If anyone happened to be fishing along the Salmon River on Saturday, November 13th, they probably noticed something different. I’m not talking about the fact it was 60 degrees in the middle of November (I know, I couldn’t believe it either!), I’m talking about the number of fishermen carrying large trash bags along the river.
These environmentally-friendly fishermen were all part of the Lake Ontario Tributary Anglers Council’s (LOTAC) inaugural Catch and Clean Fishing Tournament on the Salmon River.
The 53 anglers had two tasks – to catch fish AND clean up the river. No fish could be entered in the tournament unless the participant brought back a 30-gallon trash bag full of garbage collected along the river.
I arrived at 7 a.m., expecting to take a few photos and be on my way. A few of the LOTAC guys had other plans in mind when they volunteered their friend and fellow LOTAC member, Mike Carota, to take me on a drift boat trip instead. When they asked me if I would prefer to go on the boat, I was faced with a grueling decision - stand along the shore taking a few photos trying desperately not to fall in, or cruise down the river on a 60 degree day in a drift boat. My job is tough, but somebody has to do it! Mike’s friend and LOTAC member, John Wehrle, joined us.
We launched the drift boat in Altmar where, much to my surprise, the parking lot was full! I had to check the calendar on my phone to make sure it was indeed November, because I thought this many people only fished during salmon season in September and October. Certainly these people were confused, and didn’t realize salmon season was over. I must have had a dumb-founded look on my face, because Mike and John explained that steelhead fishing was almost as popular as salmon fishing and the river can be just as packed. All of my years growing up in Pulaski and I NEVER knew that! Strike one against the girl who grew up on the Salmon River.
Along my little cruise, I had the opportunity to fight a steelhead and guess what, I won! (I have to give credit to John for actually landing the steelhead. I wasn’t so lucky in that department). For those of you with a working knowledge about fishing, I caught the steelie on a center pin rod. If you don’t know what a center pin rod is and you want to find out, then you’re reading the wrong blog.
Due to my impeccable fishing skills, I could have landed a lot more fish had I not been so enthralled by my surroundings. I couldn’t put my camera down because around every corner there was at least one angler, if not more, involved in a battle with a feisty steelhead or rainbow. It was common to hear celebratory shouts and the ever-popular phrase, “fish on!”, and to see cell phones and cameras capturing images of trophy fish. Sometimes, Mike or John would lend a net and a helping hand to anglers we passed by.
To be quite honest, I always thought that fishing on the Salmon River was cut-throat, but on my drift boat trip I was proved wrong (strike two). I witnessed nothing but polite, congenial anglers who were all willing to help each other out. There were no arguments, people moved out of the way when someone had a fish on, drift boats respected the anglers standing in the river and vice-versa, and most people initiated friendly conversation.
I could go on and on about how great the fishing was, and how great of a time I had, but let’s not forget about the main purpose of the tournament – to clean up the river. I bet you’re wondering how much trash was collected. I think the photo below will answer your question!
After the garbage collection, the competitors headed to Fox Hollow Salmon River Lodge for dinner and awards. (Owner, Roger Wolfe, graciously donated his time and space to help out with the tournament). While the LOTAC members judged the fish and figured out the winners, Roger cooked all of the competitors a delicious meal.
Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you to the generous business owners who donated prizes and gifts to be raffled off: Fox Hollow, Cortland Line Co., TFO, Orvis, Erie Outfitters, Great Lakes Steelhead Company, King Pin Reels, Rockford Outfitters, Empty Hook Charters, Cabela’s, Ithaca Rod Co. and more!
It’s definitely a relaxing, enjoyable environment on the river – and now it’s a clean environment thanks to LOTAC and all of the participants of the tournament. This tournament reminds us that anglers should be careful stewards of the land and do their best not to leave trash behind, which will help keep the Salmon River one of the greatest sport fisheries in the country!