Tag Archives: river and lake charter

Winter Charter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

No…I am not going to go on another rant about avoiding the shack nasties. Hopefully, you understand our perspective on how remaining cooped up all winter is a recipe for a slow, yet assured, descent into depression…or worse. I would like to dedicate some time to challenging a few paradigms about charter fishing in the winter. I’m writing this in order to inform locals about a few natural wonders that go on in their back yard ONLY in winter. It’s also my hope that non-locals will read this and find it so interesting that they feel compelled to visit. Here we go…

That Initial Shock

In our previous blog, we discussed reasons why winter fishing is not crazy.  In fact, we concluded that it’s completely sane. Here, I want to get to the root of why people seem to instinctually respond this way. Last week, a client remarked that he was surprised to see so many people fishing in the winter. The shoreline in Devils Hole and Art Park was lined with a strong number of anglers. The River was lined with numerous charter boats and recreational anglers.

To someone witnessing and participating in this for the first time, I can see why it seemed a little foreign. If I asked you to picture yourself skiing, even if you’ve never done it before, some image will likely pop into your mind.  I think the popularity and presence in popular media make this possible. The same might be the case if I asked you to picture tailgating at a Bills game.  Or ice fishing in a hut.

Winter sports and many other outdoor activities are popular in areas that experience freezing temperatures and snow.  This is why it’s understandable that people can conjure images of these activities. However, if I asked you to picture yourself floating down the canyon of a river in a comfortable boat while catching big, beautiful, trout, you might start twitching. Your reaction would be like Harland Williams in There’s Something About Mary.  You know – that scene when Ben Stiller shattered his and dreams during a discussion about the length of ab workout videos.

A Winter Fishing Charter is Completely Foreign…for Good Reason

I think the reason it’s so difficult to imagine something like this is because it’s only possible in a few places in the world. Think about this for a second.  How many places can you think of where a massive strait is moving water from one inland/freshwater ocean to another? That’s an immense amount of water to consider. I had clients from Maine here last winter who were blown away and slightly frightened by the size of the Niagara. When there is that much water moving around, even though it gets incredibly cold, it keeps on flowing.

Water that cold takes on a greenish hue that’s difficult to describe. After Lake Erie freezes, it’ll run gin clear nearly every day. Sometimes, one can see steelhead, lake trout, and walleyes peeling away from the boat in over 20 ft of water. It’s kind of surreal.

It Makes Sense if You’re Concerned – but Get Over It

Aside from how foreign floating down a near frozen river in cold temperatures seems to one’s imagination, there is a rational fear or kind of a cringe in response to the idea. “Why would anyone in their right mind expose themselves to water when it’s cold outside?” I get it – but consider this:

Don’t Concern Yourself with the Thought of “Getting Wet”

One rarely, if ever, gets wet on a winter charter trip. The occasional light spray may occur but nothing that has any noticeable adverse effect. In other words – getting wet isn’t an issue. Think about it – when was the last time you heard about someone fishing from a boat in the winter that got hypothermia? If your charter captain knows what he/she is doing, the thought of getting wet passes within minutes of boarding the vessel and driving upstream.

It’s Likely You Already Have the Right Gear to Do This

Even though your chances of getting wet (in an uncomfortable way – hell, your hands better get wet after holding the fish you catch) are low, one still needs to respect Mother Nature and dress accordingly. Often times, this is the biggest obstacle. Many people believe they don’t have the clothing that will allow them to go fishing in the winter.

What you are really saying is that you don’t have clothing that will allow you to spend a few hours outdoors in the winter. Because that’s all it takes for you to go on a charter trip in the winter. If you don’t have that kind of clothing, well, that’s kind of crazy. If you live where freezing temperatures and snow storms are likely and you don’t have clothing that’ll allow you to spend a few hours outside, you need to rethink your situation. Any outfit you’d wear for a long walk outside will work. Warm socks, boots, layers for top and bottom, and a shell or coat that’ll shield you from the wind.

You may be imagining yourself, fully exposed, getting pelted with snow. Clear that image out. Generally, unless we have particularly hearty clients, we won’t fish when the snow is really coming down. Visibility becomes an issue as does deck safety. This is just another way of me saying that you’re likely more prepared to go on a charter fishing trip in the winter.

Consider this as well – the high yesterday was in the mid-20s. The “normal” reaction to that temperature is to think, “It’s too damn cold to go outside.” BUT…it was sunny, and snow was melting everywhere. If you bothered to walk around outside for a bit, you likely noticed that it was comfortable, even with minimal layering. In other words, you should challenge yourself to think differently about what weather conditions are pleasant and which ones are not this time of year.

You’ll Be Rewarded for Taking the Chance

If you overcome the mental obstacles to getting out there and you make a little wardrobe adjustment, you can reap an immense reward.  You can experience catching large, beautiful trout, in spawning colors, in an incredibly beautiful setting. The upcoming cold-weather months are the only time of year you can see something like this.

From the perspective of most people who hire a charter captain for a trip, it’s just great to be out there, making memories with their friends. That’s the business my colleagues and I are in – creating an experience that will stay with you for a long time (we hope).

