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

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Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Opening Day Traditions, Memories for Life

  • Fishing, hunting, warm, cold – you gotta go!
  • Keeping young, no matter your age
  • Remembering my dad
In keeping with tradition, a crowd of fishermen showed up March 1 at Bennett Spring State Park for opening day of the Missouri trout season. Photo by Brent Frazee

By Brent Frazee

I have always been fascinated by the tradition involved in fishing and hunting.

Opening day of deer season.   Spending time with a lifelong friend or relative in a fishing boat.  Days in the field with an old bird dog   And the fishermen’s unofficial first day of spring, the Missouri trout opener.

They all elicit images of the romance in our outdoor sports that the anti’s could never understand.  It’s reminiscing about days with a friend or relative who is no longer with us, of an unforgettable day of fishing, of a big buck that showed up out of nowhere, of a day when the weather presented a formidable challenge.

We take memories of those days to our old age, thumbing through faded pictures of long-ago fishing trips or reminiscing about special moments long after we are no longer able to participate.

I’ll never forget the last time I talked to my dad before he passed away. “Do you remember Arnie?” he said in almost a whisper.

Arnie was our guide the first time my dad took me to Canada. I was just a little guy and I was thrilled that I would get to meet a real Indian.

Arnie was colorful, to say the least. He drove us to the boat ramp in a beat-up truck with a door that wouldn’t shut, a motor that coughed and sputtered, and seats that were so worn that the foam was showing.

Arnie guided us to the trip of a lifetime, showing us where to catch giant northern pike. My dad and I reminisced about those days often, especially when there was a lull in our conversation.

We didn’t talk about the little-league games my dad coached, the big-city vacations we took, the trips to our family farm or the many major-league games we went to.

We talked about special times together in a fishing boat.

I see how many other people bond the same way.  And I smile.

Photo by Brent Frazee

Tradition is a big part of who we are as fishermen and hunters.

In my world, nowhere is that more evident than at Bennett Spring State Park in south-central Missouri.

The park celebrated its 95th trout opener on March 1, most of them as a destination managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and stocked by the Department of Conservation.

Some fishermen will try to tell you that they have been to every one of them – but then, you know how fishermen like to stretch the truth.

Still, there are many who have been attending the opener for many years and wouldn’t miss one, no matter what.

Over the years, I have interviewed many of those proud old-timers and have taken delight in their stories.

Chet Snyder of Grandview, Mo., comes to mind. He is 85 and still makes sure he gets back to Bennett on opening day every year.

He has been fishing the opener for 63 years and he won’t let anything hold him back.

“We’ve driven on icy roads, through snow storms, in real cold weather, but we’ve always gotten there,” he said. “It’ something I won’t miss. It’s tradition.”

When I talked to him several years ago, his dedication to follow tradition was especially impressive. He suffered a seizure less than week before the opener and he was released from the hospital only days earlier.

He asked for the doctor’s OK to travel to Bennett for the opener, and he got it. His son did the driving and he was back on the water.

Snyder returned for this year’s opener with his sons Chuck and Curtis and his grandson Cody. He cast for a short time, but a problem with his balance kept him from going at it as hard as he once did. Still, he was there, and that’s all that mattered in his mind.

But Snyder certainly isn’t in a class by himself at Bennett. Walk into the park store and you’ll hear others talking about how long they have been coming to Bennett for the trout opener.

I suppose I have a streak of my own. I have been attending the Missouri trout opener since 1980 when I started working at The Kansas City Star—most of them at Bennett, but a few at Roaring River. Now that I’m retired, I still go back, using the trip as an excuse to do an article for one of the media outlets for which I freelance.

I enjoy talking to old friends, making new ones, and reminiscing about past openers.

It’s tradition, and I’m not ready to give that up.

Orleans County, NY – Fishing Report for March 1, 2018

By Ron Bierstine, Oak Orchard Tackle & Lodge

High and stained flows gives up some fresh Oak Orchard chrome for the Licorice Man. Fresh steelhead chances for late winter, early spring usually means high and stained and cold water challenging drifts.

Weather forecast has been changeable so far this week. The forecasted storm for tonight and tomorrow is expected to bring more snow then rain.  The beginning of the storm is expected for rain south of here and then the overspread on the WNY big Lake Ontario Plain could start as rain or a mix and then go quickly to snow with the chance of a foot or so of wet accumulations thru Friday morning. Temps are forecast highs near 40°F today and then 30ish°F for the weekend and dropping back down below freezing at night.

