After last week’s rain and snow, the rivers have swollen. Salmon River is running at 1,500 CFS and Oswego River is averaging well over 18,000. But we’re still seeing big steelhead!
Greater Niagara Region
Conditions are finally returning to normal in the Niagara River and area tributaries. In the river, Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island was using emerald shiners and pink egg sacs to catch his trout off three-way rigs. Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston was entertaining two outdoor writers this week and fair weather greeted the out-of-town guests.
Gary Garth of Kentucky and Alan Clemons of Alabama hit Devil’s Hole, drifting minnows on three-way rigs to catch a mixed bag of steelhead, lake trout, brown trout, and walleye. Unfortunately, they couldn’t fish the Niagara Bar on Tuesday due to the north wind, but if the winds cooperate, the Bar near the green buoy marker should be a good spot for drifters. Bruce Kowalski with TAAR Outdoors also says the lower river is doing well with a variety of fish. The best baits have been white marabou jigs and chartreuse beads. Larger white swim baits that are jigged off the bottom will produce multiple species including steelhead, brown trout, lake trout, and walleye.
From shore in the gorge area, Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls was using No. 5 spinners in chartreuse colors to go three for five on trout this week – steelhead and brown trout. The visibility was 3 to 4 feet. Rzucidlo also hit some tributaries off Lake Ontario and managed to catch both steelhead and brown trout this past week. He was using 1/8-ounce white and silver jigs. Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek should have some fresh fish. Some good reports came out of Johnson Creek and the Oak this week.
It doesn’t get any busier than next weekend around Western New York in the outdoors. It all starts with the Greater Niagara Fishing Expo, set for Feb. 15-18 at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. The show’s motto and catch phrase is “Teaching Fishing” and it offers the fishing community a long list of educational opportunities focused on fish, fishing, boating and all the components needed to be successful on the water. This year the Expo is offering over 250 seminars being delivered by over 80 qualified instructors. Check out niagarafishingexpo.com for all the details. Speaking of fishing, next weekend is also a free fishing weekend throughout New York State. Feb. 17 and 18 – Saturday and Sunday – allows anyone without a license to fish for free. While the intent was to focus on ice fishing, the mild weather definitely had a negative impact on that. However, the Niagara River and area streams are all flowing nicely and holding plenty of fish so get out there and take advantage of the outdoor opportunities. Finally, the annual Birds on the Niagara Festival will also be taking place next weekend, from Feb. 16th to the 19th, as area birders celebrate our feathered friends along the Niagara River Corridor – an internationally recognized Important Bird Area. Check out birdniagara.org for the full schedule on both sides of the border.
Wayne County Fishing Update
The current in Maxwell Creek has slowed and now the creek is easily fished. There are steelhead in the pools on the south side of Lake Road.
Fish with egg sacs dropped into the small swirls of water. For the quieter water on the north side of Lake Road, cast out eggs or bright small jigs underneath a torpedo bobber.
Pier fishing is not an option as the Sodus Pier is covered with ice.
Remember the regulations for Lake Ontario tributary fish. Three in combination, not to include more than two Rainbow Trout (or Steelhead) in the lake, and not to include more than one Rainbow Trout (or Steelhead) and one Brown Trout in the tributaries.
It was 27 degrees this morning which would be nice if we had any safe ice. But…we don’t. And the temperatures are predicted to be in the 50’s by the end of this week.
There was open water on the north side of Sodus a few days ago. If you have your boat ready you can launch it at the Coast Guard station next to the Sodus Bay pier. Currently it’s the only place to launch a boat.
Port Bay had open water next to the barrier bar road to the channel. Fish with jigs tipped with spikes.
The Port Bay channel opened because of the high water in the bay. This will not give us safe ice on that bay.
Most shanties are in the cellar gathering dust.
Bass season has closed except for catch and release fish until June 15th. Remember this!! You cannot keep any bass while ice fishing.
Pike season will continue until March 15th and when we get safe ice you should concentrate near LeRoy Island.
Widewaters was covered with slushy ice. If it does freeze. Spud your way out finding safe ice. Four inches is safe hard water.
