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Angler Catches Massive Lake Ontario Trib Winter Steelhead

Angler Catches Massive Lake Ontario Trib Winter Steelhead

Featured image courtesy of Nick Firman

Skilled Syracuse angler Nick Firman was fishing for winter steelhead on a Lake Ontario trib when he hooked up to a real monster-

Continue reading the article and discover how Nick caught his monster steelhead and how much the behemoth weighed and measured!

Like in many other regions across the northern US, temperatures have been uncommonly high in December and the first weeks of January, even though colder weather finally seems to have arrived for good now.

These mild temperatures made Syracuse angler Nick Firman head out to a Lake Ontario tributary near Sandy Creek in Upstate New York, just north of the mythical Salmon River.

Steelhead fishing can be pretty slow this time of year, but it was a good thing that he decided to fish that day because Nick ended up catching a marvelous trophy fish!

I contacted Nick and asked him a few questions about his amazing steelhead adventure:

Why did you choose that particular trib?

“I know this tributary really well. I really enjoy fishing it because it’s a large tributary with lots of water and a large wetted width. What I’m getting at here is it’s not a small trickle of a creek, which is more attractive to me.

You don’t see fish before you catch them, and they have tons of places to both run and hide. Most years, it is frozen during the winter, but because it had a lot of snow melt and rain this particular week, I had been watching the gauge and went to go fish it while the flows were dropping from a spike earlier in the week.”

Nick was centerpin fishing for steelies using a 12mm bead that he floated in the current.

Fishing had been fairly slow that day, but suddenly, his bobber went down!

Can you describe the bite and fight a little?

Nick releasing the steelhead that dreams are made of

“The fish was sitting on the outside bend of a deep run across the creek from where I stood. When the bobber dropped, I gave it a rather lazy hookset because fishing had been so bad that particular morning despite ideal water conditions. 

When the fish was hooked, he didn’t move out from where my bobber dropped, so my initial reaction was that it was a snag. The fish started to move slowly upstream, and to the middle of the run, its lazy demeanor made me think it was a brown. 

After 5 minutes, I worked him out of the thalweg and to the edge of the gravel bar where I stood – that’s when I think he realized he was hooked. 

Five more minutes consisted of big head shakes and runs out to the middle of the creek where the water was probably 6-8 feet deep. The only times I saw him was when he made a run back to the middle. 

I was fishing solo that day but was lucky to run into a gentleman (Vinnie) who had fished the hole all morning and was nice enough to let me take some casts. 

Vinnie was there for the fight, helped land the fish, and took pictures for me.”

Nick was lucky to get that help because the fish was a regular behemoth!

The enormous steelhead measured an incredible 35 inches and weighed an insane 20lbs! 

Additionally, this monster had a girth of 21 inches, making it a trophy catch in perfect condition! 

Just a crazy round fish. He was super tall. Built almost like a domestic. 

-Nick Firman

20-pounders don’t come around all that often in this part of the country, and Nick can be incredibly proud of his catch. It’s a fish of a lifetime! 

How did you feel when you realized how big the fish was?

A winter steelhead in perfect condition

“The way he was moving upstream after the initial hookset was an indicator to me that he was an above-average fish. The first time I got him out of the current and close to the gravel bar, where I stood, he rolled, and I got a good look at his body and tail. 

I knew he was exceptional then but didn’t realize the magnitude of his size until I finally beached him at the end of the fight.”

To better understand just how rare big steelhead like this are in the Lake Ontario tribs, I also asked him the following question.

How common are fish of that caliber in Upstate NY these days?

Nick with another 30+ inch steelhead

“I’ve been fishing the Salmon River and nearby tributaries for 12 years, religiously, and I haven’t personally seen one of this size. 

I’ve caught several 32-34″ fish but most fall into the 12-15 lb size class due to the girth. 

You hear, through the grapevine, of a handful of 34-38″ fish caught every year, but the girth, jaw, and colors on this one made it really special.”

Nick hit the nail on the head here; the length/girth factor makes this incredible fish stand out from most steelhead caught in the region, resulting in its astonishing weight!

Lastly, I asked Nick for a few secret steelhead fishing tips and tricks.

Any secret tips for a successful winter steelhead trip that you can share? 

Nick knows how to catch monster steelies

“I think just being on the water and getting reps this time of year gives you the best chance at landing a trophy. 

A lot of these fish are highly pressured, so dropping tippet and hook size can help on high sun and low flow days.”

Once again, I’d like to congratulate Nick on his phenomenal catch. This truly is a steelhead that most anglers can only dream about, especially on the east coast!

I wish him many successful fishing trips and tight lines in the future!

All images courtesy of Nick Firman

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  1. Brandon Avery says:

    What trib is good to fish?

    • Max Loesche says:

      Hi Brandon.

      Up there, pretty much all of em. 🙂 The Salmon Rive ris probably your best pick this time of year, though, as it doesn’t freeze over, like the smaller tribs do!

      Tight lines