditions can be extremely productive as well. If there was recent rainfall and the water is murky or muddy, this can increase your chances of catching Salmon on a bright sunny day. I tend to take a nice lunch break and just observe how the fish behaves when the sun is too high. You need to rest your arms after fighting a number of fish anyway.

Pier Fishing Gear

Photo by Christian Blais on Unsplash

When we fish Piers or river mouths, Spin rods are our go to. This allows you to cast far out to the lake where the fish might be staging. For spin rod, we use at least an 8 ft 6 in to 10 ft medium/heavy rod like the Shimano Scimitar Salmon/Steelhead Casting 8'6" Length 2pc 10-20 Line Rate 3/8-1 oz Lure Rate Medium/Heavy Power Rod. The long rod allows us to cast further and give enough backbone to fight these heavy fish.

For the reel, I have been using the SHIMANO Sienna SN4000FG Spinning Fishing Reel and had no issues bringing the Salmon in. You want the best quality reel you can afford rather than getting a cheap one that can easily break after a couple of fish.

Match your line with the reel and try not to over spool. The reason behind the 4000 Series reel is that you will need to hold about 200 yards of line for those fish who loves to run.

River Fishing Gear

Photo by Hatham on Unsplash

While you can still use spinning rods in the river, my personal preference when fishing for Salmon in the river is by using my Fly Rod. If I could use it in Pier fishing I would, but I'll probably end up hooking another human instead of a fish due to the sheer volume of anglers trying to their luck on hooking a fresh Salmon (that won't be pretty). Fly fishing allows me to get away from the crowd and have my own space to myself, and maybe some of my fishing buddies.

My choice of rod is a 9ft 8wt Fly Rod paired with a Large Arbor Reel. The 8wt will allow you to cast those heavier flies and sinking leaders easier. A longer rod, like a 10ft, may provide better casting and reach, but the 9ft has been working well for me. In the reel, I loaded between 150 -200 yards of backing, a floating line, and a leader tapering down to 15 lb test. I may try to use a switch rod in the future for the bigger rivers. If this is your first fly rod, check our article on Selecting Your First Fly Fishing Rod.

Lures and Flies

On Pier or river mouth fishing, we use an assortment of spoons like the Little Cleo, jointed Rapala, or a single hook spinners. You can also drift an egg sack under a float.

For flies, we had a ton of luck using the simple Woolly Bugger or an egg sucking leech. Egg fly patterns are also productive when fished under an indicator.


For Spin gear, the simplest setup is to drift an egg under a float. Get a hold of some Steelhead floats like the Redwing Blackbird Phantom Floats, attach it to the line, a wide gap circle hook, then add some split shots. You may loose some float if you have this on your main line when the fish breaks you off. To get around this, add a swivel to the main line after your float, then add a lighter leader. The idea behind this is that the lighter leader will break off first before your main line.

For fly fishing setup, a floating line down to a tapered leader to 1x or 0x tippet will work well. You can add an indicator to suspend your flies to the right depth or use split shots to swing the fly across the current in hopes of enticing an aggressive fish. 

Check out our video where my dad out-fished all of us, watch till the end to see the setup:


As we all know, these fish are running up the river to reproduce. The best way to preserve future population is to practice catch and release. If you want to take some fish home, know the limitation of your license and take only what you need. Another point to consider is to avoid targeting fish that are already spawning. It's more fun to target actively feeding fish than those that are stationary while spawning.

In the end, we all love a good fight from a strong fish. That is what we keep coming back for anyway. The most important thing when fishing for Salmon is to have fun, stay safe, and make sure there are Salmon to catch for generations to come.

Do you have any tips on catching these amazing fish? We would love to hear them. Let us know in the comment section below.