  For now, water levels in the Oak are still on a slow retreat thanks mostly to diminishing overflow levels. Turbine flows are still humping along for something like slightly high to high flows and visibility of 1-2 feet. By springtime standards, that’s pretty good for steelhead chances.

  The other area smaller tributaries for now have medium flows and just slightly stained flows going toward clear. If most of the precipitation is realized as snow, then flows in all the tributaries should be more or less maintained with a slower to recharge scenario from future snow melt instead of a quick and dirty runoff scenario from rain. Any significant rain immediately south of the area could still impact flows in the Oak.

  For now, pressure on the Oak is pretty light. There’s been good action at the dam and anglers covering some different water in the downstream fast water stretches have been into more steelhead as the drifting has improved on the retreating and clearing flows.

Click here to follow Ron’s report that he updates several times per week. 

From Point Breeze on Lake Ontario, the World Fishing Network’s Ultimate Fishing Town USA and the rest of Orleans County, let’s make everyday a great fishing day right here in Orleans County!

 

 

Gurgle, Babble & Slurp – the Welcome Language of a Reborn Trout Stream

By Forrest Fisher

Chuck Swanderski, a member of the Doc Fritchey Trout Unlimited Chapter, volunteers his time to teach youngsters and oldsters about the fun of fly fishing. Forrest Fisher Photo

Fly fishing for trout is a new adventure for fishermen more familiar with trolling for Great Lakes walleye or casting for tournament bass.  That makes it a new adventure for yours truly.

The new unfamiliar tool? A lightweight fly rod about eight-feet in length with a single-action reel that holds a heavy-looking fluorescent color “fly line” with a long, fine, clear leader tied to the end.     

We were fishing Quittapahilla Creek, a small stream in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania (near the candy-making city of Hershey), known locally as the “Quittie,” and my mentor for the day, Chuck Swanderski, a member of the Doc Fritchey Trout Unlimited Chapter, shared some of the history of this waterway. 

For newcomers to fly fishing, the choices are many, including dry flies, wet flies, streamers and nymphs. Forrest Fisher Photo

The creek starts as a clear, clean, upward bubbling spring, just a few miles upstream from where we were standing.  Problem was that it had become an industrial waste discharge outlet for 80 years ending just after WWII.  At that time, the stream was dead with little aquatic life and no fish.  From WWII until about 1990, the area had become a waste dump when concerned citizens started a clean-up with organized angler groups.  They petitioned for grant monies and project funding from state and federal sources, and got them. 

Tying a 2-fly rig is simple with the right instruction, as the first fly is tied normally, the second fly is attached by a short 12-inch leader to the curved shank of the first fly. Forrest Fisher Photo

Trout Unlimited assisted with the hard work and planning efforts, providing manpower for stream improvement that included invasive plant removal, stream clean-up, riparian buffer tree plantings, bank retainer netting, in-stream boulder structure placement and habitat construction, cedar chip trails (anti-deer tick), safety-minded access, parking areas, stream stocking and harvest monitoring.  And more.

The downstream areas of the riffles created from water flow over the in-stream boulder placements become highly oxygenated, providing preferred comfort zones for oxygen-seeking trout.  They are also preferred areas for anglers to ply their skills with fly presentations.

The 2-fly rig is effective when aquatic insects are present in healthy streambeds and are drifting along in the current. Forrest Fisher Photo

For this day, Chuck provided me with an intro to learning on-stream etiquette and made it a fun adventure for yours truly.  He supplied details about the usual “how to do” things with the nearly weightless feathered hooks.  It might have been a sort of day-long ordeal for Chuck, but I think we had some great fun. 

We shared conversations, we laughed, and we joked about modern life, mostly comparing it to ancient life in America five decades ago when we were kids.  Lots to compare with 27 cent gas and Dick Tracy wristwatches from back then.  Beam me up Scotty.  We’re almost there!

It is humbling to watch a skilled fly angler cast a nearly weightless fly with so little effort.  Chuck was VERY good.  With a curious and watchful eye, it is easy to see that there is an artful rhythm to the whisper of the unassuming fly line soaring gently overhead to land so softly in a riffle 40 feet upstream.  No sound, no vigor, just a small feathery sample of barbless food for a hungry trout. 

This home-made streamer from Neshannock Creek Fly Shop caught several fish for us when the 2-fly rig only drew followers.

As I listened to Chuck direct my ability to make unfettered motion with a 50-year old Fenwick “gold series” fiberglass fly rod and fly, I forgot about all of the many issues on my mind.  Paying bills, story deadlines, emails to answer, calls to make and the ever-growing to-do list for around the house back home in East Aurora, New York, five hours north.  They all disappeared during these few hours of on-stream renewal.  I was developing something I had only heard about from other fly rod anglers, a kinship with the natural world of a water flow and feathered, fuzzy hooks.

