Most Canadian anglers think of ice fishing when it comes to the cold-water months, and no wonder—“cold” is actually an understatement in the dead of winter. But hitting the hardwater isn’t the only angling action to be had during this period. From late fall through to spring, the frigid flowing waters of southern Ontario’s Niagara River make for one phenomenal frosty fishery.
Beginning in November—when many anglers have already stored their boats away for the winter—the Niagara really starts to shine. Feeding steelhead and brown trout will readily hit a variety of presentations, and muskies are still in season as they bulk up for the long winter ahead. As well, walleye and smallmouth bass continue to roam certain pockets of the river. And what’s great about all these fish species and others in this system is that they can all attain trophy proportions.
More good news: November’s great fishing carries well into the winter, with lake trout also coming into season in December. Just be sure to check the fishing regulations for your intended species, as the seasons vary depending on whether you’re fishing on the Ontario or New York side of the river. And if you plan to visit both sides of the border, make sure you have a valid fishing licence for both jurisdictions.
The only thing slowing down anglers from drifting the Niagara in January and February is the threat of ice chunks floating along with the perpetual current. We’ve actually fished between these clumps and caught wintering trout—talk about a crazy way of fishing!
Roe bags, yarn and coloured beads are a staple for the trout, while locally purchased minnows will entice just about anything that swims in the strong Niagara current. Both the Upper and Lower Niagara are loaded with fish throughout this time.
If you don’t have a boat but would still like a taste of the Niagara’s cold-water fishery, there are plenty of year-round fishing guides to choose from, and they have all the gear you need. One of the best is Cast Adventures’ Paul Castellano, who grew up fishing the Niagara and knows it intimately. All you have to do is show up—and, of course, make sure you dress warmly.