by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Smelt started to show up early in the bellies of the trout caught on the bar in front of Fort Niagara. Then, all of a sudden, record breaking temperatures this year created warmer waters than usual. And Lake Ontario temperatures have risen above the magic 42-degree water temperature already, which drives the smelt up the Lower Niagara.
Last year, the good smelt run didn't start until around April 15, and remember last year we had lots of ice in the river. So we had to wait until the ice moved out to capture these tasty little critters. Until the temps hit just right, up the river they came.
This year it's much earlier; the smelt run is on now.
Artpark and Lewiston Landing both have public access and they are the best places to dip smelt, unless you know any private dock owners that will give you permission. If you don't have a dipping net or other means to get smelt, go to the Landing and maybe, just maybe, some dipper will give you a baggie full to take home with you. Remember, bring your own baggie. Getting smelt fresh is the best. Freezing never cut it with me, they are best from the cold water to the frying pan.
Cleaning is simple and easy if using scissors or a small knife. Cut the head off, leave the tail on and you will have a handle when eating, and after the head is gone, just run your knife or scissors up the belly and remove the entrails. Rinse once but do not wash or you will wash the goodness away.
Put them in a bag or baggie with pancake flour and fry in oil. Maybe do a little fried potatoes on the side. Drink your favorite beverage with these or should I say, eat these with your favorite beverage? Either way, you will be flabbergasted on how good they taste dipped in a little cocktail sauce. Make your own cocktail sauce with a little horseradish and ketchup mixed together and if you have any Worcestershire sauce, add a touch of that.
You will probably be reading this on Saturday so before the run is over, get your kids and buddies together, dress warm, and get going. This only happens once a year and now is the time. You might only have 2-3 weeks, and weather will be a factor. Dress warm and watch those youngsters, that water is cold, deep, and fast.
According to my friend, Capt. Mark Vilardo of Kingfisher Charters, king (Chinook) salmon has started to show up at the bar in front of Fort Niagara. Brown trout and lake trout are still being caught there, and perch are being caught at the New York Power Authority reservoir.
That's for young people to climb that hill, but for us older guys, try Wilson Harbor at the boat launch in the state park or on the other side where it leads out to the pier. You don't need to fish off the pier, just fish off the harbor end. There's good parking in both areas.
I haven't heard anything about perching off the Route 425 pier yet, but that usually produces good-sized jack perch in the spring. Go there when the lake is calm, and with the very high water Lake Ontario is experiencing right now, you might need to bring boots to get on the pier. The 425 pier is right at the end of Route 425 at Wilson, and if you go too far you will take a swim. There's good parking there, too. That is the same pier where the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation stocks fish in the lake, but it is a little early for that yet. Bullheads are starting to catch on in the creeks, especially in Wilson, but it won't be long and they'll be producing good numbers all over.
Oh, a reminder on dipping for smelt, you do need a New York State fishing license and make sure you only have smelt in your bucket, (8 quart daily limit) The conservation officers do a wonderful job, and they will check your bucket. Plus, on May 4 the annual Lewiston Smelt fest will be here. We'll talk about that at a later date, and if you miss that, you will be the loser!
Questions, comments, email me at [email protected] or the Sentinel at [email protected] Check the Outdoors Niagara website www.outdoorsniagara.com for up-to-the-minute fishing information on its outdoor forum, and make yourself a promise to take a kid fishing this year.