Published on February 02, 2024

Anglers Are Out Chasing Steelhead in Oswego County’s Tributary Streams

By Captain Andy Bliss


Now that the holidays are over and the winter doldrums have set in, anglers in many areas have accepted the long hibernation until spring. Meanwhile, anglers in Oswego County are busy enjoying themselves chasing steelhead in the many tributaries that empty into Lake Ontario.

The two major rivers in Oswego County — the Salmon and Oswego rivers — are both hydro-release rivers. This means that neither completely freezes over even during the coldest of winters.
Steelhead enter the tributaries in Fall, but remain there until Spring, creating an incredible open water Winter fishery.

Steelhead can be taken by a variety of methods. Fly fishing, drift fishing and float fishing are the most popular. During the winter the water typically runs low and clear, forcing anglers to lighten leaders and downsize their baits. This makes for some exciting battles with these spectacular fish.

When float fishing, suspend your bait under a fixed float, keeping your bait off the bottom and drifting the same speed as the current. With drift fishing, you are bouncing your bait along the bottom of the river with just enough weight to maintain contact with the bottom without getting stuck.



During the winter months the best places to fish the Salmon River are the bigger holes up river. Altmar to the sportsman’s hole, and the schoolhouse, wire, trestle, Pineville and sportsman holes are the best.
On the Oswego River, access is restricted to the west side. From the wall upstream to the Varick dam is the most productive water.

Some of the best baits during winter include egg sacs, beads, jigs and wax worms. Don’t be afraid to change up. Fish will be in the deeper pools, so work them hard, changing baits to find what they want.

And remember to stay safe. Cleats are a must for wading anglers. A spill at this time of year can lead to hypothermia very quickly. Another thing to keep in mind is dressing warm. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money on hand and toe warmers. They can make the difference between a fun day and a miserable one.

Stay tight and keep up the chase!
Capt. Andy Bliss