Are Coho Salmon the “NEW SALMON” for LAKE HURON?

  • Kings, Cohos, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout…and their forage base
  • Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead have more extended lives and thrive on different forage
  • The Michigan DNR has an essential decision to make, in 2020: is the King dead?
Will cohos put the bend in the fishing rods of Lake Huron anglers in 2020?

By Mike Schoonveld

After the results of the coho salmon stocking experiment in Lake Michigan a few years back, the test was a success. Control of the overabundant alewife population had been established in Lake Michigan, so cohos were stocked in Lake Huron next. There, the experiment was also a success, but two things worked to keep the Lake Huron success in the background.

First, they were second. Who placed second at the Daytona 500 last year? Who earned a silver medal in Olympic ski jumping? Few people remember runners-up.

More importantly, after the resounding success of coho stocking in the Great Lakes, next came the stocking of chinook salmon. There’s a cute maxim about Great Lakes salmon: “A coho is a silver, a chinook is the king!” Coho and chinook are the names given these species by the indigenous people, explorers, and settlers to the Pacific Northwest who called them silvers and kings.

The emphasis in this aphorism is on kings, since king salmon are usually two or three times larger than cohos and two or three times harder to bring to net, even at equivalent sizes. Once kings entered the picture, few anglers put much effort into trying to catch cohos.

In Lake Michigan, cohos gained a loyal following – especially in the southern end of the lake – near Benton Harbor and New Buffalo in Michigan, and again in Platte Bay in October, when Michigan’s cohos show up for their spawning run. Lake Huron coho fans were much smaller in number, and far fewer cohos were fished for and caught. Add to this the expense of stocking cohos is roughly triple the cost per fish of stocking king salmon. It was an easy decision, 30 years ago, for the Michigan DNR to discontinue the coho program in Lake Huron.

The Michigan DNR reintroduced coho salmon in Lake Huron and they will be ready to catch this season, in 2020.

Things changed in 30 years, most notable was the collapse of the alewife/chinook salmon dominated ecosystem in Lake Huron. Sure there were lake trout, steelhead, walleye, bass, perch, even pike, muskies and smallmouth in certain areas, but the primary forage fish was alewife, and the central predator feeding on the alewives was king salmon.

The demise of the alewife/chinook ecosystem in Lake Huron is well documented. There were many moving parts in the collapse, but basically, king salmon numbers went up due to natural reproduction, and the resulting kings ate all the alewives.

Chinook catches crashed to near zero despite continued MDNR stocking in select locations. Biologists learned that most of the stocked fish that would hopefully provide a minimal background chinook fishery for Huron anglers had migrated to Lake Michigan, where alewives were available by the time they were big enough to catch.

The chinook/alewife connection proved to be unbreakable. When alewives were eliminated, native forage species (which had been suppressed by the abundant ales) flourished. Sticklebacks, sculpin, herring, and others increased, as did non-native smelt and invasive round gobies. Kings turned their nose up at eating these alternatives.

Not so with Lake Huron’s other predator fish. Walleyes, lakers, and others quickly responded by foraging on these alternate, often more nutritious prey fish.

Fishermen, by and large, weren’t as interested in fishing for lake trout, walleyes, and other species. It was king salmon that attracted the crowds and provided customers for charter captains, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. Fishing license sales attributed to Lake Huron anglers dropped dramatically.

Can anything be done? That’s the new question the MDNR hopes to answer.

One potential answer is to stock more steelhead.

Steelhead are more opportunistic feeders, seemingly as content to slurp beetles and moths off the lake surface as they are chasing shiners or other small prey fish.

Another potential answer is to stock Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic salmon program run by Lake Superior State at Sault Saint Marie in the St. Marys River, which flows into Lake Huron, seems to be vibrant. Perhaps the Atlantics could fill the void left by the shortage of Huron kings.

Perhaps an idea based on the concept “everything old is new again” could entice anglers back to Lake Huron. The MDNR recently stocked almost 50,000 coho salmon at Port Sanilac and another 50,000 at Alpena.

Food studies have shown cohos aren’t nearly as picky eaters as king salmon. They spend their first year of life, or longer, in the hatchery. When stocked at only seven or eight inches in length, they feed more on bugs than prey fish for much of their second year of life, and even in their third and final year (they spawn and die at age three), they will eat insects as well as smelt, gobies or most any other fish they can find.

