Many know the Niagara River for its mighty waterfalls, but this natural border between the United States and Canada also has a lot to offer passionate anglers. Niagara River fishing is some of the best in New York state, and understandably so, seeing as it hides the most popular freshwater game fish in its waters.
This winding, gorgeous river is divided by the famous Niagara Falls in two parts – the Lower and Upper Niagara River. You’ll find the Lower Niagara in the north, stretching from the falls all the way to Lake Ontario. The Upper Niagara flows from Lake Erie to the Grand Island and is home to fish that prefer warmer water conditions. With its amazing diversity and year-round fishing action, the Niagara River is a magnet for all freshwater aficionados who want to hook copious amounts of Bass, Trout, Salmon, Muskellunge, and Northern Pike. When you’re looking for breathtaking scenery paired with even better fishing, the Niagara River is the place to be.
If you take a look at any Niagara River fishing report, you’ll understand why many anglers have a blooming fishing affair with this powerful river. With countless excellent fisheries to explore, both from shore and from a boat, this productive body of water just keeps on giving.
Lower Niagara River
Local fishermen will all tell you the same thing: Do not underestimate the power of the Lower Niagara River. These turbulent, even treacherous waters are teeming with impressive-sized fish, but they’re not easy to navigate. The whitewater in these parts shouldn’t be trusted because the water levels fluctuate significantly and the river bottom is uneven. It’s highly recommended to go fishing with a local guide who knows this area inside and out.
The fickle waters don’t stop anglers from heading out and catching trophy Chinook and Coho Salmon, Steelhead, and Walleye year after year. The spring run on this part of the river yields good number of Lake and Brown Trout, while May and June bring Walleye and Muskellunge. If you come anytime from August until October, make the most of the fall Salmon run and save late November for the superb Steelhead fishery. Some of the best fishing spots in the area are Fort Niagara State Park, Artpark in Lewiston, and of course, the infamous Devil’s Hole.
The Devil’s Hole
There’s nothing that you can’t catch in the Devil’s Hole, as long as you have the skills and luck on your side. Here is where Niagara justifies its native name – thundering waters. This fishing spot is tricky to reach because of the steep Niagara Gorge that surrounds it. The waters are fast and unreliable, but the fish that live here are well worth the risk.
Colossal Chinook Salmon, Steelhead, Brown and Lake Trout, and Smallmouth Bass are like a siren’s call to avid anglers and, year after year, they come back for more. The fall Salmon run is spectacular, with fish regularly weighing over 10 pounds. Many Niagara River fishing charters specialize in guided trips in these devilish waters, which allows you to leave the navigation to an experienced captain and make the most of your time on the rod.
Upper Niagara River
This section of the river from Port Erie up to Grand Island is an angling dreamland. This is the place to be when you’re on the lookout for hefty 40 lb Muskellunge. Smallmouth Bass fishing is excellent around Staley’s Reef, and the Walleye bite is very good as well. If Northern Pike is your prey of choice, you’ll have the best chance of hooking one on the south side of Strawberry Island, around the weed beds. These are warmer and calmer waters where you can catch healthy amounts of Salmon and Trout, especially if you decide to go out in the fall.
To attract Walleye, Trout, or Salmon on the Lower Niagara, a three-way bottom bouncing rig is your best option. Pair it with live bait like salmon eggs, shiners, or leeches, and you’re good to go.
The locals use Kwikfish lures when going after Salmon, as well as wobbling bait. If you’re going after Trout, minnows will bring you success.
If you’ve set your sights on Muskellunge, then clearwater trolling and big trolling lures will give you the best chance to land a lunker.
Need to Know
Niagara River fishing is an exciting affair – with so many species to target and hot spots to explore, one lifetime wouldn’t be enough to get a taste of it all. But, it’s up to you to try.
The easiest way to get acquainted with the laws and rules of the area is to go fishing with a local guide. They will take care of your fishing license and clue you in on all the details on weight and size limits. In case you prefer to be self-reliant and fish from land, buy a New York state fishing license in the nearest tackle shop and you’re ready to go.
Since the river acts as a border between the US and Canada, be sure to pack your passport along with a valid Ontario fishing license if you plan on drifting into Canadian waters.
Whether you choose to spend four or eight hours on the Niagara River, you’ll have plenty of fishing stories to tell when you return. Four-hour trips are available at the price of around $300–$400, and the price range for eight-hour fishing excursions is $350–$500. If you prefer using live bait, there might be a small additional charge for it, but it will be well worth it when you hook something epic.
Buffalo is the biggest city in the area, followed by Niagara Falls, Tonawanda, and North Tonawanda. Each of these are no more than a 20-minute car drive away from each other. Witness the grandeur of the Niagara Falls and remarkable beauty of nature that surrounds it. Above all, the fishing diversity of the Niagara River is enough to make any angler get hooked on it after one day on the bountiful waters.