Anyone underway in a boat less than 21 feet in length anytime between November 1 and May 1 must wear a securely fastened life jacket.
Bait for fishing is available on the south end of Sodus at Davenports and Bay Bridge Sport Shop.
On Port Bay Jarvis Bait Farm is open on Brown Road. The signs are on East Port Bay Road at the junction of Brown Road.
Toadz Bait is near the end of West Port Bay Road.
Notable Freshwater Fishing Regulation Changes
The following list offers a summary of the most notable fishing regulation changes resulting from the adopted rulemakings described above.
- New statewide regulation for rainbow trout, brown trout, and splake in lakes and ponds. The season will now be open year-round, with a five-fish daily limit, any size, with a “no more than two longer than 12 inches” harvest rule.
- Statewide Atlantic salmon regulations will now allow for a year-round open season.
- Ice fishing is permitted on all waters in New York unless specifically prohibited with the exception of Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Warren, and Washington counties where previous rules remain.
- New specific dates replaced floating dates for statewide season openers to include:
- May 1 – Walleye, Northern Pike, Pickerel, and Tiger Muskellunge.
- June 1 – Muskellunge. (Note that in 2022, DEC will allow for the fishing of muskellunge beginning the last Saturday in May to accommodate previously planned fishing trips);and
- June 15 – Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass.
- A five-fish daily walleye limit in Oneida Lake.
- A new regulation to limit the growth of the walleye population in Skaneateles Lake. No daily possession limit; 12-inch minimum size limit, open year-round.
- The statewide sunfish daily harvest limit has been reduced from 50 to 25 fish: and
- The statewide minimum size limit for crappie has been increased from nine inches to ten inches.
Orleans County Sportfishing Coordinator Ron Bierstine:
The area is squarely on the backside of higher flows of a week + ago with warm temps expected thru the beginning part of the weekend. Highs are forecast near 50°F with a chance of rain showers for end of week. Hopefully precipitation will be enough to help maintain flows. With a few cold nights, flows in the smaller area waterways are dropping toward medium and clearing with 2 + feet of visibility. On the previous slightly high and slightly stained flows, anglers found some good action for some browns and fresh steelhead. Check out the pic below of a big, fresh steelhead from the past weekend.
All the waterways are open with no icing conditions that we know of. On the Oak, flows are still for now high and stained with about 1 + foot of visibility. Flows consist of a good head of turbine water. Look for flows to continue to clear and the chance for hydropower operators to throttle back flows in the near future toward something like slightly high or medium-ish. Even thru the high and stained flows, guys have been picking off some steelhead and there’s been hook ups in the overflow pools. The full bore turbine or close to full bore turbine flows afford plenty of water cover for the fish and likewise make drifts and swings tougher. With any lowering and clearing of flows, drifts should become more productive with the chance to intercept some fresh fish migrations. Anglers might consider catching and releasing any fish from the overflow channel into the turbine channel. Steelhead can then have best chances at moving up and down the waterway as conditions change and your hookup chances can be better too. Water temps are not that low by winter time standards and any warmer and/or sunnier days ahead could bump up water temps putting fish in a gravelly mood. Newly staging or spawning fish will add to the already mixed bag of earlier run or spawned or staged up steelhead.
Show Season Schedule
Stop by any of these shows, pick up our travel guides and mini calendar when you introduce yourself to the Orleans County Tourism staff at the following outdoor shows over the next few months:
- Greater Niagara Fishing & Outdoor Expo – Niagara Falls, NY • February 15 – 18, 2024
- Sportsmen’s Show & Outdoor Recreation RV’s & Boats, Monroeville, PA • February 16 – 18, 2024
- Springfield Sportsmen’s Show – Eastern States Expo, MA • Feb. 23 – 25, 2024
- Empire State Outdoor Sportsmen’s Show – Suffern, NY • Feb 29 – March 3, 2024
- West Virginia Fishing, Hunting & Outdoor Sports Show – Morgantown, WV • March 2 – 3, 2024
- Connecticut Fishing & Outdoor Show – Mohegan Sun Earth Expo Center, CT • March 22- 24, 2024