From the 06 October 2006 New
York Outdoor News
EIGHTEEN MILE CREEK: NIAGARA COUNTY'S OTHER WORLD-CLASS
Niagara County is home to none other than the mighty Niagara River. One would think that with such a majestic natural wonder and world-class fishery in its borders all other Niagara County fisheries would take a back seat to it.
This is not necessarily the case. Eighteen Mile Creek, in the town of Newfane, is held in high esteem in fishing circles throughout the world for a trout and salmon fishery that equals – and even rivals – many of those found on America’s West Coast. From September through April (and sometimes May), Eighteen Mile Creek is home to runs of chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, brown trout and the occasional atlantic salmon.
The health of the fishery is guaranteed by impressive public and private efforts. There is very limited, almost insignificant, spawning that takes place in the creek, so the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation essentially manages the waterway as a tourist destination through some very heavy stocking. Over 185,000 salmonids were stocked in the creek and its harbor in 2005 alone.
The locals have helped to maintain the effectiveness of this stocking through the construction of a fish crib in Olcott Harbor. They rear young salmon in this pen and then release them months later. This "imprints" the creek on the fishes’ minds, ensuring that they return to Eighteen Mile Creek when they are of spawning age.
Where to fish
Discounting the Niagara River, Eighteen Mile Creek is the county’s largest tributary to Lake Ontario, its watershed covering over half the county. Despite the creek’s size, the salmonid fishery is limited to one stretch that’s just over a mile in length. A small hydroelectric dam in the hamlet of Burt prevents all lake-run fish from moving on.
The angling hotspot is Fisherman’s Park, which is accessible from a sizable parking lot located off Route 78. The park encompasses a quarter mile stretch of water that comes from the dam. Compared to the rest of Eighteen Mile Creek this section is the shallowest, fastest and easily the most productive as the impenetrable dam more or less forces the fish to stack up in this section.
That being said, it’s the most heavily-fished section. In the fall it is not uncommon to encounter over one hundred cars in the lot and a scene in the creek reminiscent of the elbow-to-elbow fishing in the Salmon River’s Black Hole.
Do not let this deter you, for as ridiculous as it may sound, there are enough fish for everyone! Despite such conditions, it is not uncommon for an angler to catch a few 20 or 30 pound salmon in a few hours of fishing. Throw in a mixed bag of steelhead and brown trout and it makes for a great outing. Just get there early to stake your claim and you’ll be fine. Even with the throng of humanity, you’ll have fun. You’ll find most fishermen there to be friendly and you’ll have some great camaraderie while on the water.
Before heading into Fisherman’s Park make it a point to read your syllabus. Most of Eighteen Mile Creek has some very strict regulations which are meant to limit foul hooking and make it a more sporting affair. The Park is heavily patrolled by DEC officers, so you are only tempting fate if you decide to ignore the laws and snag fish.
Between Fisherman’s Park and the lake there is almost no shore fishing as the creek is surrounded by steep cliffs. But, you’ll find plenty of access (and fish!) at the two piers which come out of Olcott Harbor. The mouth of the lake does not fall under the Eighteen Mile Creek regulations so you’ll be able to cast spoons and spinners, which can result in a mixed bag that includes the aforementioned salmonids as well as lake trout, whitefish, and the occasional trophy pike following these schools of fish.
When to fish
The salmon/trout fishing at Eighteen Mile Creek is great from early-fall right through the spring.
The fall months offer the most exciting fishing. The salmon and browns start moving up the creek in September. Pier casters typically hook into these fish as early as Labor Day and by the third week of September good numbers of fish can be found at Fisherman’s Park.
The fishing kicks into high gear in October and throughout that month Fisherman’s Park will be chock-full of gigantic chinook salmon. On certain days, following a good rain or a specific moon phase, the salmon runs are actually frightening as the creek will be loaded from bank to bank with brutish salmon breaking water and charging through the shallows. If this is what you’re after, you should definitely schedule your trip to the area during this month.
The Chinook fishing peters out around mid-November with some stragglers caught as late as December. This does not mean that the fishing goes downhill. It remains stellar as the chinook’s numbers are replaced by thousands of cohos that will linger through December and many more thousands of steelheads and browns that will call the creek home right through the winter and spring.
Eighteen Mile Creek’s steelhead fishery in one of the most impressive in the US. From November through April five-pound fish could be considered abundant and fifteen pound fish are not uncommon.
Thanks to the faster flows in Fisherman’s Park, it is rare for the water to develop a layer of ice. So, it is fishable all winter…a great way to beat cabin fever!
In early spring the fishing once again peaks, this time off the piers. In late-March and early-April there are days when the fishing can be absolutely astounding with a mixed bag of fish caught in good numbers.
Where to stay
There are quite a few cabins and lodges available for rent in the very quaint town of Newfane. But they can go fast, especially during the peak and during tournaments, so book early. For information about where to stay, visit the town of Newfane’s full-featured website at www.olcott-newfane.com
If you find that all rooms are taken, fear not. The city of Lockport is less than a half-hour away from Newfane and there are more than enough hotel rooms to go around. For info about lodging in Lockport visit the city’s official site: http://elockport.com
For more information
It’s always best to research the conditions at Eighteen Mile Creek. If you are curious about water levels or whether various runs have started or peaked, there are numerous venues of information available.
Bill Hilts, Jr, maintains the very informative toll-free Niagara County Fishing Hotline at 1-877-FALLS-US (ext. 4). Bill updates the hotline weekly, offering the most up-to-date reports and stories of fishing success.
Bill’s report, as well as those of many others, can also be found only at the very impressive Niagara area fishing website maintained by Mark Daul at www.outdoorsniagara.com
Make it a point to visit Eighteen Mile Creek sometime over the next six months. Upon doing so, you will discover why it is a world-renowned fishery.
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