The angling results of this experiment will be known this year. By spring, these cohos should be two or three times as large (16 to 22 inches), and many will be four to six pounds by mid-summer.

When it comes to Lake Huron salmon, a take-off on another familiar dictum may be appropriate, “The king is dead…long live the coho!”

THE END

 

 

Winter Chill is Here, but Fish are Too

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Report from Destination Niagara USA
  • Big fish in Trib’s during December runoff periods
  • Ice Boom going in on Lake Erie very soon
Corey S. of Massachusetts caught this big brown fishing with Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters.

Temperatures are in the single digits with the wind chill and there’s not much wind.

Efforts are underway to install the ice boom at the head of the river off Buffalo, but water temperatures are still fluctuating around 40 degrees. Ice is still a ways off. As a result, the Niagara River water is still susceptible to stained conditions when the winds are right.

Joel Juhasz of Lancaster caught this 30-inch steelhead in the lower river to take over the lead in the Capt. Bob’s Outdoors fall contest.

With temperatures being forecast in the 40’s this weekend, it should be a good time to get a line wet for some trout action in the Niagara River just before the Christmas holiday.

Earlier this week, a hand full of boaters were catching steelhead using minnows off three-way rigs. Shore guys were using spinners, jigs, and streamers to take steelhead, with the occasional brown trout also being caught. Lake trout season opens in New York on Jan. 1, 2020, but it’s open already on the Canadian side of the river.

Captain John DeLorenzo with a Lower Niagara River steelhead.
Captain John DeLorenzo with a Lower Niagara River brown trout.

The brown trout action that was hot earlier at Fort Niagara has slowed down.

In the upper Niagara River, Denis Kreze of Fort Erie has been hitting some lake trout using a Venom Donkey Snatcher in 18 feet of water. Lake trout season is open in the upper river all year long.

Roy Letcher of Newfane sends word that the water flows have been high with muddy conditions for most tributary streams running into Lake Ontario. Those streams could be in good shape by the weekend.

With cold weather in the forecast, we could be looking at some of the Niagara County harbors, like Wilson and Olcott, starting to turn to hard water soon.

Ric Davila of Wheatfield took a couple of steelhead before work on Tuesday using his two-handed Spey rod and a white bunny leech.

Good water was being reported in some of the smaller streams like 4-Mile and 12-Mile, but Keg Creek is closed at the mouth, preventing any fish from entering the stream. After the high water/rain event last week, the water levels have lowered, and fish have come in from the lake.

Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters with a Lake Ontario tributary brown trout.

December runoff is a no brainer to catch big lake-run fish on the move. Use a large size 6 white Zonker with copper flash. Slush ice can be a challenge when temps hover around freezing. Waiting it out can pay off big. “The sun recedes and with it the conveyor belt of slush ice,” says Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters.

Some last-minute stocking stuffers include a season pass for the LOC Derby at www.loc.org. Save $20 ($10 off the regular price).  A 3-day pass for the Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo is available from the website at www.niagarafishingexpo.com. The Expo is set for Jan. 17-19, 2020.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA; 10 Rainbow Blvd.; Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Bill Hilts Niagara Falls USA Fishing Report

  • Forecast for March 21, 2019 from Destination Niagara USA
  • Clear waters, active fish in river and streams
  • Shore casters and boaters doing well

Happy Spring!

Rich Pisa of Kenmore, NY was fishing the lower Niagara River gorge and caught this steelhead this past week.

Stream and river action are both strong right now and this week’s weather doesn’t look too bad as of right now, especially on Sunday.  In the lower Niagara River, Ricardo Davila of Wheatfield has been doing well in the Niagara Gorge from shore casting spoons.  Water has been very clear there. Hopefully we will see a little snow melt and rain to help stain that water up a bit.  Still, he’s been taking some nice steelhead from shore.  Boaters have more opportunity to move around and steelhead and brown trout are both producing consistently by anglers drifting shiners, egg sacs or plugs like Kwikfish or MagLips off three-way rigs.  If you are looking for browns and lakers, try drifting the Niagara Bar with a shiner near the green buoy marker.

Greg Schloerb of Amherst with a Burt Dam steelhead.
Ricardo Davila hit the Artpark area from shore in the lower Niagara to take steelhead like this one casting spoons.

The tributaries are opening up nicely and if there’s good flow, there will be some fresh trout in there.  The most popular area in Niagara Falls USA off Lake Ontario is 18 Mile Creek near Burt Dam.  Egg sacs and jigs are working to produce some feisty steelhead with an occasional brown trout. Don’t forget about the piers in Wilson and Olcott, too.  Those should start to turn on soon. And speaking of Wilson, the 7th Annual Wilson Bullhead contest is coming up soon, April 5-7.  Make sure that’s on your fishing radar screen.

Speaking of brown trout, it appears a few boats have been trolling the shoreline out near Fort Niagara and picking up some browns in 6 to 8 feet of water.  Use small stickbaits, either flatlining off the back or working the shoreline with in-line planers.

Brad and Terry Harris of Missouri hoist up some steelhead they caught in the lower Niagara River last weekend fishing with Capt. Ernie Calandrelli of Lewiston.
Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston holds a steelhead and Bill Blanchard of West Seneca shows off a walleye on the final day of the walleye season in the lower Niagara River last Friday.

On Saturday March 23rd, there will be a Lake Ontario Fisheries Symposium sponsored by NY Sea Grant and the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Promotion Council from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Finger Lakes Mall (adjacent to Bass Pro), Auburn. Expert panels and presentations on Lake Ontario will be offered up. Register for free at www.ilovenyfishing.com.

Also, on March 23rd, the 8th Annual Fisherman’s Paradise Flea market and Swap Meet will take place at the Alexander Firemen’s Rec Hall located at 10708 Route 98 in Alexander.  Admission is just $2.  Kids 12 years of age and under are free.  For more information, call Joe Kugel at 440-0004 or Jim Thompson at 585-591-0168.

April 1 is opening day of the inland trout and salmon season.  DEC does plenty of stocking in its inland waters.  Call the Randolph Hatchery stocking hotline at 358-2050 for details.  Stocking will take place in Niagara Falls at Hyde Park Lake and Gill Creek, as well as Oppenheim Park Pond in Wheatfield on April 11.

Capt. Matt Gantress of Amherst, NY shows off a Niagara Bar brown trout.

The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association will be assembling and floating the net pens for the 2019 project season starting at 9:30 a.m. on April 6.  This will take place at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott.  In addition to holding over 67,000 salmon in pens, they will also be holding 7,000 steelhead in pens to improve survival rates and imprint the fish to these waters. 

Remember that April 6 is also the Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs annual awards banquet starting at 5:30 p.m. at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara in Lockport. Call Dave

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Orleans County, NY – STREAM fishing report – November 13, 2018

By Ron Bierstine, Oak Orchard Tackle and Lodge

Some cool, fall weather is hanging in with slightly colder temps forecast through the mid-week and a chance for snow or rain showers. No significant lake effect snow is expected here on the immediate WNY big Lake Ontario Plain. The greatest impact is forecast for south of the area. Flows in the Oak are still real good by typical fall standards – slightly high and slightly stained. These higher than average fall flows are no doubt, in large part, responsible for drawing in the good mixed bag action that has been going on in the Oak. Kings are fading some now with the occasional greener fish, but it’s mostly older and zombie fish. Browns are spread out and well upstream with what’s been plenty of quality fish hooked up. Good to see plenty of those fish released. It’s been mostly males, but just lately some more females. There should be plenty of good action ahead if there are reasonable flows and weather.

Steelhead are a little less common now then earlier. It could be less over all fish numbers (a good case for an earlier season catch and release) or they could be in tight at the dam. Monday’s reports were generally good for most guys having good or better action on the Oak and other area smaller tributaries.

Smaller tributaries are now back on the drop and clearing to about moderate flows and mostly clear water color. Although fishing pressure is still up there, it is lessening and more manageable now with the chance to fish some different spots through the day as guys move out or around. All that water can, for the most part, handle the fishing pressure on the Oak. Look for continued lowering flows in the smaller waterways and the chance for sluggish fish with any more drop in water temps that could occur with some cold nights. The consistent Oak action should continue as long as there are no major or prolonged change in water flows.

Visit our Fishing Report on OrleansCountyTourism.com, including weather forecasts and our “At the Oak, Orleans County” Facebook feed.

Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Thursday, March 15, 2018 – from Destination Niagara USA

Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston, NY, shows off a Niagara County steelhead he caught this week on an egg sac.

It’s March 15 and it’s the final day of walleye, northern pike, tiger musky and pickerel fishing seasons in New York. We’re also less than a week from the arrival of spring. However, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. We were dumped on again, with another 6 to 8 inches of snow in Niagara. Despite the late white stuff, there are trout in most all of the streams and in the Niagara River.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls has been crawling around the rocks in the gorge area and he picked up a few fish in the lower Niagara River this week using a white and silver jig in the Devil’s Hole area. Water was high with visibility at about 10 feet. Water clarity has been an issue for Capt. Mark McGranahan of Sparky’s Charters, too. He was offering trout some egg sacs, minnows and plugs like Kwikfish and MagLips and managed to hook into a few. Action was not consistent though. It appeared there was a large amount of bait in the river, too. If this weather continues to stay cold with a chance of snow or ice, they may not open the New York Power Authority fishing platform or the NYPA reservoir access points. You can check by calling 716-796-0135 Ext. 45.

March 18th is the 13th Annual John Long, Sr. Memorial Raffle and Feast to be held at Niagara Active Hose on Lockport Road in the Town of Niagara from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. This is the big fund raiser for the year with the Niagara River Anglers Association. Call Paul Jackson at 731-4780 for more information.

In the Lake Ontario tributaries, conditions have been fair to good for trout. White flies and jigs have been working well. Jig tipped with a wax worm also have been catching some fish.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls his this nice steelie casting a white and silver jig in the Niagara Gorge.

Next rain or melt-off should produce a solid push of fish. Water has been cold, so fish low (deep) and slow according to Scott Feltrinelli, a local fly fishing guide out of Rochester area. Both steelhead and brown trout are being caught, depending on where you are fishing. If you can make it on the lake, you can troll the shoreline for browns with stickbaits.

The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association is looking for some volunteers to help put their pens together and get them ready for the salmon and trout stockings in April. On April 7, volunteers will be meeting at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott at 9:30 a.m. to work on the pens. For more information contact Alan Sauerland at 504-7789. Incidentally, the first meeting of the year for LOTSA will be April 12 and it will be on tournament spring king fishing. The meeting is in Lockport at 7 p.m., Cornell Cooperative Extension.

If you are looking for an opportunity to buy, sell or view antique fishing tackle, the 29th Annual Antique Fishing Tackle Show is the ticket. This is the longest-running event of its kind in the state, giving you a trip down memory lane as it relates to the fishing industry. The show is slated for March 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Elks Lodge No. 41 located at 6791 North Canal Road in Lockport. Admission into the show is $5 for adults. Kids 16 and under are free. Tables are still available if you are interested in displaying for $15 before March 17, $20 after. This is a great chance to get an appraisal on some old fishing tackle that may be lying around your basement or in your garage. For more information contact Dan Bedford at 713-9410.

Antique fishing lures will be the focus of a local show in Lockport on March 24 to be held at the Elks Lodge No. 41.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Niagara Falls USA: Steelhead, Brown Trout, Late Coho Salmon MOVING with Late Winter Weather

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Feb. 22, 2018 – Destination Niagara USA
  • Stream & River Levels, Coloration – Subject to Weather Swings
  • Fresh Fish are Entering Streams
  • Use Caution if Going Ice Fishing
  • Activities: Boat Show NOW, Outdoor Expo – Mar. 8-11, Alberto Rey at Orvis, Feb. 25 – NOON
Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a nice steelhead he caught in the Devil’s Hole area of the lower Niagara from shore. He was casting a yellow jig.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure – from the fishing end of things, due to the ups and downs associated with the weather.  Earlier in the week, record-breaking temperatures shot up to 66 degrees. It’s back down to the 30s but back up to the 50s by the weekend.

Lower Niagara River action for trout had been good. The tributaries off Lake Ontario and Lake Erie opened back up again and anglers were catching trout consistently – before the rains came.

All the tributaries were high and muddy, but as of this morning, both 12 Mile Creek in Wilson and Keg Creek were flowing nicely according to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker in Olcott.  

Over at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek, water flow has already started to come down and there was about a foot visibility.  

There should be some fresh fish around.

Ice fishing is questionable. Caution is advised any time you are heading out onto the hard water due to the wind and rain we received last go-round of warmth.  

Captain Taz Morrison caught a nice steelhead on the lower river while drifting a Kwikfish. The next day he was at Burt Dam catching late-run Coho salmon on Lick-em-lure eggs.

Getting back to the Niagara River, the water condition was affected by the dirty water coming out of the streams, but there was no indication that fishing had stopped.  Condition was stained from the power plants on down, but was more manageable above the plants.  

Shore fishermen like Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls have been casting yellow jigs to take steelhead and brown trout.

For boaters, use eggs or minnows when the wind isn’t out of the south or southwest.  When it is, use a MagLip or a Kwikfish off a three-way rig.  Conditions should be better by the weekend downriver of the power plants.

The WNY Boat Show is underway right now at the ADPRO Training Center located at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park.  It’s a great way to dream about spring and also check out some of the boats that are available on the market now.  After all, we are surrounded by water here in WNY. It continues through Sunday, Feb. 25.

If boating isn’t your thing, the next big indoor event on the outdoors is the WNY Sport and Travel Expo at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg March 8 to 11.  There’s free parking and displays in four different buildings covering everything from fishing to hunting, tourism destinations to outdoor-related products.  Check out www.eriepromotions.com for more information.  

If you want to learn about fly fishing in the Great Lakes streams, check out Alberto Rey at the Orvis Shop in Williamsville on Feb. 25 starting at noon. Call 716-276-7200 to reserve your spot.

Bill Hilts, Jr.- Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303; p: 1-877 FALLS US; 1-716-282-8992 x. 303; f: 1-716-285-0809; www.niagarafallsusa.com

facebook | twitter | instagram

 

Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Thursday, February 1, 2018

As this is being written, it’s February 1 and the temperature is near 40 degrees.

Larry Broad of West Seneca, New York,with a lower river steelhead.

The sun is shining. However, before the day is over the temperatures will plummet into the teens and it is supposed to be cold all weekend. That will continue into next week.

In the meantime, fishing action has been very good in the lower Niagara River for boaters drifting egg sacs or minnows off three-way rigs. If the winds are out of the southwest (like they are today), throw on a 2.5 or 3.0 MagLip or a K8 or K9 Kwikfish to get a trout to hit. Steelhead, browns and lake trout are all being caught with regularity. And if you are using minnows, add in walleyes. There has been good walleye fishing all week, but you have to pick your spots for them. Actually you can catch trout and walleye from Devil’s Hole to the Niagara Bar. If you do catch some walleye, remember that the minimum size is 18 inches and from Jan. 1 to Mar. 15, the daily creel is one fish per person per day. The intent there is to protect the females that are getting ready to spawn soon. While shore fishing is still an option in the gorge, caution is advised due to the shelf ice. Be careful out there. That water is 32 degrees flowing down through the river.

Things are looking promising for the Niagara River Anglers Association’s Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest on Saturday, Feb. 3. Sign up at the launch ramp in Lewiston early Saturday or stop in to Creek Road Bait and Tackle or The Slippery Sinker. If you are interested in musky, the Niagara Musky Association will be holding their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Eldredge Club, 17 Broad Street in Tonawanda starting at 7 p.m.

Stream fishermen are still picking up some trout at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek. Jigs tipped with a wax worm,  egg sacs by themselves or egg imitations are still working to trick a steelhead or brown. A variety of flies and nymph patterns will also produce a trout or two, as will some streamer patterns. How long the water will remain open depends on how long the cold will grab hold. It looks like the lower temps will be hanging around for at least a week. While there is no ice left in Olcott Harbor (a few people were seen casting in the harbor earlier this week), there was a little in the Back Bay at Wilson. Be careful if you give it a try. Take no unnecessary chances!

Bill Hilts, Jr.
Outdoor Promotions Director
 
Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

 

FLUORO for the COLD FLOW – Winter Trout Fishing with a Fly Rod

Fly Rods for winter fishing can be honest fun. Photo courtesy of Jon Ray

By David Rose

It had been well over a decade since I’d last set foot in the fast-flowing river very near Colorado’s Continental Divide with fly rod in hand. The change in esthetics surrounding the waterway was extreme.

The alteration in environment most obvious was how the once little town at its headwaters had grown so substantially it was now surrounding its banks several miles further downstream. One good thing was there was more angler access to the river; the bad was the rainbows, browns, cutthroat and brook trout in this flies-only catch-and-release section had all been fooled at one time or another by just about every type of fuzz and feather combination one could imagine.

To say the fish that reside here all winter are weary of every offering that wafts past them is an understatement. Luckily, I consulted with those in the know at the local fly shop and was able to catch a few of the finicky fish because of the tips and tricks they shared.

