From the 07 April 2006 New York Outdoor News



By Bob Confer

You could swear youíre in some strange foreign land. Before you runs a turbulent river nearly a half-mile wide in places, exceeding speeds of 30 miles per hour and topping at 68 just below a majestic falls. You are surrounded by impressive cliffs in excess of 100 feet in height. Strange sea birds flitter about. Thereís not another human in sight. You are taken aback by the raw power and majesty of Mother Nature.

Is this the Amazon? The Nile? No, this natural wonder is the mighty Lower Niagara River, right here in Niagara County New York. It is nature at its rawest, but found amidst civilization, and accessible to all.



For the many landlocked anglers who donít own a boat, having access to prime fishing is often quite difficult. This is not the case with the Niagara River. Shore anglers have miles of access and they can be just as successful as boat anglers, what with fish swimming in every nook and cranny of the river.

In many cases with the Niagara shore anglers have the edge over boaters, especially in the Whirlpool and Devilís Hole area. No boat can traverse this stretch due to dangerous Class V and Class VI rapids. This is the most exciting area to fish in terms of both angling success and from a visual standpoint.

Not only is it beautiful and strange with its wild, churning waters, but the huge boulders and slower Ė but still fast - waters immediately near shore are teeming with fish. Access can be had by parking at either of the State Parks Ė Whirlpool or Devilís Hole Ė located just north of the City of Niagara Falls. It is a wonderful trip, hiking down an impressive staircase of more than 300 steps carved into the face of the gorge. At the base of the steps a footpath follows the river, and from that path you can access many impromptu paths that lead to angling hotspots. 

If the descent into and ascent out of the gorge is too physically demanding for you (which it is for many anglers), more relaxed fishing can be had further downstream thanks to the New York Power Authority. They maintain a fishing platform next to the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston. This platform is accessible by parking in the lot off of Hyde Park Boulevard and walking down a NYPA service road located off the lot. Of great benefit to all, this pier is handicap accessible and a wonderful place to take the kids. The only caveat is that you should bring a long-handled net to horse the fish up from far below.

More shore fishing can be had downstream at Artpark. This spacious fine arts facility and parkland located in the quaint village of Lewiston offers ample parking and footpaths that are relatively easy to traverse thanks to a considerably smaller and less dangerous gorge to navigate as compared to that in the Whirlpool area. The water here is much slower and easier to fish, so much so it affords one the chance to fly-fish.



The most important thing to remember when fishing the Niagara River is safety. Danger exists around every corner and the River must be respected.

It is strongly advised that when fishing in the Whirlpool and Devilís Hole a life vest is worn, even though you are shore fishing. One slip up will suck you into the river and you have a slim chance of coming out in one piece due to the rapids, boulders, and roily waters. It is also advised that young children wear a PFD when fishing from the NYPA pier in the event of a worst-case scenario of them falling off the pier.

Hyrdopower operations on both sides of the border also make the river considerably dangerous. The electrical generation facilities transfer massive volumes of water early in the morning and by 8:00 AM the water starts rising quite rapidly in the river. The narrow section of the river around Devilís Hole may rise by over seven feet, and anyone not paying attention will get stranded on a boulder or, worse yet, pulled into the river.

The wider areas by Lewiston are less dangerous as the water will rise by maybe a foot or two, but this can still prove problematic for those wading in this slower stretch. This raising and lowering of water levels also creates slipping hazards, as exposed rocks will become iced-over in the winter and will offer up greasy algae in the summer. Watch your step!



The Lower Niagara River is as a world-class fishing destination, and is arguably the greatest freshwater fishing locale in North America. It offers phenomenal trophy fishing every month of the year.

For those not keen on hardwater fishing, the free-flowing Niagara boast of open water all winter long, no matter how harsh the weather. A winter excursion has the potential to net you rainbow and lake trout. Though the angling is not as fast and furious as it is in other times of the year due to the fishesí decreased metabolisms, itís still relatively solid and a great way to beat Cabin Fever.

Fishing for these two species Ė especially lakers Ė really picks up in the spring. In April and even into May, lakers could be considered abundant in the Artpark area and can be caught with ease on spinners or white jigs. Despite the common belief, lakers are great fighters and become even more so in the fast water.

As the waters warm up in late-spring and summer the lakers head to deeper waters or into Lake Ontario and the angling for them is replaced by warm water fishing. Smallmouth bass and panfish can be caught in abundance, with the Whirlpool/Devilís Hole area being your best bet for bronzebacks. Naturally a hard fighter, the rapids will make these muscular beasts truly taxing on your forearms. As an added benefit, you may latch into the occasional walleye as the population of this tasty fish has grown rapidly in the Lower Niagara in recent years. Donít rule out the occasional salmonid either, as the water is still cool enough for smaller trout and salmon to be caught from shore.

The fall months are really when shore fishing reaches its peak in the Niagara. Thousands of trout, king salmon, and coho salmon head into the river in wasted effort to spawn. Fishing for these giants can be fast as they are quite abundant and are willing takers of spoons, spinners, and spawn. Fishing in the fall can be quite tiring, tooÖyouíll be fighting the current and scrapping with 20-pound salmon. Realize that fish over 30 pounds are not uncommon, so heavy tackle is a must!

The Lower Niagara River has something for everyone. Great scenery. Great fishing. Itís just a great place to be! For more information about the mighty Niagara contact Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation through their website: