The Niagara River has been a difficult puzzle to figure out this year. Water was starting to change over from the mud bath over the weekend from the wind and rain we saw Friday and Saturday. The yo-yo temperature fluctuations are contributing to the problems. Just when things were starting to clear on Tuesday, the forecast doesn’t look good – more wind and rain. Wind advisories are predicted for Thursday.
Whatever clearing we saw will probably be gone by the weekend. Shoreline casters in the gorge could be the first to catch some trout with the waters along the rocks clearing first. Spoons, spinners, egg sacs or egg imitations will all catch fish. Use bright colors or something that makes some noise if the water is still stained. Keep that in mind if you are doing some boat drifting, too. MagLips and Kwikfish in chartreuse give both vibration and color.
Even when the water was near perfect last week, many boaters struggled a bit. Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters (see this week’s column) experimented with a variety of baits all morning. First two fish hit minnows; next one hit a Kwikfish. It wasn’t until the afternoon (water temperatures were at 35 degrees) when he finally found the right combination – eggs treated with Pautzke Fire Dye and tied up into small sacs. His passengers were Sabres Coach Dan Bylsma and
Capt. Jim Hanley and they ended up boating a half-dozen nice steelhead in Devil’s Hole in less than two hours. In the upper Niagara River, Big Catch Bait and Tackle reports good sales on emerald shiners. Good reports of perch all along the shoreline, especially on either side of the lighthouse. The upper river also produced a new rudd leader in the Capt. Bob’s Outdoors Winter Derby and a new walleye leader. For the rudd, it was California Joe Pavalonis of Buffalo with a 17-3/4 inch, 3.62 pound fish caught on a chartreuse squirmin’ squirt crappie tube fished under a float. The new walleye leader was measured in by John Anaka of Akron with a 25-1/2-inch (5.65-pound) fish caught on a jig tipped with a golden. The Capt. Bob’s contest ends March 15.
Water temperature was 39 degrees on Tuesday. Some boat trollers have been testing the waters and picking up a few browns by trolling stickbaits off planer boards or in-line planers. One spot has been off Olcott on either side of the 18 Mile Creek flow, which was humping over the weekend. According to Wes Walker at The Slippery Sinker, the Burt Dam flow was over 300 cfs Sunday. The excessive flow pulled a lot of fish into the creek. Things slowed up a bit when the flow subsided a bit on Monday and Tuesday, but browns and steelhead were caught. The water was stained. Greg Schloerb of Amherst says that nothing seems consistent this year. He caught a small Coho salmon on Saturday at Burt and saw several other nice trout
caught. However, he also saw several northern pike and suckers caught, too – a bit early for that to happen. Meanwhile, Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga has some banner days going into the weekend last week – double-digit three of four days using egg sacks and jigs. His best tributaries were the Oak Orchard River and Johnson Creek. Remember the State of Lake Ontario Public Meeting will be held March 7 at Cornell Cooperative Extension Niagara, 4487 Lake Rd., Lockport starting at 6:30 p.m.
It’s the same story each week. A few fish are being caught before more rain shows up and creates high and muddy conditions. That’s about to happen again as this report is coming out. According to Lee Weber at Weber’s Bait and Tackle in Angola, there were two creeks that were fishable right now – 18 Mile and Big Sister. Most of the pressure this year has been on 18 Mile. Egg sacs, egg imitations and minnows are working on steelhead right now. After the rain, don’t be surprised if a few suckers start showing up in the creeks. There were a few reports of suckers already in Cattaraugus Creek.
The spring action is starting to happen in the canals for perch and crappies. According to Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors, the big run has not started yet. A few days of sun and warm temperatures should really get things going. Emerald shiners and tube jigs fished under a float top the list of enticements right now. Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga snuck down on Tuesday and caught a bunch of crappies just under the legal size of 9 inches. However, he did end up with a dozen keepers up to 12-1/2 inches. There have been some reports of walleyes because caught from boats the last couple of days, vertical jigging in the north basin of the lake. The walleye season closes on March 15 at the end of the day.