After all, winter is the season of the holidays. People tend to get together far more often and/or connect with family they haven’t seen in a long time. What are you going to do with your tribe? Sit around and watch TV? Eat some food? Go to a movie? Drink beer? Cool…I guess. For a couple days maybe. Even if that sounds incredible, break your days up a bit, get some fresh air, recharge the liver and fight some fish.

Consider a Winter Fishing Charter…That’s All We’re Asking

As residents of the region, we are aware that winter in Buffalo Niagara is rife with opportunities to have fun outdoors. If you already have a hobby/activity that eats up those few weekends where weather will allow you to get out there, you may not have time for a charter (although, we hope you can fit it in at some point).

If you don’t have a winter hobby but are considering getting into something instead of rotting indoors, I hope this article made you think about taking a charter fishing trip this winter. Let me rant really quick – I don’t care if you are hitting the gym daily throughout the winter, you’re still going to end up unhealthy if you don’t get outside – O.K., rant over.

I’m not going to bore you with numbers and statistics.  I would like to encourage you to compare taking a few charter fishing trips this winter to some other options to get outside. I’m confident you’ll find that winter charter trips are an extremely economical, convenient, and extraordinarily enriching option. We hope you’ll give us a call or do some research to challenge or confirm this idea.

Late Summer Fishing In Buffalo Niagara

It’s late summer people. Even I have to kick myself in the butt to shake the late summer lull. If you’re a resident of the great lakes region, you do everything you can to maximize your summer. Why do we behave this way you westerners and southerners may ask? Because our winters are harsh and some of us hibernate. The problem with this way of life is that many of us take it too hard during the first few months of summer. So hard that by now, mid-August, many of us are worn out. Shake off that late summer lull my friends. There’s still a few weeks of fun remaining.

A Recent Revelation

A couple days ago, I was tying leaders on my boat in my driveway when I felt something. It was something I haven’t experienced in quite some time – a chill. The breeze blew, clouds shrouded the sun, and I got a little chill down my spine. I experienced something similar yesterday when I was fishing with my daughter. It was warmer in the river than outside. Today – I wore a hoody during the morning commute to Lake Erie.

The morning and evening temperatures seem a bit cooler. Days are getting a bit shorter. It’s late summer alright. Do you feel it? Although many of us have had incredible summers thus far, a sense of urgency should be on the creep. There are only a few weeks left until the kids go back to school and schedules start getting a bit more complex. Now is the time to get a second (or third or fourth) wind and get the most out of this last month of summer.

These emotional peaks and valleys us great lakes folks experience define our culture in a way. We take pride in the fact that we can cram a ton of fun into a short period. We work hard and party harder. Delayed gratification is THE ONLY WAY to truly enjoy something. Having something to look forward to fuels our work ethic – I just gotta grind a bit more and then all will be well. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still – there’s one month left before we really start seeing some change and I want to maximize every bit of it.

It’s Late Summer – Steelhead…Really!?!

It’s been happening more and more lately. Although it’s late summer, social media has been simmering with TBTs and old pics of people gripping and grinning steelhead. There is a substantial faction of the angling community who are already thinking about the fall run. Unfortunately, these folks are missing out on some awesome, late summer angling, going on right now.

My friends, the stockers can wait. Don’t fret – the leaves will change, snow will fall, it’ll get cold, and steelhead will show up. They will also stay around for 7+months so you’ll be able to fill that emotional void and keep it full for quite some time. For now, get outside and enjoy our late summer action on the big water. Flip flops, a choice beverage, and a quick dip into the water to cool off every once in awhile. Don’t have a boat? Give us a call – we can help you out.

Observations from the Water

Smallmouth bass are starting to strap on the feedbags. Like us, they have been in a bit of a late summer lull but that’s changing. I’m guessing they sense that the days are getting shorter and that’s triggering them to pack on the pounds before the water gets cold and prey species become less available.

Higher water temperatures make them want to work a lot less for their food, so they are chowing down on easy meals around rocks and structure. Half-digested crawfish and gobys have been showing up on the deck of the boat – little donations from the stomachs of  boated smalljaws.

We’ve also been doing a lot of walleye fishing. This is a new game for us but were getting it dialed in. From talking to my colleagues, this has been a banner year. Although I don’t have a frame of reference, it’s been fantastic. They are such an excellent eating fish. So much so that I’m going on a walleye only diet for a week. I’ll get ripped – watch!

I also went out with Matt Yablonski of Wet Net Charters for my first summer king trip.  Those fish are incredibly strong – a different animal than the ones we’ll be catching in the lower river in about a month.

Plan for Next Week

Bookings are a bit light. That doesn’t matter though as we’ll be on the water anyway. Bass and walleye will continue to be the focus. The forecast looks excellent. Get out there and enjoy it while you still can. If you want to spend some of that time on the water – give us a call!

The Journey – Revelations About Chalking All 50 States

The adage that it is not about the destination it’s about the journey sounds cliché when you’re young. (Yeah – this is going to be another philosophical piece so if you want the fish porn, scroll to the bottom and check out the pics). Watch, someone will comment that I’m still young (I’m 40).

I may be young compared to many but I’m old in the eyes of my colleagues in their 20s and probably on the older side of the guide community. I digress…the point is that when I set goals when was in my 20s it was all about accomplishing them. As I’ve matured, I’m beginning to realize that the journey is much more important.

