Anyone who enjoys trout fishing has undoubtedly dreamed of catching a trophy-sized fish, measured in pounds rather than inches. We will, if landing a brown or rainbow trout is on your bucket list, there is a destination nearby where the feat is fairly common.
Located just four hours from the Lehigh Valley, Oswego County, New York, has long been known as one of the region’s top destinations for fishing for big salmon, rainbow trout rainbow and bruiser browns. Its most popular waterway is the Lower Salmon River, a 16-mile-long tributary of Lake Ontario renowned for its fall salmon runs and world-class rainbow trout fishing. Just a short drive south of the Salmon River, however, anglers will find another great destination to grapple with big fish, the Oswego River. While this tributary of Lake Ontario may not be as well known as salmon, it actually offers a more robust and diverse fishery throughout the year.
âThe Oswego is a bigger, meaner river,â says Captain Andy Bliss of Chasin ‘Tail Adventures, who has been guiding the river for two decades. âThere are much higher water flows. Regarding the possibility of fishing here, we do not have a large area. So the fish somehow condenses in a smaller area. So when they’re there they pile up – lots of fish in a smaller area – so you can do big numbers on the right conditions and on the right days.
âThe other advantage of the Oswego is that we have a lot of brown trout. The Salmon River is a great rainbow trout river, and there are brown streamsâ¦ but here in Oswego we catch a lot more domestic brown and rainbow trout. So, it’s just a three-headed monster. We have all three species (including rainbow trout) to fish for, so when one species decides to take a day off, we have a few more species to catch.
Depending on the time of year, the Oswego River, from the bottom of the Varick Dam in Oswego to the port of Oswego on Lake Ontario, is home to everything from large walleye and smallmouth bass, to perch, sheep’s head and even salmon. From late fall through winter, however, rainbow trout, brown trout, and domestic rainbows are the primary targets.
“A lot of people think the browns go away as soon as they finish spawning (in the fall), which a lot of them do, but with this river there is a shad food source coming down. from the upper lakes that seems to keep those brown trout here, “Bliss says.” This gives them a little something to feed on for the winter so they don’t necessarily drop out right away. “
According to Bliss, brown trout weigh an average of 4 to 5 pounds, but each year their customers land 10 to 14 pound fish.
âSome years you will see more big fish. A few years ago we had a dozen fish over 12 pounds. Another year you won’t see fish over 12 years old, âhe says. “You’ll see these 8-10s pretty regularly, but these bigger fish come and go.”
When it comes to domestic rainbows, 2-3 pounds are quite common, but some specimens can get much larger. Steelhead in the 7-10 pound range is the norm, but it is possible to catch individuals who grow 14 pounds or more.
Fishing for big browns and rainbow trout requires proper equipment, with rods designed for finesse fishing techniques but also capable of handling the fight of a 10 or 12 pound fish.
Bliss prefers high-end Shimano reels and Nova Tackle Company 11-foot-long or custom rods with larger guides to help limit ice problems in the winter. Popular baits and lures for anglers include egg bags, pearls, and trout and salmon jigs.
âWith the drop in shad, browns will adapt very strongly to white builds,â he says. âSo we organize a lot of jigs. “
With its reputation for producing big fish, it’s no surprise that sport fishing has a huge impact on the economy of Oswego County. Janet West Clerkin, tourism and public information coordinator for Oswego County, said data compiled by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in 2017 showed Oswego County is tops all New York counties in spending by anglers in the county for accommodation, groceries, bait and tackle, restaurants, food and guide services. Overall, anglers spent $ 32.6 million in the county in 2017, with non-residents contributing $ 18.4 million.
According to Clerkin, fishermen visit Oswego County from as far away as Austria, Brazil, Japan and Russia; however, sales of fishing licenses consistently show that the majority of non-resident fishermen are from Keystone State.
âFishermen from all over the United States and literally around the world come to Oswego County to fish,â she says.
Anglers interested in fishing the Oswego River below the Varick Dam will find several places where they can access the river via the Riverwalk along its banks. But, for the full experience and the best opportunity to land a potential trophy, hiring a drift boat guide is the way to go, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the water. Not only will a quality guide greatly increase the chances of catching fish, it will also help shorten the learning curve when it comes to mastering the techniques of catching big browns and rainbow trout. .
While Bliss spends a lot of time fishing the Salmon River throughout the year, if he’s forced to choose, he might just give the Oswego River a nod when it comes to fishing possibilities. global. He says if you’re looking to plan a trip, November and December are some of the best times for rainbow trout and brown salmon, but anglers can be successful all winter and even into early spring.
âI love fishing here in Oswego,â says Bliss. “I love having the different species you can catch and I love to fish in big waters – fighting them in big waters is fun.”
For Oswego County fishing reports, local accommodations, information on where to fish and more, visit the Oswego County tourism website, visitoswegocounty.com. Guided fishing trips with Captain Andy Bliss can be booked at chasintailadventures.com or by calling 315-591-4578.
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