Blackfish Technical Apparel
Bite Me! Jigheads

By Louie Stout

LEWISTON, N. Y. – I fully admit I can be a bass snob at times. I just love catching them and honestly, don’t spend much time fishing for most other species.

Family fishing the Niagara River

However, the Niagara River is one of those places where you can go bass fishing, have a blast and never know what you might hook.

It’s a destination worthy of any angler’s bucket list. During the spring and fall, the river is full of fish of many different species that keep you guessing when you get that bite.

About nine of us media types were invited by the “Destination Niagara USA” to sample the mighty Niagara last week. Company personnel from Flambeau, Strike King, Lew’s, Seaguar, Mammoth Coolers and Rapid Fishing Solutions were also there.

We were fishing the downriver stretch that runs for about 9 miles or so below Niagara Falls. The current is swift and the river wide in most places with Canada owning the far shoreline. The river empties into Lake Ontario, some 7 miles downstream from the Niagara Crossing Hotel on the U.S. side of the river.

Niagara River Current

The combination of the current, excellent habitat and close proximity to Lake Ontario makes this place so unique and why it contains so many fish species.

Louie with 6.21 lb. smallmouthDuring four days of fishing, I caught numerous smallmouth between 2 ½ and 4 pounds as well as a 6.21-pounder; three lake trout that weighed between 8-10 pounds; a 15-pound Sheepshead, and a few unknowns that came off.

And all of those were hooked either on tube jigs or Ned rigs fished in 15 to 25 feet of water while casting for smallmouth.

Other anglers in our group had similar success. One guy caught a 20-pound king and a 12-pound walleye the same day on a blade bait. My first day guide, Frank Campbell, battled a giant fish for 40 minutes hooked on a small swimbait at the mouth of the Niagara where it empties into Lake Ontario. We never saw it and it eventually broke off, but suspected it was a very, very large sturgeon

AnLouie with guide, Ernie Calendrelli and a large lake troutother angler caught a big muskie.

Nor was all of this an anomaly. That’s typical Niagara River fishing in the spring.

Of course, we were there when the cold water and warm water fishery seasons overlap, but you can catch smallmouth – and big ones – from late April and into November.

“During the summer months you can catch great numbers of smallies with fish up to 5 pounds,” said Campbell, who also guides on the river. “That’s when spinnerbaits, Ned rigs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jerkbait baits produce shallow along the shorelines.”

You might also catch a trophy muskie, walleye, perch and some very large white bass.

If you’re looking for king or coho salmon, brown trout or lake trout or steelhead, September through the end of May is the time to be there.

Niagara River

The winter fishery is very good for the hardy type. Since the river never freezes because of the current coming out of Niagara Falls, the trout and salmon fishery can be tremendous.

“It’s nothing to catch double-digit size steelhead and numbers of them too,” Campbell said. “You will be fishing steelhead, get bite, and not know whether it I a big steelhead, salmon, muskie or walleye. Some people like that guessing game.”

Even bass snobs like me!

What You Need to Know

  • If you fish bottom baits, take lots of them. The river bottom has a lot of rocks and snags.
  • The U.S./Canadian border runs basically down the middle of the river, but you don’t want to venture into Canadian waters or you might get hit with a stiff fine. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard operates there and will stop you and check you for all the required safety equipment. Make sure you know the regs.
  • It’s a great place to take the wife or just go with buddies. There are lots of neat little shops in downtown Lewiston and outlet malls nearby. Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the river and Lake Ontario, is worthy of a tour for history buffs on a rainy day.
  • For fishing information, you can call Campbell’s cell (716) 523-0013 or the Niagara USA office, 877-325-5787, for area information.
  • You’re not far from Lake Erie or the upper Niagara River, so that remains an option as well. Campbell or his office can help with that.

Here are some guides we recommend:

  • Ernie Calandrelli, (Calandrelli's Guide Service) 716-609-3064
  • Jeff Draper (Draper Sportfishing) 716-479-2634
  • Terry Jones (First Class Bass Charters) 716-830-7245
  • Joe Fonzi (Thumbs Up Guide Service) 716-998-8373
  • Joe Marra (Niagara Rainbow Charters) 585-509-0565