The Foundation vs the Journey

When I was in the military, I wore my accomplishments on my chest in the form of badges or medals. Few cared how I received them (I barely did) – it was typical male boastfulness on full display. Kind of like a male peacock spreading it’s feathers or a male brown trout with a huge kype jaw. The display was as much about impressing other dudes as it was to impress the opposite sex.

These days, it’s far less about boasting (I still have an ego – it’s just less dominating nowadays) and more about how I internalize the experiences the journey of life provides. In recent years, I’ve found that reflecting on the journey, living in the moment, makes life much more fulfilling.

The 50 before I Turn 50 Goal

Something like 15 years ago, when I first began fly fishing, I dove in head first. With typical male, testosterone laden thought, I wanted to prove to everyone I encountered that I wasn’t some chump. I wanted to prove that I could fish among the best anglers and make a name for myself.

Since I was in the military and I moved around a lot, the best way I could come up with to do this was to fish as many places as possible, learn as many techniques as possible, and catch as many species as possible. Admittedly, it was all about chalking states and bodies of water – something like earning medals in the military.

With chalking in mind, I began recording my endeavors in an excel spreadsheet – a brag sheet I could bust out like a resume if anyone challenged my abilities. Within a year or so, the idea of catching a fish on the fly in all 50 states before I turned 50 became a goal. It made sense – what better way to test my skills and learn a ton while doing so all while having a statement I could boast to people in conversation.

Goal Setting Isn’t Necessarily All Bad

This mindset had some benefits. It helped me plan trips every year. It kept me focused. It placed a timeline out there for which to hold myself accountable. All tenants of effective campaign planning in the military. However, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that I was too focused on the goal and not what was happening before my eyes.

Every journey exposed me to new and interesting people. Each journey took me to new and wonderful slices of nature – all distinct yet the same in some ways. As I made myself reflect on these experiences, I realized how lucky I am to have a passion and to have the opportunity to meet others on their own journey that share the same passion.

What Now?

Oh – I’m still going to accomplish that goal. Partially for some of the same reasons I set out to accomplish it back in my 20s. However, the journey has become my focus nowadays. The travel. The people. The fish. The environment. Hell, if that wasn’t genuinely my focus, the journey could end up being a grueling endeavor.

Case in Point

I was in Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend with my wife fishing with Abbie Schuster of Kismet Outfitters. How did I end up in Martha’s Vineyard? I was trying to chalk Massachusetts, of course…and what better way to do so than with a striper on the MA coast? The problem with using weekend bangers to chalk new water is that Mother Nature can foil your plans pretty easily.

As Abbie, Justin, my wife, and I fought big wind and rough seas trying to find fish, I found myself smiling – almost laughing out loud at the hand Mother Nature dealt us. The conversation flowed. We laughed at the situation. We exchanged stories and had a genuinely great time – with few fish to show for it. The journey was the center of attention – landing a blue fish on the fly and chalking MA was icing on the cake. If we skunked – whatevs – we would just come back next year. But we didn’t skunk, and I’ll be back anyway.

Observations from the Water (20180715 – 20180721)

The bass bite has been awesome lately. I don’t really need to say much more than that. They have been where they are supposed to be – deep buckets near shoals and on sandy bottom with good rocks. Both the river and eastern Lake Erie have been fishing extremely well. The bass have been packing on all the weight they lost during the spawn. I’ll let the pictures tell it.

Plan for This Week (20180722 – 20180728)

We’re booked every day. We will continue to fish Lake Erie with a little bit of the river mixed in. Give us a call if you want to get on the water. The bass action will continue to be excellent for the months to come.

The People – Why We Keep Doing What We Do

Disclaimer: I’m not a spokesperson for all guides by any means. I am junior in this business with only a little over 2 years under my belt. Although I may be relatively new to this industry as a professional, I feel compelled to write about my observations…for posterity sake. It would be an added benefit if my colleagues actually read the content and provided meaningful commentary in response. Either way, I believe what will follow to be of sound logic and will resonate with most if not every guide out there. Here is the position: Our clients, the people around this country, are the reason we continue to do what we do.

What’s So Interesting About “The People?”

Even as a junior guide, I still spend a great deal of time on the water – a huge percentage of my conscious life. I’ve seen a lot of our local water and caught many fish around here. Some of what I see is part of routine. Other aspects emerge through exploration. Regardless of how the day unfolds, there are 3 common threads woven through every outing:

1. The People on your boat will likely catch fish or have some really close encounters (*for the musky anglers)
2. Mother Nature will throw some sort of obstacle in your way and you’ll instinctually work to overcome it, trying to do so without detection by the people on the boat.
3. Unless they are repeat clients, the people that hire a guide are all different and require different “techniques” to ensure their day is as awesome as possible.

Meeting whatever challenges emerge as part of threads 1 and 2 isn’t terribly difficult for guides. In fact, it’s probably something that occurs very “naturally” in the life of every guide. We’ve been fishing for much of our lives. We’ve caught many fish and have seen many fish caught. Point number 3 on the other hand isn’t necessarily an instinctual endeavor.

The complexities of meeting new people are highly engaging and differ with nearly every outing. For me, it’s the most exciting part of guiding. From the introductory handshake and the first look in the eye; to explaining what’s going on for the day; to building rapport; to seeing that look of panic on their first hook up; to maintaining rapport for the entire time on the water. It’s all a blast.

