Monday, September 12, 2016

Lewiston NY

I recently took a trip to New York with my buddy Gary. I have been to New York several times and when I hear “New York” I think of tall buildings, heavy traffic and the noise of city living. This time was different.

I was invited on a fishing trip to Lewiston, and I admit I had to check the map to see where it was. Lewiston is on the Lower Niagara River, nestled between Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario. Lake Erie flows into the Niagara River and after the infamous waterfall, it becomes the Lower Niagara River and then flows into Lake Ontario. The water way has an imaginary line down the center and one side is the US and the other side is Canada.

When I got to town, the tall buildings and noise were no where to be found. The area had a small town feel and it seemed to be a place where you could walk down the street and find all sorts of interesting shops and restaurants. In the center of town, we happened upon the annual Peach Festival which is an annual event that is quite popular with the locals. Many vendor booths, food carts and activities were going on, including the crowning of the Peach Queen. We missed all that as we had fishing on our minds but it seemed like a wonderful family event, complete with some carnival rides and funnel cakes.

We continued onto the Barton Hill Hotel, our home base for the next two days. The Hotel is a majestic looking structure that faces the river. When I drove into the cobble stone driveway, trees framed the entrance on both sides making it seem like you drove thru a tunnel to get to the front door. If I had to guess I would say the building was over 100 years old but, come to find out, it was just recently built, and intentionally made to look old. The rooms were huge and I must say, it was one of the nicest places I have ever stayed. 

 After we were settled, we walked the river front.  There was a nice walking path complete with sculptures, benches, a boat launch, a fish cleaning station, and many area’s to accommodate shore anglers.

The park the next morning
It was very clean and people were out and about walking their dogs, and enjoying the evening. It was after dark, the area was lighted nicely and I felt perfectly safe.  We stopped into a restaurant called the Water Street Landing.  Outdoor seating, a fire pit and live music made it very inviting. We had dinner and drinks and found the staff to be very friendly. It seemed like the crowd was mixed with locals and some tourists, such as ourselves.  After dinner we enjoyed a  short walk back to the hotel and called it a night. 

The next morning we walked back down to the river and met our guide at the boat landing. His name was Joe Marra from Niagara Rainbow Charter Service. He has been guiding on this river for over 20 years. I was happy to see his boat was a Lund and I couldn’t wait to get fishing. 

We headed down stream and started our first drift. We were fishing with a 3 way rig with a pencil type weight on a 4 inch dropper and a small red hook on a 24 inch leader. The bait was soft shell crayfish. The crayfish that shed their outer shell are softer hence the term soft shell. They are hooked thru the tail and float across the bottom. You can feel the weight bump off the rocks as it floats down stream. It didn’t take long for the first fish to hit. Nothing fights better than a Smallmouth Bass. The bite was very light and I found if you lowered your rod tip and let them take it for a bit, you could get hooked up. Most of the fish were hooked right in the corner of the mouth. The fish were plentiful and we caught fish on each drift we took. We even had doubles.
Wild Barb and the Shooter with a double

After fishing in the river for awhile, we went to the mouth of Lake Ontario and drifted the can line. More Smallmouth were caught on the big lake with a few sheepshead thrown in for good measure.

After several hours of catching bass, we decided to change things up and fish for salmon. We headed up river, passing by Lewiston where we launched and the destination was the Devils Hole. There is a state park named Devils Hole and  that was near that area of the river. As we rode upriver the current began to change, and the water boiled in a manner that I had never seen before. At one point, it looked as if the water was not level, like one area of water was six inches higher than another. It was the weirdest thing I have seen. Water swirled in all directions and you could feel the motor working harder to get thru the heavy current. On the right side of the river, there was a Canadian power plant. The huge cement building had water gushing out of the bottom. Right up the river, on the US side, another power plan was there also pushing huge amounts of water into the river. The discharge of both of those plants along with the current coming own from Niagara Falls caused massive swirls of current going in all directions and ever changing.  I felt nervous and noticed I was hanging on tightly to the handle on the side of the boat. 

Once past the power plants the river began to narrow some and we stopped and began to  drift for salmon. There was one stretch of the river that was common to fish and with the current it look less than 10 minutes to drift the whole thing. We fished with a 3 way swivel, a heavier weight and pulled a small spoon hoping for a salmon. I caught another smallie and the boat next to us caught a walleye. Gary saw a huge musky rolling and we saw shore anglers catching fish.  We didn’t see any salmon but it was a little early in the season for those to be in the area. After several drifts thru that area, we headed down stream to fish for a few more smallies before calling it quits. 

One thing I noticed all along the river was, good access for shore anglers. I found a Fishing & Outdoor Activities Map and saw that over 60 marked access points for shore fishing. The species listed that were available to catch in the river included, Bass, Chinook and Coho Salmon, Rainbow & Lake trout, Sturgeon, Walleye, Smelt, Musky, Crappie, Catfish, Perch, Pike and several other species. The map also marked hiking and off road biking trails. Information on guides, marinas, fishing clubs, and other points of interest. It is a really good map. Fishing remain opens all year long and the river in that area does not freeze. Captain Joe, said he guides year round and in the cold weather months, he and his customers wear cold water survival suits. 

Another interesting thing about Lewiston is the area Historic significance of the area. From the war of 1812 to the Freedom Crossing where the underground railroad helped slaves enter into Canada. The history is palpable, and what a great way to teach your kids, (or yourself) some of the history of our nation.
Freedom Crossing Monument

 The next day we went to Niagara Falls. If you have never been there, GO! It is absolutely incredible. It is even hard to describe the beauty and the power of the water. Many tourist attractions are available to get a up close look including the Maid of the Mist. The boat ride takes you below the falls, and the mist of the water falls on you. Rain ponchos are provided. Another option is the Cave of the Winds. This is a walking tour that starts with an elevator ride 175 deep into the gorge. Wood walking path allows you to walk along and see the view from underneath. Several other attractions are available and many shops and souvenir shops dot the area. 
Maid of the Mist

To wrap this up here is my suggestion. Grab the family, the fishing rods, and head over to the Lewiston/ Niagara area of New York. Between the great fishing, one of the great wonders of North America, and the history lesson right before your eyes, it would be a great vacation for anyone. I know I am going back. You can get more info, and one of the good fishing maps at You can also check them out on Facebook at

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