The author enjoys chemical-free protection from deer ticks, black flies and mosquitoes with a protective skin covering suit made by Rynoskin Total (http://rynoskin.com/) that fits comfortably under his clothing, even on hot days. Note the beige color suit that includes socks, bottoms, tops, gloves and hood (gloves and hood not worn in picture).  Chuck Swanderski Photo

My heart and soul was at peace with nature in this restored stream.  I was feeling quintessential on the Quittie!  The gurgle of the flowing water was such a welcome sound.  It is, perhaps, a sacred signal that these same swish and chinkle sounds occurred hundreds of years before. 

At that moment, I was again stopped in mid-thought, feeling bonded by nature to our forebears.  I thought to myself, again, such peace.  I measured my heartrate, it was 52.  Indeed, heart-found peace!  This fly rod stuff was really good stuff. 

Earlier we tied on a two-fly rig using nymph stage Hare’s Ear flies to imitate aquatic insect larvae in the stream. After an hour of casting skill improvement, we moved from hole to hole and rifle to riffle checking for active fish. The fish were moving toward the fly, but would turn away, perhaps the wrong size or pattern. Maybe my leader was too heavy.  So Chuck switched me to a hand-made streamer fly made by his old fishing buddy at Neshannock Creek Fly Shop from another favorite fishing spot of his near Pittsburgh (visit http://www.ncflyshop.com/).

The retrieve was fairly simple when compared to some bottom big jig bass fishing tactics. This simply was cast out with a roll cast, then retrieved in a pull, pull, and stop manner. Bringing in a few inches of line with each pull.

On the second cast, a 15-inch rainbow trout slammed the fly. Wham!  My arm jolted forward as the fish ran the other way, then leaped high in summersault fashion some four times before coming to our welcome net about 45 seconds later.  My heart rate zipped a bit too, awesome fun that was measurable.  What fun this was!  We carefully released the fish to fight another day, maybe to provide these same moments of fun for some youngster tomorrow or the next day. 

This 15-inch rainbow trout wacked a streamer fly and just made the day so much more special. A beautiful, colorful fish.  Chuck Swanderski Photo

Lastly, Chuck was really happy to share something that might serve as a learning lesson for thousands of other streams in the country, the Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum.  Here was a collection of hundreds of various shapes of disposed plastics. Bottles, baby toys, plastic chain, plastics in many forms, most of it tattered, broken, but still identifiable.

The Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum creates a mind-sustaining mental picture of what plastics have done to our environment and everything in it.  Forrest Fisher Photo

According to a written message from the Garbage Museum Executive Director, an educator person who placed numerous informational learning signs for others to study and whose name is not known to me, “Most plastics will DECOMPOSE, but never BIODEGRADE.  Breaking into smaller chunks, the plastic molecules will be with us for millions of years, ingested and excreted millions of times by fish, birds and other organisms.”  After reading this I thought to myself…and we wonder where cancer comes from – something we didn’t have much of 50 years before plastics.

Then I recalled the movie named “The Graduate,” where most of us remember the most significant word from that steamy movie made in 1967, “plastics.”  There is goodness and not-so-goodness, perhaps, with every invention.  I wondered if the preceding native ancestors, the Lenape Indians, would continue to use plastics if they understood what we now know about plastics?    

It was getting late, we had walked about 3,000 feet downstream stream from the public parking lot on this 34-acre Quittie Nature Park stream and the temperature was 90.  It was time to recap our trip with friends from the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association at the nearby Snitz Creek Brewery, a tasteful beer-making facility not far from the stream.  We took a beer plant tour with co-founder, Patrick Freer, then discovered a few moments later that there is nothing quite like a microbrew they call “Opening Day IPA.”  This is particularly true among fellow fly-rodders that can tell a tale, if you know what I mean.  “No, my fish was bigger.  I caught two. I caught four.” And on and on.  You get the picture.  A fun, thirst-quenching, long-winded, joke-filled lunch.  The best kind.    

When friends and community work together to create a revitalized stream treasure and nature area, the future is brighter for everyone.  On a related note though, while we seem to have saved our second amendment with our current legislators – a good thing, the work of clean streams and waterways may become more challenging due to currently retracting rules of the Clean Water Act.  Be watchful as sportsmen, speak up when we need to.

Hats off to all those volunteers that take the time to reclaim lost parts of nature for the benefit of our common future.