Report from the Last Couple Weeks (20180701 – 20180714)

In keeping with the theme of “the people,” I wanted to take a quick moment to write about the great clients we’ve had over the past couple weeks. If you just have to know about how the fishing has been – it’s been excellent. We’ll let the pictures tell it. Back to the people – every trip has been a ton of fun for it’s own reasons. The demography has been interesting:

States/Provinces Represented:

Arizona
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Maryland
Texas
South Carolina
Arkansas
Massachusetts
North Carolina
Virginia
Local

Professions Represented:

Lawyers
Marketing Specialists
Outdoor Industry Professionals
Retirees
Engineers
Law Enforcement
Realestate
Department of Forestry

Get the idea? The diversity is immense in just these 2 demographics. How many professions do you know that put people, often complete strangers, into an intimate environment from which “escape” is somewhat difficult for 6+hours? I can’t think of any. I don’t know how many of my colleagues have considered this but to think that thoroughly enjoying this aspect of the job isn’t the central characteristic of why we do what we do is lunacy. We all love it (some more than others) but we all do LOVE IT – it’d be a rough go if we didn’t.

 

Plan for Next Week (20180715 – 20180721)

We have a few client trips early in the week and then my wife and I depart for a weekend angling getaway in Martha’s Vinyard. Stripers on the fly – new species, new state! Give us a call if you want to try to sneak in a last minute trip this month or get something on the calendar for August.

Getting Older and Feeling Better – Fishing as a Fountain of Youth

So I turned 40 today. I’m not a big birthday person so I’m bordering on hypocrisy writing this but I mention the fact that I’m getting older for a reason. Although I’m officially middle age (I guess), fishing is keeping me young. As a charter captain and fishing guide, I have the privilege of doing what I love every day. It’s amazing how that kind of lifestyle makes getting older unnoticeable.

Getting Older Should be Synonymous with Getting Wiser

Some people reading this would assume what I love is fishing. Sure – I love fishing, that’s pretty well documented. However, what I really love is guiding. I get to meet people from all over the world (mostly the U.S. though). It’s endlessly entertaining. Everyone is different – ages, background, ethnicity, culture, political views, religion, etc. Exposure to this kind of diversity is invigorating. It’s enrichment for the mind that makes getting older a badge of honor instead of a curse.

All these folks are stranded on a boat with me for about 8 hours so we get to know one another decently well. Although we are different in many ways, exploring those differences helps me gain new perspectives. Making these new acquaintances, engaging with them effectively, and trying to learn a thing or two serves to keep my mind sharp. Hell – it better. If it didn’t, it could be a grueling experience on some of those slow days. Ultimately, the act of forming these relationships makes getting wiser inextricably linked to getting older.

Resonance Makes Getting Older an Enjoyable Journey

Some of these folks choose to fish with me again. Others are tourists just passing through that I never hear from after we shake hands at the end of the day. Whatever the extent of our relationship – the effect of our time on the water together is never fleeting. I grow with each experience and each experience enhances my ability to make the next trip a bit more enjoyable for all parties involved.

Avoid Feeling Older by Putting Yourself Out There

Everyone should make getting older fun. I try my best to do just that. It’s for this reason that I don’t really care about my birthday – it’s just another day. Yesterday was great, so was today, and tomorrow will be too. I’m not some naive idealist – read my bio and you’ll know where I’m coming from. I’m just a guy who likes to fish. Better yet, I’m just a guy who likes to guide.

I put myself out there with every client – on every trip. When was the last time you did that? If you don’t know – give fishing with a guide a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised and will likely start thinking about getting older a bit differently.

Observations from the Water (20180624 – 20180630)

It was an awesome week that ended up with some serious heat. Water temperatures have been climbing and the summer pattern is really coming into full swing. Bass are moving deeper and getting shoal oriented on the lake. Post spawn bass are on the feed in the river too. Every outing has been productive on all tackle types. We’ve been covering a ton of water just for the hell of it. It’s been a lot of fun and ultimately helped set the groundwork for next week’s program. I’ll let the pictures tell it.

I also had the privilege of fishing in the Basseye Tournament. Our team placed 4th. Not too bad considering I made an effort to teach my team some new techniques and show them some water they had never seen before. I look forward to making this tournament part of my annual program.

Plan for Next Week (20180701 – 20180706)

We’ll avoid the river like the plague on the 4th as a nightmarish number of boats will be on the water. All of the other days will be spent on the lake shoal and rock pile hopping in search of the biggies. Give us a call if you want to get out there!

Complacency Kills Angling Prospects

Does Complacency Kill in Angling?

Back in my military days, Complacency Kills, was a phrase embedded in our heads starting in basic training. The theory behind the idea is that if you become complacent, you lose situational awareness.  If you lose situational awareness, you could end up getting yourself and your fellow warriors killed. Yeah, that’s a bit extreme if you try to directly apply that example to what you do on the water – but maybe not.

I could site numerous examples how complacency could kill you (or injure you severely) if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on when you are on your boat in the middle of winter with ice cold water flowing by at 225,000 cubic feet per second. However, that’s a different blog for a different time. Complacency could kill your chances of catching fish if you end up lulled into the rhythm of flowing downstream on the same drift repeatedly, watching your float/bobber/indicator, using the same bait/lure/fly.

