by Mark Daul
Those of us who live in the area of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario are lucky people. We have some of the most fabulous bass fishing right here in our own backyard - minutes from launch ramps and minutes from shore fishing opportunities from June through September.
There are many favorite spots along the Lower Niagara shoreline to fish from your boat, but the best place regarded by many is the Coast Guard drift starting at the southern end of the CG station right out into the lake on the bar. The bar is out between the Fort Niagara shore and the "green can," a channel marker buoy set out and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. If fishing the CG drift, don't anchor. Drift right through 15 to 20 feet from shore while trying to hang and bounce your bait near the bottom, then motor up and go back up river and come down again. I have found my worm harnesses work just fine in there. Or a heavy jig tipped with a night crawler with a three-way swivel and dropper sinker work for me. The old timers will even remember the famous Sally fly and spinner.
Out on the bar, the area around the green buoy produces the best fishing for me, either trolling or drifting if the wind is right. Stick with about 17 to 20 feet of water. The hot setup as of late has been a plastic tube jig rigged drifting on a heavy jig head so it will bounce the bottom. Color is your choice, but motor oil color seems to be hot. A tube jig will imitate a darting minnow or a crayfish scurrying about. Of course, the old standby live bait is closest to my heart. A crawler mounted on a jig head with a trailer hook is tough to beat, or on a worm harness, but some days you need larger bass minnows or crawdads.
"Crabs" is a more common name around here for crawdads. Although soft shell crabs are much sought after, sometimes supply and demand say you can't get them, and using a small 1-inch crab will take as many bass as the more expensive soft shells. Generally, your independent bait dealer will have both. Leeches are another favorite dinner for hungry bass. Hang them on a harness or a jig head and drift with a three-way swivel and drop sinker like you would with worms or minnows.
Dropshotting for bass and all species of warm water fish is a red-hot new method of fishing, and I can cover that in another column. The big boys like the pro circuit bassers are even using it now.
There are several spots further up river to fish if the lake or the mouth of the river is rough and windy. One place is just down river from Lewiston Landing along the clay banks, but stay along the drop-off there. That's where the fish will lay. Walleye will cooperate in that section, too. Peggy's Eddy drift starts at the top of Joseph Davis State Park and is another good producer. I found a spot last year about 75-100 feet north of the water pipe that discharges from the CWM site. That highly purified water is only discharged once a year in the cold weather months. Don't worry, it's safe. The current there is slow and shifty; dropshotting with live bait is the exact way you want to fish it.
The latest news story out is fishing/boating in Canadian waters. Seems a fisherman in the St. Lawrence was traveling in Ontario waters from the U.S. and fishing unanchored. The story says he was stopped by Canadian officials and was given a choice, either surrender his boat or pay a $1,000 fine. He paid the $1,000 on the spot with his credit card, otherwise his boat would have been confiscated and cost a lot more money to get it back. Congressman William Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is inquiring further as this article is written. This writer inquired with our own district Congresswoman Louise Slaughter last week and still hasn't received a reply. Of course, there are always two sides to every story and we heard just one so far. According to Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, "While in Canada, U.S. boaters who fish from unanchored vessels are on notice they are subject to heavy fines and seizure of their vessels, the same is not true of Canadians fishing in U.S. waters."
"On the U.S. side, a boat must be anchored or docked, for instance, to require a report to customs," she adds. So take heed fishermen, recreational boaters and sailors, until there is more clarification on this.
Can Niagara River users have this same problem? For now maybe you should check in to the nearest Canada Customs office when crossing that invisible line. You can call the Canada Customs at 1-888-226-7277 for further understanding, but the bottom line is just don't anchor or land on shore. Shore fishermen don't need to be concerned about those things. There are lots of spots for them starting in the Whirlpool and Devil's Hole State Parks in the gorge area, as long as you are hardy and can manage the walk down.
I always tell people to be sure to bring a camera. That is as important as bringing bait because there is so much beauty to see down there that you would want to share it with others, and if you hang a big fish you don't want to have to carry it all the way back up. Take a picture and release it.
Great bass fishing is found there and most use spinners and/or spoons. You can drift live bait by casting upriver and letting your presentation drift down, but be careful of losing your rig along the rocky bottom. Fishing the New York Power Authority fishing platform can produce some nice "smallies," too, and on the whole shoreline down to Artpark. I recommend traveling the gorge in pairs, that water is swift and unforgiving, and it would be nice to have help if needed. There is a fishing platform at Joseph Davis State Park and it has produced some nice bass. In the early spring perch like to hang out there, testing your minnow presentation. Of course, Lewiston Landing and the park along the river's edge in Youngstown will produce everything from rock bass to smallies and perch almost anytime. Lake fishing in our area is a pretty easy and relaxing affair on calm days. There is a variety of methods and baits, but I recommend and use an old standard: a deep diving Rapala, Shad or perch color, J-7 or J-9 sizes. Similar diving baits work really well too.
In the summertime, I have trolled the entire shoreline from the mouth of the river east to Porter on the Lake Park (the old Hooker property) in 12 to 18 feet of water, sometimes 20 to 22 feet because of the water clarity, and never ran out of fish. In the deeper water attach a heavy split shot or three-way rig to get you down to the bottom. If you are not fishing bottom you might as well be staying home because the bottom is where you will find these critters. Bass season opened statewide on June 18 - always the third Saturday in June - and it ends on Nov. 30. Bass need to be at least 12 inches and you are allowed five per day.
Some fishermen will dispute me, but there is nothing like a good fresh caught smallmouth or largemouth bass dinner with a little salad of choice on the side, with some nice thin sliced potatoes fried on the side too. There is still lots of time through the summer to get out and don't forget to take a kid fishing!
Coming up is Bass Classic IV, presented by A1 Bait Supply and OutdoorsNiagara.com. It takes place on Saturday, July 16; stay tuned for more information.
If you would like to see more on fishing our area, check out www.OutdoorsNiagara.com[email protected] or to the Sentinel at [email protected]. for loads of information and weekly fishing reports. Email comments to