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Fishermen make distant trek to Oak Orchard River

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Shane Smith and his son Ben, 8, hold one of the big salmon Ben caught today in the Oak Orchard River.


“You have it here in terms of variety, quantity and size.” – – Fisherman Bob Mathieu of Slippery Rock, Pa.


The Oak Orchard River draws a lot of fishermen, but it isn’t nearly as packed as the Salmon River in Pulaski. The Oak orchard anglers don’t like fishing in big crowds.

WATERPORT – Matty Mathieu puts in on his calendar every year. He will spend a week at Waterport fishing in the Oak Orchard River.

Mathieu, 81, travels from Merced, California. He joins his son and Mathieu’s brother for the fishing getaway.

“If you want to catch big fish this is where you come,” Mathieu said today after a day’s fishing.

His brother Bob told him about the Oak Orchard. They also fish in Olcott and the Salmon River in Pulaski. The south shore of Lake Ontario has many great fishing holes, the brothers said.

They like the Oak Orchard because of the quality of the fishery, and it doesn’t draw nearly the masses that converge at the Salmon River.

“You have it here in terms of variety, quantity and size,” said Bob Mathieu, who lives in Slippery Rock, Pa. “It’s a well-kept secret but it’s getting out.”

Melvin McMillion works his way up the river while pulling a string with a Chinook salmon.

The Mathieus are competing in a fly fishing tournament sponsored by St. Mary’s Archer’s Club. It runs until Friday and awards prizes for the biggest Chinook salmon, Atlantic salmon, brown trout and steelhead.

The tournament has 61 participants and the vast majority are out-of-state anglers, with many from Pennsylvania.

Melvin McMillon has been coming up from Yorktown, Pa., for weekly trips for six years. He said the fly fishermen are courteous to each other while they fish by the Archer’s Club.

“It’s fun and down here there is a lot of respect,” he said.

Doug Shiffert drove up from Nazareth, Pa., to fish in the Oak Orchard River.

The fishermen said the fish so far this year don’t seem as plentiful as in the past. They attributed that to the warm fall.

“Once it gets colder, there will be more fish,” said Shane Smith, 38, who drives about 300 miles from near Harrisburg to fish the Oak Orchard.

Smith is part of a three-generation fishing family that makes the trek. His son and father also enjoy the Oak. Shane’s son Ben, 8, was the star today, landing a half dozen 15- to 20-pound Chinook.

Shane has been coming for the weekly fishing outings since 1989. He has made many friends with people all over the country.

“There’s people a lot farther away than us who come here,” he said.

Smith said it’s ultimately about the fishing. He wants to catch big fish.

“We’ve been coming here so long because we always have good luck here.”

The salmon will jump and stop right next to the anglers. The annual fishing run hasn’t quite hit its peak because of the warm temperatures, but there are still a lot of fish in the river.