Winter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara – 20171218 – 20171225
Winter fishing in Buffalo Niagara can be magical. Right now, as I type this, there are thousands of steelhead and brown trout in the lower river and great lake tributaries throughout the region. While cold weather keeps many anglers and would-be anglers inside, those that avoid the shack nasties will capitalize on relatively unpressured waters. That’s exactly what happened this past weekend.
Mother Nature Coats us in White
Starting Friday and carrying on throughout the rest of the weekend, Mother Nature pounded us with snow. Over 3 inches accumulated on my boat (as well as the other boats in the Lower River) as we fished throughout the day on Saturday. It was that really crappy kind of snow too – cold, wet, and penetrating.
Although all of our protective clothing is high quality and waterproof, none of it could withstand 6 straight hours of consistent, wet snow. After about hour 3, we had to warm up with the “My Buddy” space heater on every 3rd drift to be able to feel our hands enough to reel and tie knots. Sound grueling – it would have been but the catching was excellent. Honestly, we stopped counting. Quality steelhead after quality steelhead was brought to the net.
Lesson Learned – Endure and You Can Reap the Rewards
I don’t have a ton of pics to show. Knock me or doubt me all you want on the quantity and quality we landed that day. Honestly, we got to the point that we’d rather have functioning digits to reel in the next fish than freeze for that quick snap. It was the right call.
Aside from the steadily falling wet snow, conditions were excellent. Yeah, there was a north wind, but it was slight. Water clarity was perfect and there were a ton of fish around. We struggled on the first couple of drifts using eggs until I made the call to switch to plugs – we were rewarded on the first drift. It’s always cool to see a plan come together. Plugging is great because it’s a little faster paced than bouncing eggs and egg patterns, the hit is awesome, and it saves my hands from the ceasing up that would occur if I had to steadily re-rig new egg sacs.
Conditions were perfect by every measure on Sunday – and we didn’t fish at all. That’s always devastating. If we’re not booked, we often have to balance personal and family time with the urge to fish. Considering we had some last minute Christmas shopping and other personal commitments in the way, we ended up passing. It hurt – I’m sure those that did fish Christmas Eve had an awesome day.
Looking at the extended weather forecast, this week is going to be brutal. Although we pride ourselves in fishing in some harsh conditions, angling in single digit and low teen temperatures isn’t really worth it. Any slight wind slices like razors on exposed skin. Line freezes on reels and guides. Trolling motors get a mind of their own. Random mechanical issues pop up. Clients end up going internal quickly if you aren’t catching fish on nearly every drift. These are just the obstacles frigid temps pose for big water winter fishing. Walking and wading the creaks around the region offer different challenges when it’s insanely cold.
On the inland creeks and great lakes tributaries, frigid temps pose similar problems. Guides freeze up on fly rods. Feet freeze from wading. Hands freeze from landing fish (if you do). Shelf ice and slush forms on the water thereby preventing a good drift. Bottom line, we won’t be on the water this week.
Always Have Something to Look Forward To
Although not fishing for the next week or so will be painful, we’re comforted by the fact that we depart for Guyana next week. Arapaima, peacock bass, wolf fish, arawana, and more await our flies. Thinking about two weeks living with Amerindian tribes and catching true river monsters that likely have never seen humans is comfort enough. Stay tuned!
We hope you enjoyed your Christmas Holiday and are able to do the same over New Years. We also hope that this little piece gives you a different way to think about winter in Buffalo Niagara. Although winter fishing around here can be grueling sometimes, it often rewards mightily. Especially when you can experience a winter wonderland of snow, ice, emerald water, and big fish. Give us a call if you want to experience this first hand.