What I found interesting was there was little reform from years ago when it came to the tiny, down-to-size-22 nymph imitations that were suggested I drift under my strike indicator. The one thing the fly-flinging professionals were adamant about this time around, however, was that fluorocarbon leaders were a must if one were to fool a fish into striking.
And it worked.

Winter steelhead can provide an awesome battle, no time to get cold. Photo courtesy of Jon Ray

The rod I packed in my carry-on was a 4-piece, St. Croix 5-weight Imperial, perfect for the miniscule nymphs I bought at the shop. A couple packets of Seaguar’s Knotless Tapered Leaders in size 7X (thinning down to 2-pound test at its tip) were also purchased. A few of my casts were actually flawless enough to fool a few fish; in reality, more fish than the last time I was here. And I do believe it was the presentation of my flies and the hook-setting abilities of this thin 100% fluorocarbon line that made the difference.

Fluoro facts for flies:

Fluorocarbon is now a standard go-to for so many fishing applications, including fly fishing.

“First off, you need to get your fly down into the water column faster in winter,” says Jon Ray, a full-time fly-fishing guide with Hawkins Outfitters near my home waters in Michigan’s Northwest Lower Peninsula. “Casts tend to be shorter this time of year, and the fish are in smaller areas of a river; fluorocarbon tippets allow your fly to sink quicker, as well it will stay in strike zone from the top to the bottom of the drift.”
More fluorine atoms and less hydrogen than monofilament is what makes fluorocarbon pack more mass into the same space. It’s more compressed because the fluorocarbon resins give it close to neutral buoyancy. It’s a great choice for vertical personations, like dangling a fly under a strike indicator.

It also has less stretch due to its denseness, which allows an angler to get good hook sets; especially when using the light-pound-tests lines needed for proper presentations of such minuscule bugs during the winter months.  “And fluorocarbon is thinner than monofilament, which creates less drag in the water helps your fly drift more naturally,” Ray adds. “And if your fly isn’t drifting perfectly with the current, your bug’s not going to get bit. Period.”

Opposites attract:

But it’s not just nymphing on ultra-light tippets that take trout during the winter months, especially when targeting the largest fish in a system.  “While big trout will suck up a little bug once in a while, it’s not their meat and potatoes,” states Fly-Fishing Guide Russ Maddin, who’s created some of modern day’s most popular streamers for trout. “Big fish eat little fish, and I’m not just talking small minnows and whatnot, but other younger, 5- to 8-inch trout in the system, as well.”

Maddin’s been using fluorocarbon tippet material for stripping big streamers for years, and says this tactic is no place for light line and finesse, even when these cold-blooded fish seem lethargic within their ice-water realms.

“You’ll have to slow up your stop-and-go retrieve a little compared to when the water’s warm, with longer pauses in-between pulses, but you really don’t need to lighten up your leaders,” Maddin adds.

Twelve-pound-test (1X in Seaguar’s Max Fluorocarbon Tippet Material) is the lightest Maddin may tie on, but overall 14-pound test (1X in Grand Max Tippet Material) is his go to. No matter the test, it’s the condensed make up of fluorocarbon that keeps his streamers in the strike zone, neither rising or falling on the pause.

Timing and safety:

Two things rookie fly anglers often overlook when their planning a winter’s fly-fishing excursion is the time of day to hit the river, as well, taking a few extra precautionary steps for one’s safety.

Unlike summer months when dawn and dusk may be the best times for catching, smackdab in the middle of the afternoon is usually best for fly fishing in winter. It’s during this time when the waters will warm to their maximum for the day, and all it takes is a half-degree rise in water temperature to turn inactive fish active. And unlike other times of year, the brighter the sun overhead the better the bite can be.

Even if your legs are strong, it’s not only a good idea to have a wading staff with you, but to use it. One quick jab into the river bed and you’ll be able to catch your balance if, say, a rock overturns under foot. Donning ice cleats with small carbide spikes, like the slipover Ice Creepers from Frabill ice anglers wear, will keep you steady-footed if it’s cold enough that ice starts forming on the rocks, or in areas with algae covering the bottom.

Up your odds:

Overall, fly fishing in the heart of winter isn’t all that different than the summer months. Your goal is to imitate nature to a tee with nothing more than feathers and fur that’ve been spun onto a hook.

