Upstate New York Fishing Report – December 24, 2020

Greater Niagara Region

Bill Hilts, Jr.

Christmas is near and if you have been a good boy or girl this year, you may be receiving some new hunting and fishing gear to play with this week. Fishing on the lower Niagara River has been good of late and hopefully, that will continue to hold up if you are looking for some place to go. Bear in mind that there is a winter storm watch for most of Western NY but Niagara County is not part of that forecast. However, the effects of wind, rain and snow could have an impact on water conditions in the river.

Capt. Connor Cinelli steelhead
Capt. Connor Cinelli of Grand Island with a lower Niagara River steelhead.

Capt. Ned Librock steelhead
Capt. Ned Librock of Pendleton caught this lower river steelhead fishing with Capt. Connor Cinelli of Lewiston.

Capt. Connor Cinelli of Grand Island reports that lower Niagara River action has been good this week, but it was a little slow on Monday. Fishing with Capt. Ned Librock of Pendleton and Capt. Roy Larson of Wheatfield, they found the action slow to start but improve as the day went on. At the end of the day, they kept a couple of steelhead for the smoker and they found the fish stomachs chock-full of smelt. Cinelli shared a couple of tips for when the water gets clear in the river. Try going with a longer leader, lighter pound test line, smaller hooks (like size 8 or 10) and switching over to beads is a start in adapting to those conditions. Larson also shared an important tip: Keep control of your fish and make sure your line does not wrap around the motor or prop.

Shawn Keeler steelhead
Shawn Keeler of Geneva with a lower Niagara River steelhead from this week.
Joe Keeler steelhead
Joe Keeler of Geneva with a lower Niagara River steelhead
John Keeler steelhead
John Keeler of Geneva with a lower Niagara River steelhead

On Sunday, Capt. Jim Rores of Grand Island had a banner day with John Keeler, his brother Joe and son Shawn, all of Geneva. Drifting egg sacs off 3-way rigs, they were 23 for 30 on steelhead for a great day. Water conditions were perfect.

Bob Johnson brown trout
Bob Johnson of Connecticut caught some nice brown trout in the Niagara Bar fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell
Bob Johnson brown trout

On the Niagara Bar, some brown trout started showing up a bit more frequently. Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston caught some bomber browns using big minnows with Bob Johnson of Connecticut. Capt.

Brian Hall steelhead
Brian Hall of Youngstown caught this nice lower river steelhead this week fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell.
Gary Hall steelhead
Gary Hall of Niagara Falls with a dandy lower river steelhead fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell.
Linda Tabak steelhead
Linda Tabak of Ellicottville caught this lower river steelhead fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston.
Bill Pictor lake trout
Bill Pictor of East Aurora caught this lower Niagara lake trout while fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston.

Ted Kessler of Grand Island had a couple surprises this week when he managed to catch a couple king salmon for customers on the bar while fishing for trout. He was not the only one. There were 5 or 6 of them caught this week. We mentioned clear water earlier because Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reported clear water for the shore fishermen in the gorge. He needed to cast out his No. 5 spinner out further and get it down near the bottom to take his steelhead, but he was successful.

Another good place is Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek. This area has decent trout numbers to target, but you do have to look for them. With some rain in the forecast this week, it will be a welcome sight for anglers looking for more water flow in many of the streams off Lake Ontario. Karen Evarts of the Boat Doctors in Olcott reports that flow in 18 Mile Creek has been limited. Better fishing has been slightly to the east where steelhead have been cooperating nicely due to improved flows from the Erie Canal. Those flows are ready to subside because the Canal is near its winter levels. Her intel reveals good action on a variety of flies, wax worms, spikes, and single egg presentations.

If you purchased a Canadian fishing license this year and really did not get to use it during the border closure, pick up a phone and call 1-800-387-7011. Simply request a refund for your 2020 Canadian license. There is still no news when they are going to be opening the border back up again.

Wayne County Fishing Update

Chris Kenyon


Maxwell Creek has a better flow this week. You can fish on both sides of Lake Road. There is no shoreline ice because the temps have been in the 40’s.

Some steelhead were hitting egg sacs and there was also some brown trout action.

At the mouth of Bear Creek anglers were throwing out spoons. Use red and silver Kastmasters, Suttons, or Little Cleos.


There was a coating of ice at the south end of Port Bay, however it melted rapidly because of high winds and warm temps. If we could lock-in with some cold Canadian air the bays will freeze fast. However, it will not happen with 20 mph winds from the west.

No one has been fishing the bays with boats, which makes sense with the wind and cold-water temps. Port Bay surface has been in the 40’s.

The perch are in the bays and as soon as we get safe ice (4 inches) the fun will begin. Check your jigging poles and re-spool with Sufix ice line.

Remember the important regulation regarding life jackets. (PFD’s) Use must wear your PFD from November 1st through May 1st if your boat is less than 21 feet. This means it must be worn…not lying in the bow of your boat.
The official rule: All persons on board a recreational vessel less than 21 feet in length (including canoes, kayaks, and rowboats) must wear a USCG–approved PFD from November 1 to May 1.

Erie Canal

Widewaters was frozen this weekend, however it’s just a thin sheet of ice. It will freeze fast because the canal is protected from wind. The catch is perch and bluegills. Use bright jigs tipped with perch eyes or spikes.

Keep informed from the NYS Canal web for changes and restrictions with canal waters.

Charters in Wayne County are Opened for Business

Wayne County Charters are now opened for business. The Finger Lakes region has currently met all the necessary requirements during Phase One to operate their business. All steps and guidelines to ensure safety are listed HERE.

Charters in Wayne County are Opened for Business

Wayne County Charters are now opened for business. The Finger Lakes region has currently met all the necessary requirements during Phase One to operate their business. All steps and guidelines to ensure safety are listed HERE.

Boat Launches Opened

Privately-owned marinas, boat launches, and many other recreational marine locations are now opened.

The official statement from New York State is made in conjunction with similar ones from the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, is the latest change to the guidance from Empire State Development on what is and isn’t affected by the governor’s Executive Order 202, which ordered employers to reduce the number of employees working at individual locations to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance regarding privately-owned marinas, boatyards and recreational marine manufacturers allows for operations and boat repair/maintenance so long as the facilities ‘adhere to strict social distancing and sanitization protocols.’ However, watercraft cannot be used for charters or rentals, and any restaurant facilities there must remain take-out or delivery only.

Safety Precautions from DEC

While enjoying the outdoors, please continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines (leaves DEC’s website) for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:

  • Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others.
  • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
  • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.

When fishing, DEC recommends avoiding busy waters and following the guidelines on DEC’s website about fishing responsibly in New York State. If an angler arrives at a parking lot and there are several cars, they should consider going to another parking lot. If an angler is fishing upstream, they should fish downstream of the other angler or consider fishing another day. Anglers fishing from boats should be able to maintain at least six feet of distance between one another. For more information about the benefits of being outdoors safely and responsibly, go to DEC’s website.

New York State is open for fishing and DEC encourages anglers to recreate locally at a nearby waterbody. New York’s lakes and streams offer great opportunities for fishing in a wide array of settings across the state. Even during the current COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature while angling in New York’s waters is a great way to help maintain mental and physical health.

Charters and Guides

The “New York State on PAUSE” Executive Order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone during the COVID-19 response, includes a directive that all non-essential businesses statewide must close effective at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, and temporarily bans all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason.

At this time, fishing guides or charters of any size have been determined to be not essential and are subject to workforce reduction requirements of the Executive Order. The full and updated guidance on which types of businesses are determined essential and other designations associated with the order can be found online. For more info

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