Originally published on December 5th, 2019
This Fish’n Canada episode finds Stephen Niedzwiecki making his first voyage on the FNC1 Princecraft without the expert guidance of seasoned Fish’n Canada hosts Angelo Viola or Pete Bowman. He took the rig to the St. Mary’s River, next to the city of Sault Ste. Marie, in search of Atlantic Salmon. Thankfully, however, he wasn’t entirely on his own. He was joined by expert fishing guide and friend of the show Tyler Dunn.
Tyler has been a guest on the show before and has proven himself to be a top-tier guide, demonstrating remarkable success across numerous species and bodies of water. Loyal viewers may recall, as well, that he’s no stranger to Sault Ste. Marie or the St. Mary’s River. In a past episode, he and Pete Bowman targeted October Largemouth Bass in the backwaters of the St. Mary’s, downriver from the “Soo” (a popular nickname of Sault Ste. Marie).
On this trip, however, Steve was after a totally different species in a very different location.
“Fishing directly adjacent to the city of the Soo,” says Steve “gave me an initial feeling of apprehensiveness. After all, I was after Atlantic Salmon, one of Canada’s most pristine fish species, which is normally associated with hard-to-get-to rivers dumping into the Atlantic Ocean.”
“But Tyler kept convincing me,” continues Steve “to wait and I’d see”.
KINGS OF CHROME
Tyler and Steve were drifting the section of the river north of the world-famous “rapids“. It was a strong inflow (sometimes up to 5mph), but still calm and very manageable.
Not long into their drifts, Steve felt a snap, as in what Tyler described as an Atlantic’s bite — but not the type of snap Steve likes. One of these Kings of Chrome grabbed onto his line so hard, it broke. But Steve did manage to get a glimpse of the fish, and that made him even more eager to get one of those monsters into the boat.
Though the crazy current of the St. Mary’s River may be partially to thank for these Atlantic’s being there, it also introduces some significant challenges while fishing. The powerful current pushed the guys downstream so quickly, that each of their drifts were over before they knew it, which didn’t leave a lot of time to experiment with presentations before they had to fire up the Mercury and head back upstream.
Not long into their series of drifts and after Steve’s initial break-off, Tyler set the hook into a solid fish.
“Feels like a pretty good one” were Ty’s words. And he would know, as he’s caught many Atlantic Salmon here.
After what seemed like an hour, not minutes, Tyler’s salmon was in the boat.
“Wow, what a beautiful fish” commented Steve.
This was Steve’s first look at an Atlantic.
Later that day, and after a bait colour change, Tyler again set into one of these Kings Of Chrome. This one was almost identical to his first fish. This one hit on the colour “Baby Bass”… go figure!
BAITS AND TECHNIQUES
Tyler has been using Fluke-style baits for Salmon for quite some time and does very well with them. Natural baitfish colours are Ty’s favourite choices.
Two of Steve’s favourite baits are the Yamamoto D Shad and Zoom Fluke. On their own, they are light, slow sinking baits that work well for shallow bass. However, in this deep water with a strong current, some weight is needed.
Tyler recommends a jig head with a strong and sharp hook. The weight allows the angler to run the fluke anywhere in the water column, thus searching all depths.
He prefers spinning gear for this style of fishing, with braided line as a main line, and a fluorocarbon leader.
Towards the end of the day, Tyler had to take out a client for an evening fish to a small local lake, so Steve had to bid him adieu. Unfortunately, Steve’s time with him was up, as Tyler had to hurry along. Steve, however, still had some daylight left.
With the training wheels now off, he steered the FNC-1 back to their Hotspot, armed with a little more tactical know-how.
Tyler warned that the evening bite may be even more challenging — and once again, he was proven to be right. The fish seemed to have shut down, the window of opportunity possibly closed. The other anglers started disappearing from the water — and yet, Steve carried on.
“My time fishing for Atlantic’s on the St. Mary’s River,” says Steve “a species and body of water both completely new to me, has reinforced the importance of having an expert like Tyler Dunn, with local knowledge, who can deliver you to the right spot and demonstrate the techniques that’ll put you on the path to fishing success”.
“Though I didn’t hook a fish in my last while,” he continues “I had an unforgettable day on the water and I feel much more confident that I’ll net one of these Silver Bullets on my next visit.”
ONTARIO AND ATLANTIC STOCKING
More commonly associated with Canada’s Maritimes, Atlantic Salmon naturally colonized Lake Ontario from the Atlantic Ocean and adapted to life in freshwater conditions some 12,000 years ago. However, by 1898, due to the introduction of dams, deforestation of riverbanks, pollution, and over-harvesting, the Atlantic’s were extirpated from the Great lakes.
Since then, Ontario has spent millions of dollars on Atlantic Salmon restoration programs. To date, none have proven to succeed in bringing back these acrobatic fighters in significant numbers. However, there is hope as evidenced in the St. Mary’s River episode. The United States, through Lake Superior State University, seems to have found a secret formula that is having some degree of success.
In fact, the current Ontario Atlantic Salmon record is 24.3 pounds and came from New York’s “put-grow-take” program for Atlantics.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Have you been to the St. Mary’s River, or fished elsewhere for mighty Atlantic Salmon? If so, we’d love to hear, so please share your stories in the comment section below.
- Ontario Canada – In partnership with Destination Ontario
- Algoma Country Tourism
- Quattro Hotel Sault Ste. Marie
- Tyler Dunn Guiding
- Sault Ste. Marie footage provided by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie