Fall Fishing for Landlocked Salmon: Fall fishing for landlocked salmon is a hoot. Now I’m not talking about trolling lakes mind you; I’m talking about river fishing. During the fall, salmon drop out of their deep lake lairs to spawn, traveling either to the lake’s inlet or outlet. Their mission? To locate suitable spawning beds in an adjoining river.
The average landlocked salmon caught in Maine is 17″and weights 1.7 pounds, but as this photo shows bigger salmon are not rare. Since the landlocked salmon’s primary forage base is rainbow smelt, many fly anglers assume streamers are the only game in town. And while streamers do work, if you rely solely on them you’re missing out.
Why? The landlock’s second largest food group is aquatic insects. That’s right, from their days in diapers to adulthood, salmon are sucking down bugs. Caddis, mayflies, stoneflies, you name it. So nymphs, wets, soft hackles, and even dries can be employed to catch landlocks. In fact, in a river, sometimes these flies out fish streamers by a wide margin. Doubt me? Look carefully in the upper jaw of the male salmon show above. See the small black wet fly?
Landlocks put a serious bend in your fly rod, trust me. And while they may not tear off like a Lamborghini, their aerial antics are spectacular, often leaping skyward several times. Its great action. Action that puts a serious smile on your face.
Maine has 303 lakes with landlocked salmon; New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts have landlocked salmon too. As a result, you have a plenty of places to pick from. Fall spawning runs start anywhere from late September to late November, depending on water levels, weather and water temperature – with early to mid October being about average.
Do some homework to find the right timing for the river you plan to fish. And above all don’t get frustrated if the salmon don’t show up on time. Local conditions play an enormous role in these spawning run. A low lake can even cause salmon to skip the rivers and instead spawn on shoals inside the lake. Yeah, fishing for migratory species is always a bit of a crap shoot. You have to pay your dues. Still its worth the price.
Can’t get away during the fall? Well most landlocked salmon fisheries have a spring river run too. These salmon aren’t spawning; they’re chasing smelt. Hence, spring landlocked salmon tend to be more aggressive, although leaner after a long winter in the lake. Lord knows, there is no shortage of streamers designed to imitate smelt. Be sure to have a few in your fly box. But once again, nymphs, wets and dries may steal the day. Don’t arrive on the river with out them. You’ve been warned.