4-Season Fisherman’s Paradise on the Niagara River

4-Season Fisherman’s Paradise on the Niagara River

The Niagara River is a mighty and meaty hotspot for angler’s during any time of the year. Carving an international border between New York and Ontario, the Niagara is full of many different target species, including walleye, Chinook salmon, steelhead (rainbow trout), lake trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, muskellunge, yellow perch and more.

I had my first taste of fishing the Niagara River this February during a media trip with the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). The fishing conditions were tough, and even so, the Niagara did not disappoint.
I arrived in Lewiston, a charming town with a well-maintained boat launch on the Niagara River on a sunny, windy, and seasonably mild day in mid-winter. From the Niagara Crossing Hotel and Spa, the public boat launch is as simple as a walk out the door and down the hill.

The Lewiston launch site is equipped with a state-of-the-art fish cleaning station for anglers to us, free of charge, to process the day’s catch. There is also plenty of public parking located adjacent to the boat ramp.

Fishing the Niagara River

Niagara River
Megan Plete Postol with a personal best walleye on the Niagara River

The AGLOW group was up before the sun and in the boats early the next morning. The sun beamed through the clouds in a spectacle of blue, pink, and orange as we settled into the guide’s boats and prepared for a windy day on the river. On day one I was in the boat with Richard Brant of Reelaction Charter. The Niagara River is a wild and tumultuous waterway at any time, but on this day the water was churned up from the considerable wind and the current was powerfully strong. We made our way down the choppy river to the famous Devil’s Hole.

Comprised of two parts, the Upper and Lower Niagara, the Niagara River is separated at Niagara Falls. Four-season fishing opportunities occur in the Lower Niagara, which flows northward into Lake Ontario. Known for its tremendous overall diversity, the waterway consists of approximately 14 fish-filled miles, with Devil’s Hole located just a few miles below Niagara Falls. Devil’s Hole is a prime spot on the river for salmon and steelhead, especially in the fall and winter, respectively. Devil’s Hole is an interesting spot, with portions of strong currents and rapids, met by calmer pools where the fish hang out. To access Devil’s Hole from the Lewiston launch, the boat will pass under the international bridge.

The fishing took off once we made our way into Devil’s Hole. Our party boated steelhead, lake trout, and walleye. Later that day we headed up the river in the other direction and had some luck in that end too.

The next day was colder but a tad less windy. I was in the boat with Nick Calandrelli of Calandrelli’s Guide Service. We opted to head towards the Niagara Bar, where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, and a sandbar forms an attractive location for a variety of species to congregate. Some phenomenal trout fishing takes place in the Lower Niagara River during the late fall, winter and early spring. Steelhead, lake trout and brown trout have all been stocked in Lake Ontario for decades. The Niagara Bar is often a hotspot of that activity. Top spots for fishing derbies often come from this location. The Niagara River is also a formidable salmon destination. Chinook and coho salmon both make a major run up the Niagara River in the fall.

Locals know that the ideal salmon fishing rig for the Niagara River is a three-way rig, comprised of a three-way swivel, a 1.5- to 2.5-ounce pencil weight, and a size #1 or #2 Gamakatsu octopus hook. Typical bait for a rig like this would be a minnow or salmon egg sac. By the end of the second day of fishing the Niagara, brown trout, walleye, steelhead, and lake trout had all made an appearance on the end of a St. Croix rod. I even boated my personal best walleye.

Note: the international border runs down the middle of the Lower Niagara. Each jurisdiction requires a fishing license when angling in those respective waters. New York State and Province of Ontario have separate, and somewhat different, angling regulations.

Not Just the Niagara

There is more to the Niagara region than just the Niagara River. Fishing opportunities abound in this area, and include three more notable regions: the Falls region, the Lake region, and the Canal region.

The area above Niagara Falls, called the Falls region, has shallower water that’s home to warm water fish, including bass and muskellunge. Lake Ontario offers up one of the finest trout and salmon fisheries on the Great Lakes. The Erie Canal is an underrated warm water fishery for species such as pike, bass, carp and panfish.

Beyond the fishing, the entire Niagara region was worth a visit. The food alone would have been worth the drive. When in Lewiston, visitors should sample burgers at the Brickyard and dessert at Griffon Pub. In Niagara Falls, pizza at the Craft Kitchen and Bar is hard to beat. The fishing in the Niagara Falls region might keep anglers plenty busy, but don’t forget to make time for a visit to the word famous waterfall too!

Niagara River
Bret Amundson Photos

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