Taking a Different Angle

Situation: You pull up to a small tributary to one of the Great Lakes with the intent of fishing a spot you’re confident will produce. After getting set up and making a few casts, you hook up, reinforcing your confidence that there are a ton of fish in that spot. Do you:

1. Move on to another pool or location in search of more
2. Catch a couple more from that spot if you can and THEN move on to another spot
3. Stay in that spot all day and catch as many fish as possible as long as the action permits

I’m willing to bet that most people would choose (3). Is that complacency? Well…yes, it is. Is that a problem? That all depends on your perspective. If you don’t fish that often and you just want to feel the tug, I’d say it’s not a big problem. If you fish often AND you remain in the same spot and keep catching, I’d ask you to think about what that pool around the bend might be holding. After all, didn’t you just catch a few fish? How many do you REALLY need to land to feel satisfied? Don’t answer that aloud – you’ll likely learn something about yourself you didn’t want to know.

Guiding Considerations

If you’re a guide and are fishing with clients, the answer to this question is A LOT more nuanced – well, it is for me. Maybe it’s a good call to stay to keep your clients happy – nothing breeds happiness on a fishing trip more than catching fish, right? The problem with staying is that you may beat up that pool and ruin your chances of catching fish there the following day with a different set of clients. Another problem with staying is that your entire day will be spent in one spot and nothing breeds complacency more than remaining stationary. Yet another issue with staying and slaying is that you leave your clients with the impression that this little slice of water your on is the only thing around worth fishing.

Making it Personal

Everyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m decisive – to a fault. I like to move. Exploration is key. Wondering what’s going on around the bend is always on my mind.  Changing things up just to see if it works is always at play.  Personally, on my own time, I would chose option (1) from above – no question. If I catch a fish from a spot, I may make a few more casts but if I don’t catch something soon thereafter, I move or change things up. With clients, I roll with option (2) as it’s a healthy compromise to keep me sane and to keep my clients happy.

On my own time, I nearly ALWAYS leave fish to find fish and I’m not bothered if by doing so results in me not catching another fish for the rest of the day. If I end up skunking at the follow on spots, at least I learned where the fish are and where they aren’t. However, more times than not, moving on results in catching more fish in more locations and keeps me sharp while doing so. Complacency doesn’t even emerge as a potential problem. Could I have caught more fish if I just stayed put? Maybe…maybe not. I’ll never know and that doesn’t bother me. Who am I kidding?!? It bothers the hell out of me, it’s one of the things that fuel my continued interest in angling, and I hope it will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Conclusion

It is not the intent of this little “think piece” to provide the reader with a recommendation for how to fish. There are plenty of instructional articles out there that do an awesome job teaching anglers about what to do in these kinds of situations. There are a dearth of articles that ask the reader to think about what they would do and why. It’s my hope this article accomplished that end. There is no WRONG answer to the question above. However, complacency may end up playing into your decision when you are on the water – especially when it’s cold, you can’t feel your fingers, and it just started snowing. Try not to let it.

Fishing Report from last week (20180312-20180318)

What a week! Lots of fish. We fished a lot of water and all of it produced. Although the week started off slow, from Tuesday onward, we saw awesome action. I’ll let the pictures tell it. We caught fish on every tackle type and all produced well. Water levels on the Great Lakes tributaries were excellent as were the numbers of fish present. The big water was clear as well and full of willing fish. The only thing that wasn’t optimal was the weather. Cold, warm, frigid, snowing, melting, blowing – this seems like a never-ending winter in Buffalo Niagara. The only thing keeping me sane these days is how awesome the fishing has been through all of it.

*we got lucky and caught a few pike – purely on accident.  The lucky part was that this happened the day before pike season in this part of the state closed the following day.  If you see them, leave them alone to spawn.

On the Docket for Next Week (20180319 – 20180325)

Personal commitments this week will keep us off the water for a couple days. That’s somewhat a good thing in that this ridiculous, frigid weather is going to continue. Highs won’t break freezing for much of the week and winds from the north will make those cold temps feel even colder. We’ll hit the big water at least a couple days but will likely spend most of our time walking the tribs. Many of them will be low and clear, which means we’ll have to go into stealth mode with lighter leaders and sparse baits/lures/flies. We’re up for the challenge. Are you? Give us a call if you want to find out!

Thanksgiving Weekend Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

Thanksgiving Weekend Fishing – Classic Buffalo Niagara Fall Fishing Conditions

Thanksgiving weekend fishing is sacrosanct to many anglers around Buffalo Niagara. Nearly everyone has a long weekend that affords a good amount of time on the water. If spent well, prolonged time on the water provides plenty of time to reflect on things OR to empty the mind completely. I’m very prone to reflection so I guess you know what route this piece is going to go.

Been awhile since I've gripped chrome that I caught myself
Been awhile since I’ve gripped chrome that I caught myself
Such a Beautiful Fish – Be sure to release these fish as quickly as possible. Admire for a second and send them home.
Beginnings of a bumper…
Quick Update on the Fishing

I don’t like to get too deep into what I’ve been doing on the water. There are quite a few, high quality, fishing reports that come out daily if not weekly. Social media also provides near real-time intelligence these days so you don’t need me to get into the details. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Dave with a beast! Such a Beautiful Fish – Be sure to release these fish as quickly as possible. Admire for a second and send them home.
Don with a quality steelhead
That’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught!

