The Benefits of Lake Fishing In The Fall

4 anglers on a charter boat with their impressive king salmon make the case to keep lake fishing in the fall.
Capt. Ryan Williamson, second from left, with an autumn catch of salmon from the Genesee River.

Keep Your Boat In The Water

After a summer season of hammering salmon in Lake Ontario, many charter captain’s thoughts turn to pulling their boats and winterizing it for the winter as the water temperatures drop. “Not so fast,” says Captain Ryan Williamson. “Don’t take that boat out too early, try your luck lake fishing in the fall” is the advice from the Sodus Bay based charter captain.

An Argument To Keep Lake Fishing In The Fall

“Fishing is just as good in the fall as the spring,” Williamson offered. “I know it’s hunting season, the weather patterns are a little more difficult, and most captains are beat-up from a long season, however, autumn fishing on Lake Ontario can be one of the best fishing times to be on the water.”

The captain has fished Lake Ontario since he was 12, back when he “mated for just about every captain in Sodus Point.” He has been professionally chartering for over 15 years and knows the trout and salmon ritual. He trolls the waters of river mouths in Wayne County during the spring and summer then heads west in September to fish the Genesee River. This river is one of the larger tributaries dumping into Lake Ontario, a true magnet for autumn king salmon.

Less Fishing Pressure on The Lake

The captain will still be on Lake Ontario when most anglers are casting the streams. “The fish are at the Genesee because of the water flow,” Williamson said. “The salmon, browns, and steelhead are all staging. I’ll be fishing here the first two weeks in October.”

There is little boat traffic and my customers enjoy the cooler part of the season. The leaves are turning and fishing close to shore shows off the beautiful colors we have in New York.” Although the captain enjoys the autumn foliage, he is not on “leaf peeping” excursions. He’s on a salmon seeking mission and uses some specific methods for putting autumn fish in the box for his customers.

Location For Fall Salmon Fishing Techniques On The Lake

“I work at strategic points,” Williamson said. “I begin near the tributaries and then work the shore line. The salmon will wander but they love structure. I’m also looking at temperatures. Sixty degrees and under and you will catch salmon close to the shore. Structure and temperature are your best indicators for holding kings.”

Fall Setup and Presentation

Planer Boards

For his autumn presentation the captain will be running planer boards just like spring fishing. “I’m running a trolling speed between 2.5 and 3 miles an hour with J-Plugs, Big Rebels and Bombers. The large stickbaits stimulate the action. The staging kings are not feeding so you need to create instinctive bites when you are lake fishing in the fall.

Downrigger with Spoons

I also use a shallow water downrigger set-ups with spoons. I pull a ton of Michigan Stingers and Dreamweaver Super Slims. I’ll put on some red or red-orange for the steelhead.” Every day is different with the autumn bite, and Williamson advises that you stick with what works in terms of set up, specific depth and bait. “Once you find what they want, stay with it.”

Stained Water

Another manner of targeting fish is stained water. “If you find mudlines, fish them just like you would during the early spring.“The fish are still in the lake during late autumn. The salmon can be very moody because of their aggressive bite routine, but you still can have a very productive day on the water.”

Steelhead and Browns

Williamson advises not to ignore the steelhead and browns. “Autumn fishing for the feeding browns and steelhead can be the best of the year.” The captain is even on the water after stowing his 31 foot North Coast. “I have an 18 foot Starcraft that I’ll launch late in the season. It’s not really for any customers,” he laughed,  “I do it for myself.”

No Boat Necessary

Williamson said that you don’t even need a boat to catch late season trout and salmon from Lake Ontario in the fall. “Fish from the piers,” he advises. “Most of the bays or harbors on the south shore of Lake Ontario have extended piers. The fish are in these channels.”

Fishing for the bruisers in September and October doesn’t always mean stream angling. Give the lake an extra week or two. You have all winter to wade the river banks.

To contact Ryan Williamson:

Fishin Magician

Captain Ryan Williamson

Original Article By Chris Kenyon

About The Author

Chris Kenyon has been an outdoor columnist for the Sodus Record-Sun and the Finger Lakes Times and freelances for several publications.  He has also been a member of NYSOWA and AGLOW.  He has worked as the Outdoor Recreational Coordinator for Wayne County Tourism. Contact Kenyon at

  • Related Posts

  • Categories