October is for Salmon Fishing & Waterfall Chasing in Pulaski, NY
October 16, 2021
Along the Salmon River in Owego County, you’ll find the village of Pulaski. Why is it famous, you ask? Because it is one of the best spots for salmon fishing – in the country. That’s right. People don’t travel just from all corners of New York, but from states thousands of miles away. During the fall months, you’ll see license plates from across the US filling up the small town roads. All coming together to go – or watch – salmon fishing in Pulaski, New York.
When is the best time for salmon fishing in New York?
When the leaves start to turn and there’s a crisp breeze in the air, it’s prime salmon fishing time. Late-September through mid-October, the Salmon River in Pulaski is filled with hopeful anglers. Chicken barbecues are held on the weekends both to fuel the fishermen and feed the visitors. Plus, the peak foliage is just another reason to visit Oswego County at this time of the year.
What makes salmon fishing so special?
Honestly, there are a few reasons that salmon fishing is so unique.
First of all, salmon is delicious! So if you catch a good salmon, you’ve got a great meal in your future.
Secondly, salmon fishing is pretty exciting – both as an angler and as a spectator. With the rapid current of the Salmon River and cooling fall temperatures making ideal conditions for the salmon, you’ll often see them jumping in the water. Plus, the two types of salmon common in Pulaski, Chinook and Coho, can grow to be 8 to 30 pounds. Those are some big fish! So seeing them jump right in front of you – or watching an angler try to reel one in – is a lot of fun.
Third, it’s just really interesting. The anglers typically don waders and boots so they can venture into the rushing waters of the Salmon River. They use fly fishing equipment, which is different than your standard fishing poles. So watching them whip the line through the air is pretty neat!
Where do the salmon come from?
Good question! Stocking the Salmon River is one of the main tasks of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The fish hatchery is located just outside of Pulaski, along Route 22.
Wild salmon broodstock return to the hatchery each year to spawn. Then, the DEC collects the eggs and transfers them into various pools as they age to provide them their ideal living environments. Careful attention is paid to the temperature, current, and minerality of the water. Once the salmon reach a certain size, they are ready to be released back into the wild. The Salmon River Hatchery supplies fish to over 100 waterways across New York State, including 3.5 million trout and salmon.
But don’t be fooled. Just because the hatchery stocks millions of fish, doesn’t mean they are all spawned in the hatchery pools! According to a study conducted in 2015, about half of the salmon in Lake Ontario are actually wild bred. Furthermore, they believe that roughly 70% of salmon caught by anglers in the river are wild.
Where to Watch Salmon Fishing in Pulaski
If you’re coming from the south, you’ll likely be taking Route 11 into Pulaski. Once the road turns and becomes a bridge over the Salmon River, you’ve found prime spectator spot. Right along the bridge that leads into the village is where most spectators gather to watch the anglers. If you’re visiting on a weekend, parking may be tricky to find, so it may take a few passes through the village to find a spot.
Views from both sides of the bridge are fantastic – just be careful crossing the road! You’ll see fishermen and fisherwomen filling the water, the banks, and the walls of the river, each vying for the prized salmon.
One of the best parts about watching the salmon anglers in Pulaski is that you can see them along the bridge, in a more urban environment, or further out in the country, with much more natural scenery.
Travel east from the village, and you’ll find a parking area on the left side of Route 22 with a sign for “Salmon River Angler Parking”. Don’t worry if you’re just going to watch – you’re not alone. Park your car and follow the short path to the river. There you will again see anglers on both sides, swishing their fishing line into the water.
Right where the path meets the water, you can walk along some large rocks that form the banks of the river to get some gorgeous views. Just be extra careful as the water is fast and powerful, creating some dangerous rapids. Good shoes are a must!
A Community of Salmon Fishing Anglers
“Coming Down!” Those are the best words to hear along the Salmon River. Because it means someone has hooked a salmon! Once an angler has a fish on their line, they need to fight against both the salmon and the current to reel him in. That often means making their way along the banks of the river, keeping track of their line while not getting tangled among the others.
One of the best parts of watching salmon fishing in Pulaski is seeing the sense of community that it brings. And the place you see that the most? When the fellow anglers try to help each other bring that fish in. It becomes a group effort, not a competition. As the angler makes their way to meet their line, other anglers grab their nets to help out.
And it’s not just the fishermen and fisherwomen who form connections. It’s everyone! The local business owners, tourists, and others in the community all unite over the fall tradition. So while you’re watching from the bridge, strike up a conversation with the fellow spectators.
Other Things to do in Pulaski
Hike at Salmon River Falls
After spending part of your day watching the anglers in the river, it’s time to stretch your legs. Take a drive along County Route 22, past the fish hatchery and the designed angler site, to Salmon River Falls Unique Area. You’ll find a small parking lot on the right side of the road.
A little further down you’ll find the gorge trail, which is open depending on the season. Be aware that the gorge trail is very steep, with occasional big jumps from one rock to another – and often slippery. So if you choose to journey down to get a closer view of the falls, be prepared with good hiking shoes.
That’s not all. After you come back up the gorge trail (or if you’re just not feeling the climb), follow the trail to where it opens up at the top of the falls. From there you can descend the stairs to stand (or sit) on top of the waterfall. It is a wide open, rocky area. Just please do not go further than the marked area. The restriction zone is restricted for a reason! The cliff is steep and the falls are strong. Stay safe out there.
Visit the Salmon River Fish Hatchery
As I mentioned, the NYS DEC takes a lot of pride in stocking the waters across the state with fish – both for fishing and environmental sustainability. But did you know that you can also visit the Salmon River Fish Hatchery where the magic all happens?
Unfortunately, the hatchery is currently closed for visitors. But for a good reason! And it’s only temporary. They’ve spent this year doing renovations to make it even better. So get ready to go to the visitor center next year to learn all about how they stock 3.5 million trout and salmon across New York State.