Conditions have been very unfavorable. It’s been windy, the temperature has been highly erratic, and the river is running near brown. On the bright side, there are a ton of fish around. Lake trout and steelhead are in the Lower River very thick. Even when the conditions are very unfavorable, we’re still catching fish. Plugs on a 3-way rig have been the key to success.

Trout Double!

Just a Blonde in Buffalo

Our clients over the Thanksgiving weekend were a lot of fun. One of our clients, Beth Potozniak is the founder of the local blog, “Just a Blond in Buffalo.” Here’s a little bit about her and her blog from her website:

“Welcome to Just a Blonde in Buffalo! My name is Beth and I’ve grown up in Buffalo, NY all my life. I am an experienced event planner in the Western New York area and have a passion for bringing a simple idea to reality. I love to try new things and meet new people. Having had the opportunity to travel all over the world has made me appreciate this city I have called home, so much more.”

Beth admiring her first steelhead
What a trooper! It may have been a little chilly out there but that didn’t stop Beth from smiling!

Beth is a fellow grassroots advocate for the Buffalo Niagara Region. Her passion for just getting out there and meeting/seeing/experiencing what this region has to offer is awesome. Facing tough conditions (wind, cold, and muddy water), she remained tough and brought fish to boat like a pro. Check out her site and follow her on social media.

What I Learned Over Thanksgiving Weekend

1. I’m not crazy when I say that it’s better to be outside freezing and catching a few fish than sitting inside melting into the couch. I informed all my clients over Thanksgiving Weekend that conditions were far less than ideal and every one of them stuck in there and went anyway. Why? It’s better than sitting around inside!

Muddy water, cold air, wind…WHATEVER! “It’s better than sitting inside,” said Mark.

2. Some interesting tolling motor maneuvers that I’d have to show you. I bonded, on a philosophical level, with my Minn Kota Ulterra. Fishing though adverse conditions will sharpen your boat control skills.

Pautzke Pros-staffer, James Swearingen, came up from Pittsburg, PA to see what late fall fishing in Buffalo Niagara was all about. Click here to visit his site.
Hank with his personal best Lake Trout
Hank with a Coho – a prize catch around here – and his first

 

3. Connected to number 2: Regardless of water clarity (within reason – i.e. no logs, debris, etc. – flood conditions kind of poor clarity), if you can control the boat on a good drift, you won’t skunk.

I hope that we’ll see you out on the water. If you want to experience it instead of reading about it, give us a call. Click Here!

Fly Fishing in VA with Blane Chocklett: Re-Discover Your Region #8

Fly Fishing in VA with Blane Chocklett

I’ve never been the kind of guy that has heros or mentors. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m the first born but for some reason I always believed I had to blaze my own path and make my own mistakes. I am by no means advocating this way of life. In fact, it’s kind of ridiculous. As I got older during my time in the USMC, I realized that learning from others by employing best practices and avoiding bad habits is far more efficient. Still, that was a very mechanical way of growing. For whatever reason, as I started developing my plan to become a guide, it didn’t take long for me to develop a more personal approach. Enter Blane Chocklett.

Blane Chocklett – I have no Idea How he has Such Perfect Teeth
What’s a Role Model?

The manifestation of this personal approach likely came about because my desire to become a guide originated from a passion. It was something I really WANTED to do. About 5 years ago, when the goal of becoming a guide started to gain momentum, I connected with someone who would quickly become my mentor.  Since then, Blane Chocklett and I have maintained a teacher/student relationship though which I continue to benefit to this day.

Who is Blane Chocklett?

Blane has become a household name in the fly fishing community. As an innovative fly tier and ambassador to nearly every type of product used in the game, his reach has grown exponentially since I’ve met him. Yet, he remains humble. Hell, he barely acknowledges it. It’s this kind of mindset – being grounded and in touch with every aspect of our little community that caused me to frequently seek his guidance over the years.

Blane with the Behold Smalljaw Pose
The Blane Chocklett and Brookdog Fishing Co Relationship

Blane has helped me with a lot – both personally and professionally. That’s saying a lot because I’m likely his biggest pain in the ass friend/client. I complain incessantly when I fish with him. From doubting if there are any fish in the river to letting him know that he’s sucking the life out of me, he’s likely relieved to be rid of me every time we fish together. Still, he’s always been there for me.

Blane is a father, a husband, a professional, and an ambassador to our passion of pursuing fish on the fly. He embodies over a quarter century of experience in this game and somehow still keeps getting better looking – WTF! With him as a mentor – I’ll get there someday!

I’m sure some who read this (it won’t be millennials because you guys likely didn’t even read this far) will comment something like, “get off of Blane’s nuts!” I really don’t care if that sentiment emerges in a few people – he knows where all this is coming from. But enough about Blane, on to the video description.