As I learned from my last trip to the Colorado Rockies, keeping your fly drifting behind a thin, strong, and nearly invisible fluorocarbon leader will up your odds greatly.

Photo courtesy of Jon Ray

 

 

Niagara Bar, Lake Ontario: SALMON & STEELIE Fishing is HOT!

  • Thursday, July 20, 2017
    The King Salmon fishing in Lake Ontario is one of the hottest bites going, especially in the waters off Niagara County! “Salmon fishing has been on fire at the Niagara Bar in 120 to 180 feet of water,” says Jake Joseph of Jiggin’ Jake’s Charters. “The fish zone has been 60 to 80 feet down.

    The new Mr. & Mrs. Kimball enjoy a honeymoon fishing trip with BIG SMILES of Niagara Bar.

    Dipsy divers are out 180 to 240 feet with flasher fly combos; riggers down 65 to 85 with flasher and cut bait combos. Best colors have been mostly pearls and greens. Smaller fish have been coming on spoons and some steelies have been mixed in, being taken on sliders and king lines.
    Wilson and Olcott are also offering up some great catches, too. Just take a look at the Lake Ontario Counties Trout and Salmon Derby leaderboard at www.loc.org.
    John Van Hoff of North Tonawanda reeled in a 27-pound, 9-ounce salmon off of Wilson last Sunday (but launching at Olcott) and his fish would beat out Lee Beaton’s Grand Prize leading king, a 27 pounder, also caught out of Wilson back on July 1. Van Hoff caught his king on a Northern King spoon over 450 feet of water. Van Hoff’s Grand Prize lead would be short-lived as two more fish would come to the scales that Sunday that would tip the scales even more – a 29-pound, 8-ounce king hauled in by Ed Klejdys of North Tonawanda while fishing on the Niagara Bar. Then a 30-pound, 13-ounce Chinook that was reeled in by Richard Peaslee of Lowman while fishing out of Fair Haven. If the last name of Klejdys sounds familiar, his son Steve is the current leader in the Lake Trout Division with a 23-pound, 13-ounce Niagara Bar laker.
    On Monday of this week, a new rainbow leader came out of Olcott, knocking out the leading Wilson fish – a huge 17-pound, 4-ounce steelhead that was caught by Adam Robinson of Portland, Oregon while fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni and Thrillseeker II. He caught it on a Dreamweaver spoon in charteuse signature series. Tuesday brought us a new Grand Prize leader out of Point Breeze, a 31 pound, 10 ounce king reeled in by Kristin Wilson of Rockstream, NY. We have until July 30 to post up some bigger fish and that will probably happen if the weather continues to cooperate.
    Joseph also reports that “walleye are starting to show up in Lower Niagara River and the green can at the mouth. You just have to work for them. Worm harnesses on the bottom with three-way rigs. Bass fishing is good as always!” Bass can be caught from Devil’s Hole to the mouth of the river on a variety of baits like minnows, crayfish, worm harnesses, spinnerbaits, tubes and drop shot rigs.

    The new steelhead leader came out of Olcott Harbor – a huge 17-pound, 4-ounce fish that was caught by Adam Robinson of Portland, Oregon while fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni and Thrillseeker II.

    Shore fishermen have been struggling in the gorge because the shoreline access has been limited due to the high water levels. In addition, the Devil’s Hole stairs are closed until next spring. There are still plenty of other access points to use, but that one is being reconstructed.
    Upper Niagara River action continues to be good for both bass and walleye with an occasional musky showing up.
    The 27th Annual Erie Canal Fishing Derby ended last Sunday and the first place winners are waiting for the awards ceremony to take place July 23 at the Gasport Fire Hall starting at 3 p.m. All the first place winners – both for the adults and for the kids – will be in two separate drawings for the Grand Prize. For the adults, a boat, motor and trailer; for the kids a kayak. Some great fish came to the scales during the 12-day event. Top bass was a 4.94-pound largemouth reeled in by Chris Walczak of Amherst. His son, Keegan, checked in with a 9.65-pound northern pike to take that division. Albert Whaley of Tonawanda was the winner in the walleye category with a 5.19-pound fish. Big bullhead was a 2.25-pound fish reeled in by Anthony Moule of Lyndonville. Top catfish was a 14 pounder weighed in by Charles Rizzo of North Tonawanda. First place carp was a 28.02 pound fish out-muscled by Mike Boncore of Buffalo. Sheepshead winner was Todd Wells of Medina with an 11.39-pound fish. Yes, the Erie Canal has some impressive fish swimming around in it. Another great job by Steve and Lynn Harrington of Gasport.
    Bill Hilts, Jr., Outdoor Promotions Director
    Destination Niagara USA
    10 Rainbow Blvd.
    Niagara Falls, NY 14303
    p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
    f: 716-285-0809
    www.niagarafallsusa.com

