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On The Fly: How to Land The Big One On Niagara's Waterways

Where to head (and when to head there) to reel in a trophy catch while in the Niagara region.

Going fishing? The inland waters around Niagara Falls USA are a hotbed for many much-sought after fish species, including the famed steelhead trout. Closely related to Pacific salmon, steelhead can be found stocked in Lake Ontario–along with chinook, coho and Atlantic salmon, as well as brown and lake trout.

Ready to reel one in? Here’s your step-by-step guide on getting geared up and out on the water for a Niagara Falls fishing trip to remember.

Save the Date

It’s all in the timing. Actually, no matter the time of year, it’s always fishing season in Niagara County. Steelhead start arriving in the fall, drawn to the outflow of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario tributaries. October to May is considered their peak season, before the trout migrate deeper into the lake in search of cooler summer waters. Visiting Niagara Falls USA in the throws of a deep freeze? Don’t worry — even in sub-zero temperatures, ice-fishing for steelhead makes an intrepid alternative option at the Wilson Harbor.

Get Official

First up, you’ll need some paperwork. All of New York’s waterways require a license to fish, so your first port of call should be New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation website. As well as offering a wealth of advice, they allow you to purchase licenses online. For non-residents of New York, you’ll pay $10 per day, $28 per week, or $50 per year, and licenses can be conveniently printed or saved to your phone automatically. On the ground, there are a number of options to get your license, from one of the local bait and tackle shops dotted around the waterways, to the Walmart Supercenter in Niagara Falls. New York state also offers free fishing days, where anyone can fish the fresh waters and no fishing license is required. 2023 dates include February 18-19, June 24-25, September 23, and November 11.

Gear Up

Many anglers vacationing in Niagara Falls USA come kitted-out with their own waders and rods. If that’s not you, there are a handful of specialist stores like Creek Road Bait & Tackle in Lewiston and The Boat Doctors in Olcott where you can stock up on rods and reels, terminal tackle and nets, as well as all the best local tips on where to fish. Need to get suited and booted? Cabela’s in Cheektowaga is just one of the several outfitters in the area where you’ll find the best fishing apparel and accessories.

Stake Out a Spot

DIY anglers can cast their lines from a number of locations, with the Niagara region being home to some of the most scenic shore-angling on the map. For inspiration, consider the dramatic Whirlpool State Park or Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, which baits visitors with over a mile of shoreline alone. Bringing your own boat? You can launch your vessel from either the charming villages of Lewiston and Youngstown or from Fort Niagara State Park.

Book a Charter

The region is home to a thriving charter boat industry with a number of captains at the ready to take you, or your party, for an epic fishing adventure year-round. Private groups and corporate gatherings are also accommodated with trips typically lasting from half day (four-hour) to full day (seven-hour) excursions. All gear is provided, too, as well as fishing tips and tricks!

Make a Memory

Caught a beauty to remember? Beyond Instagramming your trophy steelhead, you’ve got a few options to ensure your catch of the day becomes the memory of a lifetime. A number of professional taxidermists are based in Niagara Falls USA and can expertly foam-mold and paint your fish. Alternatively, if you’ve fished catch-and-release, simply provide the taxidermist with an image and measurements of your fish and they’ll create a fiberglass replica of your trophy catch of the day. 

Get Hooked

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