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Find The Cold Water For Red-Hot King Salmon Action

While Capt. Lou Borelli targets kings, his customers get the royal treatment.

Find The Cold Water For Red-Hot King Salmon Action

Operating Get The Net Fishing Charters out of Kendall, NY’s Bald Eagle Marina, the 55-year-old salmon pro traces his Lake Ontario fascination to the fishing trips of his youth. Today, those images drive Borelli to deliver the same level of high energy, interactive memories that inspired him.

“The goal for my business is small party fishing, so I’m trying to target the family groups,” Borelli said. “What makes it unique is I try to make it intimate, and the education is super important.

“As I’m setting the rods, I’m explaining to whoever’s on the boat, ‘This is why I’m doing this. This is what this bait is for.’ I try to make it so enjoyable for them—as a whole experience, not just catching fish—that they'll want to come back.”

All Hail the King

During the warmer months, Borelli catches a few steelhead here and there. Certainly, nice incidentals, but there’s nothing like Numero Uno.

“King salmon is top of the food chain; that is the fish everyone is after,” he said. “They have tremendous fighting power and they’re super aggressive, especially when the lake is really cold early in the season. It is the best fighting fish out there.”

Running a 21-foot Hydra-Sports walk-around hard top, Borelli fishes the central to western end of Lake Ontario. Early in the season—late May through July—he targets shallower areas with points, ledges or drop-offs; anywhere alewives have a tendency to run. Average depth is 50-150 feet, but later into summer, he may run significantly deeper.

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King salmon are such a popular fish to pursue because of the explosive power and unwillingness to quit fighting. Photo courtesy of Capt. Lou Borelli.

Determining Factors

Several decades of experience give him a good feel for where to find numbers of salmon. However, there’s definitely a logical formula.


“Bait is the most important thing,” he said of the king salmon prerequisites. “Wherever the bait is, there’s gonna be fish. The other thing is water temperature. The salmon like 42-54 degrees. You want to target that water and eliminate anything above that.

“One day you might be in 150 feet of water and the next day you might be out in 500. You might be a mile offshore to 10 miles offshore. You’re trying to target that water temperature, no matter what depth you’re in.”


As he explains, summer often finds the lake stratifying, so dialing in the depth with the favorable water temperature plays a significant role in finding the bite. Considering that water masses move, minding daily conditions helps guide that search.

“That (preferred water temperature range) moves based on wind direction,” he said. “A south wind water pushes cold water up closer to the surface. If you have a north wind, that pushes warm water down.

“What we want is a consistent west wind. If we have high pressure for a couple of days, you’ll get light west winds, and the lake will actually stratify. You’ll get that nice layer of warm water on top and then the cold water is at some point down in the water column.”

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What They Like

Borelli targets king salmon by trolling a mix of flasher flies, flasher meat rigs and spoons. Most days, he finds 2 to 3 mph the right speed.

“That gets the bait doing the right thing; doing the right action,” he said. “We’re trying to imitate a school of bait or an injured bait. That action looks like the little guy that can’t keep up.”

As he notes, New York allows up to three rods per person, but conditions and angler experience level usually determines a comfortable spread. Most days, he’ll run six to eight rods.

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Great memories are made aboart a charter boat like Borelli’s! Photo courtesy of Capt. Lou Borelli.

During spring, it’s usually a mix of top lines and downriggers, while summer shifts to a combination of Dipsy Divers, downriggers and lead core and copper lines. The latter two offer a stealthy presentation option by using the line weight to get baits deep, but also much farther behind the boat.

With lead core line, he can troll baits down to about 50 feet, while copper line can roughly double that depth.

Fight the Good Fight

When all goes as planned, anglers will enjoy multiple shots at quality king salmon. Not every one that bites makes it to the boat—that’s fishing; nevertheless, every strike unleashes a lightning bolt of excitement.

“It’s like going from 0 to 100 in a split second,” he said. “You’re trolling, rods in the water, everything is under tension, then you get that strike, and everything goes crazy.

“The rod may go straight up, or if it’s a big fish, the rod will stay down. You may have a king salmon may take out 500 feet on its first run. It’s the thrill of waiting and when it happens, all hell breaks loose.”

With a 30-pounder his personal best king salmon, paying customers have the option of keeping their daily limit of 3 fish (aggregate of salmon and trout species), as long as fish meet the 15-inch minimum.

“Most of the charters do it for the fight and the experience, but most will keep legal fish,” Borelli said. “Some captains will come in once they reach their boat limit, but we will continue to fish, as long as we release anything over the boat limit."

Captain Lou Borrelli

Get The Net Fishing Charters

Phone: (585) 303-9573

Email: lborrelli@polyshot.com

Get The Net Fishing Charters

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