By Ted Kessler | 02/23/2014
It’s been like fishing in heaven the last two days on the Lower Niagara River. It was 35 degrees and there was no wind. But the five days before that it’s was brutal. In fact, this is the toughest winter I’ve ever fished up here.
I know it’s late February, but we really just started winter steelhead fishing. We got shutdown for nearly six weeks due to brutal weather. It’s been so cold, for so long, we haven’t fished much. Every morning we started below 10 degrees and didn’t climb much higher. In fact, the other day my landing net was so heavy with ice that I broke the metal hoop on it lifting a steelhead out of the water.
Fortunately, we haven’t lost a steelhead season. In my eyes, it’s just begun. With the conditions present we could theoretically have good steelhead fishing through mid May now. These steelhead wont leave the system until the water creeps into 60s. It’s just above freezing now.
There’s a bright side to the cold winter we’ve had and steelhead is it. I had one other year like this, a while back, and it wasn’t even this cold, and we were catching steelhead into June. Get ready for a repeat.
Right now, Lake Erie’s pretty much frozen, which is great for steelhead fishing on the Niagara River. What keeps the Lower Niagara River (between Niagara Falls and Lake Erie) ice-free is a line of metal tanks (above Niagara Falls) that stretches from the Canadian to the American side and holds the ice up in Lake Erie. This keeps the river ice-free so the power companies can continue to produce power.
Fortunately, the boom isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’ll wait for the ice to melt in the spring before removing it and they want no more than 100 square miles of ice, or less, in lake Erie before they remove it and let the ice down the river.
With the conditions we have now they’ll probably wait to pull the boom to the end of April. Basically, it’s going to keep water colder longer, which will hold the steelhead in the Niagara River longer.
In the past few days we’ve seen the steelhead bite come to life. It’s been a fantastic year when we have fished, which wasn’t often in January and February. Basically, no one fished the early part of winter because of the weather. Now there’s a large number of steelhead in and these fish haven’t been harassed in months. During the last week we’ve seen a lot of fresh steelhead coming and their good size too.
Lake Erie being frozen brings better conditions to us on the Niagara. The ice keeps Erie from churning up during high winds and pushing that muddy water down the Niagara. We have clear water now and that’s not going away until after the boom is removed. Clear water spells good fishing.
Right now, because the water is so cold, the fish are acting like it’s early winter. Their skeins are extremely tight. We aren’t catching any loose females so we’ve had to scrape skein. I’ve been scraping the skeins and using Natural BorX O Fire to cure the loose eggs.
The BorX O Fire has saved our fishing for us. Anyone that scrapes skein knows that when you scrape those eggs off they are ultra sticky and almost impossible to tie, which is why I like to use the BorX O Fire on them. Once you cure them in the BorX O Fire you can handle them and they turn out awesome. I’m also getting some fish on live emerald shiners, but that’s more for the brown trout. The steelhead are pounding the cured spawn sacks.
Editor’s Note: Ted Kessler operates River Master Charters. For more information on his Niagara River steelhead trips please visit http://www.rivermastercharters.com/.