A Salmon Trip to Remember

By Joe Foley

The Salmon River, a mecca for east coast anglers, is steeped in the lore of fishing legends. With an annual migration of over 300,000 salmon, these sacred waters offer anglers the opportunity to catch the trophy salmon of their dreams. My father and I made our annual trip to Pulaski, NY over Columbus Day weekend. After a slow start to the season, thought to be from severe drought conditions, overnight rain several days before our arrival triggered a fresh influx of salmon into the river and promising fishing reports.

A salmon trip to rememberWe met our guide, Richard Thomas of Salmon River Guides, at 0300 in Pulaski Harbor to begin our expedition. Under a perfectly clear sky studded with stars, we set out in our drift boat and dropped anchor behind the break wall of the artificial harbor. Our eyes were glued to the fluorescent tipped rods as we cast pink colored egg sacs into the mouth of the harbor, the bottle neck through which all salmon have to enter as they begin the treacherous journey to their spawning grounds.

After an uneventful start to the morning, my father and I looked at each other, both with the same unspoken thought on our mind. As we both reeled in our lines to reset our bait, I suddenly felt the tip of my rod snap down as the rod almost flew out of my hands. I quickly tightened my grip and yelled “fish on!” I heard that sound, that every angler loves, of the line being ripped off the reel as our first fish of the day made a run out of the harbor into open waters. I set my head lamp out into the distance to watch him go airborne three times, shaking its head trying to spit the hook. I kept pressure on and slowly brought him closer to the boat as he began to tire. On two separate occasions, he made last minute runs as we brought him to the side of the boat, exerting every last ounce of energy to escape his fate. After our guide Richard finally netted him and brought him safely in the boat, I was amazed at the sheer power, energy and aggression of this river monster. Our first salmon of the day was a male King, 26 lbs and a little under 3 ft long.

As the sun started to break over the horizon, the harbor came alive with salmon jumping all around us. We started by casting fluorescent green spoons and my father and I each got smaller females to the boat. With the sun rising over the tree tops, we then began trolling with Rapalla lures just outside the mouth of the harbor. With our guide rowing us through the waves at that perfect trolling speed, our rod tips both doubled over again! My father and I each caught another female, heaping with roe, thrashing violently on our lines as they devoured our lures in full-on attack mode. These were my favorite fish of the day, both in the mid-20s for weight, fighting to the last second before we brought them aboard. By the end of the trip, we both limited out. With our biceps burning and lower backs aching, we gave each other a high five and our hardworking, tireless guide a slap on the back. I am incredibly grateful to be able to share this experience with my father, a lifetime angler and outdoorsmen. The only question on my mind as we drove back home recounting the battles of the day was: “When does steelhead season start?”

Joe Foley is a avid angler with a passion for trout fishing. To read more about his stories from trout fishing across New England to Sturgeon fishing in British Columbia to Salt Water Kayak Fishing off the Treasure Coast of Florida, please visit: catchofalifetime.blogspot.com. Thanks for reading and Fish on!