About the Video

This WILL NOT be a steady stream of fish porn. It was nearly 100 degrees with bluebird skies both days during the shoot. As Schultzy would say, “not optimal!” It was a struggle to say the least but we caught some great imagery. There will be some beautiful smalljaw footage, some underwater footage of muskies, and a shock when we get, “’skied.” The video closes out at the new Ballast Point Brewery outside of Roanoke, VA.

All the “porn” aside, the focus of this video is to provide another perspective about one of my mentors. This video short WILL focus on who Blane is, what his fishery is all about, and give the viewer a glimpse into why he has become a leader in our industry. Enjoy!

Blane Chocklett and Brookdog Fishing Company Collaboration
Warmwater Gem – Smallmouth Bass
The Oldest River In the U.S. and one of the Oldest in the World

This is #8 in our Re-Discover Your Region Series.  We have 2 more on the docket for this year and 12 projected/scheduled for next year.  Please show us your support in our efforts to showcase some incredible fisheries and the personalities that explore them by subscribing to our YouTube page.  Click here to begin viewing all.

 

Summer Fishing in Buffalo Niagara

Summer Fishing in Buffalo Niagara Region

Summer fishing in Buffalo Niagara can be arduous if you don’t know where to go. We wrote about this a little bit last year but have picked up our game a since then (read more water time and conflicts with that work life balance). Here are some general guidelines to help focus your summer fishing plans around here:

Bobby – Bewildered by the Size of Our Smalljaws
Smallies on the Fly – Life is Good
Angler’s Problem #1: Fish aren’t sedentary creatures – they move

Sure, a blinding statement of the obvious but understanding this is critical to fishing around the Buffalo Niagara Region. More daylight = warmer days = warmer water = increased photosynthesis = what was once a great place for fish to hang out in the spring isn’t so great anymore.

When water surface temperatures on the Niagara River and the Great Lakes start climbing it’s time to make a change. Fish start to move deep so you’ll have to do the same. This applies to all species. By now, the spawn is done and fish are filling their gullets and livin’ the laid-back summer life. In other words, they don’t want to have to work too hard to get their sustenance. All you need to do is locate those spots and bring the food to them.

Problem 1 Mitigation: Believe it or not, this isn’t terribly difficult but definitely takes time on the water

There are online resources to get you started. We’re not going to do all the work for you – but just google eastern Lake Erie fishing locations and you’ll be off to a good start. However, these resources are just that – a start. You’ll need a decent sonar and navigation system for your terminal guidance. These spots are deep areas (usually over 20 ft) and border structure. Shoals, defined weed lines, ledges, etc. all attract fish that are just trying to relax and feed. If you don’t have a water craft and a halfway decent sonar and navigation system, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get on fish.

Your presentation should be slow and deep – right through these holding areas. Think of the tackle required to accomplish this. Slow trolling deep divers. Jigging off the bottom. Dragging bait off the bottom. Stripping weighted flies and heavy, full sinking fly lines. If your sonar works, this becomes like a video game. You find the fish, present your offering, and hope. Eyes often glued to the screen. Rod and/or stripping hand at the ready. Oh yeah, I’ll state the obvious here – you need a boat to do all of this. Either buy one or book a charter.

Joe Appreciated a Little Guidance on the Big Water
My Biggest Smallie of the Season – On the Fly Nonetheless
Angler’s Problem 2: Warm water means lower oxygen levels

This is another reason why water temperatures are important. Once they climb into the low to mid 70’s, anglers should REALLY start paying attention. These temps are your indication for the summer pattern mentioned above. At this point – carp will only be on the flats early in the morning. You might find (not consistently but you can get lucky) smallies crashing bait in shallow water in the morning too. However, these are fleeting occurrences and take some serious searching to discover. Generally speaking, at these temps, fish will be deep (ref Problem 1).

The other reason water temperature is important is that the warmer it is, the lower the oxygen content. Once water temps climb into the mid to upper 70’s, it starts becoming a workout for fish. Think of it like us on the treadmill – all day long. Species like musky are particularly sensitive to high water temperatures. They are a big animal and burn O2 fast just to sustain. Leave them alone when the water gets this warm. Muskies are likely to die from exhaustion shortly after the release if you catch them at these temps. If you happen to catch one incidentally, keep the wet!

Joe is Speechless Over this Niagara River ‘jaw

The same general guidelines apply to trout. None of our inland trout fisheries are tailwaters so they warm up quick under the hot summer sun. Particularly when it doesn’t rain for a week or so. Once the inland creeks start climbing into the mid sixties, it’s time for you to leave them alone. Our inland creeks are just about there right now.

Problem 2 Mitigation: Monitor the water temperature

Your sonar should also have a thermometer. If not, buy a cheap one and take the water temperatures. Last night, the Niagara River was a little over 75 degrees. That temperature is only going to go up in the near term. Fish early morning when the water temperatures are the coolest. Fish deep water for species that live down there in the summer and are more resistant to warmer temps. Some examples are walleye, smallmouth bass, salmon, and steelhead.

If you refuse to buy a boat or don’t have the means to do so, find warm water rivers and lakes like the Allegheny River (and it’s tribs) and Chautauqua Lake where you can cast from shore or via kayak or canoe. A better option is to just hire a guide or charter captain (we know a few ). The same rule still applies on these bodies of water though – look for carp or smallies.