Destination Niagara USA Fishing Forecast

  • For Wed. July 12, 2017
  • Salmon, Trout, Bass, Walleye, Musky…WOW!
Kristy Cox from New Vienna, Ohio, with her very nice King Salmon caught near Wilson Harbor, Niagara County, New York.

Water levels are continuing to come down in Lake Ontario to the delight of boaters and landowners. However, even the high water levels have not had any negative effects on fishing in the lake.
Salmon fishing continues to be very good out on the Niagara Bar, as well as out of Wilson and Olcott. Salmon action just outside the drop-off on the Bar continues to be excellent. Spin doctors and flies are near the top of the list for preferred baits; a flasher and meat rig with cut bait is another. Some fish are being caught on spoons, too, but they seem to be third on the list. The new A-Tom-Mik stud fly has been mentioned quite a bit by trollers in the lake. Niagara Falls USA waters are still at the top of the Lake Ontario stage for the Summer LOC Derby that is going on through July 30. Leading grand prize salmon is still a 27 pound fish caught by Lee Beaton of Clifton Springs, he caught that one out of Wilson, The first place salmon is another Wilson

Mike Rzucidlo with a nice Steelhead that he caught in the Lower Niagara River on July 5.

fish, a 26 pound, 10 ounce king weighed in by Charles Jaenecke of North Tonawanda. Steve Klejdys of North Tonawanda is back at the top of the lake trout leaderboard with a 23 pound – 13 ounce Niagara Bar fish, and Darryl Raate of Fulton is in first place in the steelhead division with a 13 pound trout he caught while fishing out of Wilson. Top brown trout is a 16 pound, 2 ounce fish weighed in by Joey Guernsey of McGraw while fishing out of Fair Haven.

Jerry Howe of Grand Island, New York, caught this 30 lb musky in the Niagara River.

Lower Niagara River action has been good and the moss has not been as much of a factor as in previous years for some reason. Shoreline casting with 2-inch pearl tubes was working for Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls this week, catching double digit bass and even a 9 pound steelhead. Boaters are still doing well on bass by casting the shoreline with spinnerbaits or working shiners or crayfish off three-way rigs. On July 17, the Devil’s Hole State Park stairs and trail will be shut down until the spring of 2018 for reconstruction and repairs. There are still plenty of other access points to get you into the gorge, but this trail is one of the more popular ones. Alternative access can be gained through the New York Power Authority’s South Access Road where a fishing platform and a stairs to the shoreline is available from Apr. 1 to Dec. 1. Other access points include the stairs at Whirlpool State Park; the Suspension Bridge Stairs (under the Whirlpool Bridge); the Great Gorge Railway Trail (that begins at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center); and the elevator at the Schoellkopf Site (adjacent to the Discovery Center). A copy of the Niagara Gorge Trail Map is available at: http://www.nysparks.com/parks/attachments/WhirlpoolNiagaraGorgeTrailMap.pdf
There are lots of fishing contests going on. The 27th Annual Erie Canal Derby is going on through Sunday, July 16th. Some pretty impressive catches have already come to the scales that will be tough to beat. For example, Michael Boncore of Buffalo is leading the carp category with a 28.02 pound fish; Todd Wells of Medina leads the sheepshead category with an 11.39 pounder; and Charles Rizzo of North Tonawanda has the leading catfish with a 14 pounder. The new walleye leader is Albert Whaley of Tonawanda with a 5.19 pound fish.
Upper Niagara River action continues to be good for bass, walleye and the occasional musky. A spinner and a worm produced all three this week for Capt. Chris Cinelli. The musky was about 46 inches long, probably in the mid-30 pound range as far as weight. It was caught by Jerry Howe of Grand Island and released.
Bill Hilts, Jr., Outdoor Promotions Director
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY USA, 14303
p: 1.877 FALLS US | 716.282.8992 x.303 | f:716.285.0809
website | facebook | twitter | blog