Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek opened up nicely for anglers looking to fish some open water, but it's anyones guess how long that will last with another polar vortex coming down from Canada. The fish - a mix of brown trout and steelhead - were hungry and as long as the presentation was right, you would catch fish. Jigs fished under a float and tipped with a wax worm or meal worm would work. So did egg sacs or single eggs, the latter a preference of Greg Stanley of Newfane who did well earlier this week. To the east, there is open water at Waterport Dam to the Archer's Club on the Oak. Johnson Creek was also open at the Lyndonville Dam, Blood Road and Kuckville Bridge areas. Ice fishing is still an option, especially over in Wilson Harbor.
Ice fishing around Beaver Island State Park and the Holiday Inn is still an option for hardwater anglers. Ditto for Buffalo Boat Harbor where most of the panfish action continues to be small with an occasional keeper. Biggest perch were being reported at Beaver Island State Park marina.
The warmer weather didn't hurt the Niagara River fishery as was forecast, so trout fishermen continue to enjoy success from Devil's Hole to Lake Ontario. Waters were slightly stained but fishable. Kwikfish and minnows were both taking fish, but the hot bait was brown trout eggs cured with Pautzke fire brine and tied up into sacs according to Capt. Frank Campbell. Steelhead is the hot ticket for catching right now, but a few browns and lake trout have also been reported. The occasional musky will also hit a lure, as Matt Tall and Taz Morrison found out last week while drifting a Kwikfish. The fish was nearly 50 inches long! Remember that musky season is closed and they must be released immediately. Walleye season is closing soon, with the final day on March 15. Only one fish per person can be kept if you decide to keep one. On the Niagara Bar, a few browns and lakers have been caught on minnows or Kwikfish lures, but northerly winds have hampered proper drifting techniques.
Many of the creeks opened back up again and some fishermen took advantage of the reprieve. However, the cold polar blast is back and will restrict open water fishing action. Dunkirk harbor is still producing some trout at the warm water discharge near the fishing platform, something that wonít be freezing up. If you are looking for hard water, the main lake still has plenty of thick ice and the best place to head out to the deep areas is via Sturgeon Point. Other areas like Cattaraugus and Silver creeks were opened from the warm up so the safer route is Sturgeon. Some reports of nice perch inside of 40 foot depths, but many are still heading out to 50-60 foot areas.
Bill Hilts Jr. is a past president of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association. Hilts is an avid outdoorsman, an outdoor writer who has contributed articles to numerous national and local magazines, newspapers, and other publications. Hilts is also responsible for Niagara County Tourism Sportfishing Programs. He freelances from his home in Sanborn N.Y. Hilts was inducted in the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame in the Spring of 2007!
His column is seen in the Niagara Gazette on Fridays. The Niagara Gazette is the area's leading outdoors sports information newspaper.
Last weekend's runoff event added some color to the river, but not enough to impact the steelhead fishing. Boaters continued to see good action this week from Devils Hole down to the mouth of the river. Three-way rigs with minnows, egg sacs or Kwikfish lures produced good steelhead numbers with brown trout and lake trout mixed in. Shore anglers are catching steelhead as well. Drifted egg sacs or minnows (under a float) and casted spoons or spinners are good offerings for trout. One avid lower river angler said he has done consistently well for steelhead this winter by casting and slowly drifting a Vibrax spinner. Exercise extreme caution when shore fishing in the lower river, as icy access stairs, slippery rocks, strong currents and water level changes make these areas hazardous.
The sections below the dams on Eighteenmile and Oak Orchard Creeks are the best steelhead tributary options this weekend. Both were wide open at mid-week and anglers were catching a mix of steelhead and brown trout. Currently, both streams have medium flows with about 2 feet of visibility. Shelf ice is returning, but there is still open water. The smaller streams are icing back up quickly. Egg sacs, egg pattern flies and hair jigs tipped with a waxworm work well for winter steelhead. The key is to drift the bait slowly and keep it near the bottom.
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