Anglers Problem 3: Summer is the time for pleasure boaters, jet skiers, ad kayakers

Summer Fishing in the Buffalo Niagara region is great but it comes with its challenges. Water temperatures and moving fish are one aspect but that’s not unique to this season. Every season offers a different environmental challenge that anglers have to consider. What’s unique about the summer is that us anglers aren’t the only ones out enjoying the bounty of the region. We have a lot of water around here and people love getting out and enjoying it. That comes in all forms. Pleasure boaters just drifting with the current. Jet skiers flying around at mach z. Kayakers paddling around with little situational awareness. And my personal favorite – people taking their kids tubing in fast current and/or high traffic areas.

The big take away here is that us anglers aren’t going to be the only people on the water. I can set my watch by this: at 11:00 AM on weekends, it becomes rush hour out there. Us anglers need to lift our heads up from the water every once in awhile and pay attention to what our fellow humans are doing. Often times, we take for granted the importance of general safety on the water. It’s just something we do (most of us that is). We know that we should respect people’s space and not “throw wakes” at people. We also  know to check our boats for safety issues before we go out. Perhaps of upmost importance, we know the water – when we need to slow and when we can lean on the throttle. The vast majority of the pleasure boating community – well, they don’t. They are just out there having a good time with little regard to everyone else outside their boat.

Problem 3 Mitigation: Put simply – get out early and keep your head on a swivel

Pleasure boaters don’t typically get on the water until late morning – right when that first bite window starts to close. I’m usually on the water at dawn. It’s calm out there and there is little boat traffic – other than our fellow guides/charter captains. As the morning progresses, make sure to pick your head up and look around often. Pay attention to others out there and assume they aren’t paying attention to you.

Conclusion

Like we’ve said on numerous occasions, the Buffalo Niagara Region is a year-round fishery. Summer fishing in Buffalo Niagara can be a great time of year. Do a little research and invest in the equipment required to find those summer holding areas. Be responsible/respectful in maintaining a sustainable fishery by paying attention to water temps. Finally – maintain situational awareness. Do all this and you’ll be set for experiencing Buffalo Niagara Summers the best way possible – on the water.     

Mike, Tristan, and Maddy – a Happy Crew

 

IT’S AWESOME NOW AND IT’S ONLY GETTING BETTER: A Sustained Spring Pattern

Fishing Report: Sustained Spring Pattern

Put simply – the spring pattern persists – and we’re stoked about that! The Niagara River and Lake Erie smallmouth bass fishing is incredible now and it’s only going to get better. This spring has been very mild and decently wet. Although it’s horrible to see the effects all this water has been having on some of the people that live along the Lake Ontario shoreline, the fish will benefit tremendously. Cool temps and high water will hopefully keep them in this big water spring pattern for a long time. The “typical” spring patterns have been at least 2 weeks behind schedule due to these factors…and we’re not going to complain. I’m still wondering what “typical” really means these days – I guess what it really means to all us anglers is we have to get out there regularly and remain flexible.

RIck with an Ear to Ear
Intensity Pays Off

We’ve seen only a handful of smallies on beds in the lake and none in the river. All the fish we’ve caught were along staging lanes where the bottom is sandy and loaded with rocks. Depths vary widely, between 5-25ft. The offering has been pretty consistent – anything that represents a small baitfish has been the most productive. However, speed of presentation and the fish’s willingness to eat varies throughout the day. All I can say here is once you find them, start slow and speed it up until you dial in the right approach.

Always Admiring These Beauties
Perfect Specimen

This rain and mild temperatures have also been awesome for our inland trout fisheries. This time last year, it was “uncharacteristically” hot and dry. That’s definitely not the case this year. Water is up and cold and trout are feeding off the surface. We haven’t been out there too much but many of our friends have. The few times we got out, there were plenty of bugs around. From sulphers to march browns to caddis – the evening rise is getting increasingly better. Once we get a stretch of consistently warm days, it will explode!

Sipper

Business Report: Brookdog Fishing Company’s Latest and Greatest Adventures

In case you missed it, we published our latest video featuring Schultz Outfitters. Click here to check that out if you haven’t already.

A couple weeks ago, we travelled to the foothills of the Colorado Rockies to film an episode on some of the areas famous trout water. The imagery is incredible. The guides we featured, Jack Wickman and Cameren Shinabery, are buddies from Sweetwater Guide School. Both are finishing their first year guiding. Click on their names to check out their social media profiles and their programs.

Jack with a Cheesman Canyon Beauty
Thanks to Cameren For Putting Me on this Brownie

That Colorado episode should hit the web by 9-June so subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive the notification. Our next shoot will feature Ben Rogers of Chasing Tails Fly Fishing down in Southeastern PA. Smallies, musky, and trout on the fly – good times! Stay tuned! Following that shoot we will feature the following Guides/Outfitters:

Brookdog Fishing Co (yeah, us again) – WNY – Smallmouth Bass, Trout, Carp
Midwest Waters – Illinois – Smallmouth Bass
Blane Chocklett – Virginia – Smallmouth Bass and Musky
Sedona Fly Fishing Adventures – Arizona – Trout
Chris Willen – Wisconsin – Musky
85th Day Angling – Maryland – trout

…and 2 special/passion projects that will be truly incredible.

Drop us a line if you want to connect instead of reading about it.

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