Robertson: Fishing the mighty Niagara River | Columns

Writing weekly articles for two newspapers is a seemingly endless chore.

You finish one week’s editorials and immediately start working on the next. The subject is also a challenge – what is adventurous, informative or interesting?

But writing can have its benefits. Checking my emails just three weeks ago, I saw that another writer from the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association (POWA) had canceled her free, guided trip to the Niagara River. Could someone take his place?

I responded immediately and was delighted to be accepted. It was an adventure I had dreamed of and now it was offered to me on a silver platter. Life was good.

It was only a two-hour drive from Lewiston, New York, where a reservation was waiting at the Niagara Crossing Hotel and Suites, overlooking the river and adjacent to the boat launch. The beautiful hotel has been finished in gray stone, which gives it both charm and character.

I was also impressed with the modest luxury of my room, with its chandelier, electric fireplace and king-size bed. I was entertained in a certain style.

My host for the trip would be Frank Campbell, Fishing Guide and Outdoor Promotions Director for Destination Niagara USA, as well as Niagara County Sport Fishing Coordinator. Doyle Ditch and Ben Moyer, fellow writers and members of the POWA, were also fishing with me.

Frank met us at the hotel around 5pm. After the presentations, we dined at the Brickyard Pub, BBQ and Brewing Company on Center Street in Lewiston for dinner. This picturesque establishment with a warm and friendly atmosphere makes you immediately feel at home.

A glance at a plate of baby back ribs immediately decided my choice for dinner. Ben and Doyle sampled the pub’s home-brewed beers, and dinner was a very pleasant and delicious affair. My ribs were just awesome.

The next morning local fishing guide Joe Marra met us at the hotel, his 21ft Lund was already waiting for us on the river. As you would expect, fishing on a windy river in November requires serious clothing.

I wore long underwear, thick socks, hunting pants, a thick shirt, a Berber vest, warm overalls, a second Primaloft vest, and my thick hunting coat. But, most importantly, above all, there was windproof rain gear. Without rain gear to cut the wind, I would have been cold despite all my other clothes.

Once settled in the boat, Joe set the Yamaha 200 HP on fire and hit the gas. As we roared up the gorge, I saw firsthand the incredible power of the river; it took my breath away.

Niagara is a monstrously powerful entity that moves inexorably forward, its tortured surface constantly boiling, lifting water peaks of all sizes leaping skyward, swirling with whirlpools of all sizes circling fiercely, sucking, greedy and hungry. Near the power plants, I looked at a hot tub about 40 feet wide and 5 feet deep, its sides lined with white foam. Hundreds of gulls have flown over the maelstrom in search of helpless baitfish trapped in its grip.

Where the waters from the power plants entered the river after their long fall, the surface was in utter chaos, a boiling cauldron of tormented water, a mad pandemonium of green and white leaping, mad in its savage mess.

How do you fish something like this? I quickly discovered it.

Right below the towering power plants, Joe handed us 7ft rods with Abu-Garcia 10-pound fluorocarbon-laden bait-casting reels attached to a three-way swivel. The lower swivel held a 1.5 ounce pencil lead, the other attached to a six foot leader and our lure, a silver and chartreuse Kwikfish.

The current was so fast we just let the decoy drop until we felt the lead occasionally hitting the bottom, letting the wild rapids speed us downstream.

The second drift, my lure suddenly stopped. Did I hang up?

Then the rod fluttered and the trail screamed, the bulldogfish deeply and stubbornly refusing to approach. After an intense 10 minute scrum, Joe finally managed to capture a large 34 inch lake trout. Wow, what a battle – my wrist was feeling it.

The next drift, my rod suddenly doubled, the flaking fish flies away effortlessly. After 10 minutes I was wondering what I was wearing.

After 15 minutes the fish was still going strong. Twenty minutes passed before we saw a huge lake trout tail. Several boats had gathered to watch the battle.

The constant strain on my fingers and wrist was telling, but the fish showed little sign of fatigue. We had already drifted over a mile downstream when the mighty fish took off again. Unfortunately, the hook came off.

My heart sank. Joe shook his head – hooks often work freely in prolonged battles.

A little later, another smashing blow, and finally I struggled in a magnificent eight-point steelhead after a fiery fight. The shiny silvery fish was beautiful to see. Later another large laker tested my endurance.

Trout and salmon fishing is excellent through May, with bass, walleye, muskellunge, pike and other species available during the summer. So, fishermen, pick a date and call Joe or Frank.

Charters cost $ 350.00 and can accompany up to two, three or four anglers who can share the costs between them. Wineries and brewers also abound. Dress warmly and enjoy wonderful fishing and sightseeing.

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