On September 19, angler Tom Olivio of Montana caught and released what he claims could have been a world record coho (silver) salmon on the Salmon River in upstate New York.
The Salmon River is home to an annual fall run of chinook (king) salmon, coho salmon and what remains of the Atlantic salmon after which the river was originally named. Chinook salmon are by far the most predominate of the two introduced Pacific salmon species, and the cohos typically run the entire length of the river in pods fairly quickly. (A decent run of steelhead and some brown trout show up a bit later.)
The salmon gorge themselves on alewife in Lake Ontario, and often grow to be very large the few years between their birth and the beginning of their spawning runs. The fish are only in the river a few weeks before dying. This year the Salmon River has been plagued by low water as releases from the upstream dam have greatly diminished due to the drought that occurred over the summer.
Olivio hooked his monster coho while swinging a streamer on a fly rod. Because of the fish’s size and reaction to being hooked, Olivio and his guide Jay Peck originally thought he had caught a king salmon. But when the fish later cleared the water and revealed its colors, they knew that he was into a big coho.
After a lengthy fight, the salmon was finally brought close to shore and netted by the guide.
The fish measured a lengthy 42.75 inches (108.5 cm) with a 24 inch (61 cm) girth, leading the angler to estimate the fish’s weight at 34 pounds (15.4 kg).
Olivio, sure that the world record coho must have come from Alaska, was shocked to find out that it was caught in the same river he was fishing. The current world record coho salmon, caught in the same river in 1989, weighed 33 pounds 4 ounces (15.1 kg).
Since the fish was released its size cannot be confirmed, and it is not eligible for official world record consideration. Olivio says releasing the fish was “the single most important thing we chose to do.”
You can read a full account of the catch on the Chronicle Outdoors website by clicking here.
I would note that while “combat fishing” is a common occurrence on the Salmon River, the claim by the author of that Chronicle Outdoors article that having some breathing room is “unheard of” is simply not true. There have been plenty of times that I was the only person on the water for 100 yards or more during the salmon run.
Last year another potential world record coho salmon caught in New York weighing in at 35 pounds and 1 ounce (15.9 kg) on a certified scale was disqualified when a state fisheries biologist determined that it was a chinook-coho hybrid. You can read about that story here.
For more on fishing the Salmon River, including maps and details on public access areas, see the New York State DNC’s information page at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/37926.html