Lake Ontario’s Amazing Fishery
By: Mark Romanack
When it comes to consistently excellent Great Lakes trolling action for chinook salmon, coho salmon, lake trout, brown trout and steelhead, only one of the Great Lakes continues to offer anglers the most for their money. Because Lake Ontario is the last lake in the chain of Great Lakes, critically important nutrients pour into this fishery. In layman terms, Lake Ontario is a fertile body of water that supports not only abundant amount of forage fish, it can also support staggering numbers of game fish.
In the fall of the year, countless brown trout, lake trout and steelhead converge on the Niagara River where they find abundant forage and near perfect spawning habitat. The Niagara River is one of the few places in the Great Lakes where anglers can target brown trout in their full spawning colors.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation works diligently with local fishing clubs, tourism bureaus and the media to insure a robust fishery is maintained through carefully planned stocking efforts and also management efforts. Lake Ontario also enjoys some noteworthy natural reproduction, that augments the fishery.
A YEAR AROUND FISHERY
Not only is the fishing on Lake Ontario excellent, anglers can pretty much count on great fishing at any time of year. Brown trout and lake trout dominate the catch in late March and throughout April. In May and June, a mixed bag of chinook salmon, coho salmon, browns and lakers rewards visiting anglers.
During July and August chinook salmon are the big draw, but steelhead and coho salmon also contribute to this summer fishery. In September, chinook salmon start to stage at river mouths, creating world class fishing for adult class fish. Brown trout and steelhead also start to converge on the rivers, where they will follow the salmon to feed on their eggs.
In the months of October, November and December, countless fish can be found in tributary streams. The lower Niagara River, near the town of Lewiston, New York has become world famous among anglers who covet rod in hand tactics for landing steelhead, brown trout and lakers.
Local guide Matt Yablonsky, Wet Net Charters, holds a typical steelhead for the Niagara River. From October all the way to May, steelhead like this can be caught in the river using rod in hand fishing tactics.
January, February and March finds many of these same fish sticking it out in the Niagara River where they find abundant populations of emerald shiners to keep them well fed. The winter trout and steelhead fishery on the Niagara River is not rivaled anywhere else in the Great Lakes.
For those anglers who consider the smallmouth bass to be the king of sport fish, the shoreline of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River amount to utopia. Smallmouth grow fat on a steady diet that includes a smorgasbord of round goby, emerald shiners, alewife, gizzard shad and crayfish. The months of April through December rank as peak times for catching not only numbers of smallmouth, but trophy class fish as well.
SUMMING IT UP
From the perspective of an angler who has visited Lake Ontario dozens of times in recent years, it’s hard to image why anyone would fish anywhere else. While it could be argued that Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario have their days, these fisheries simply can’t hold a candle to the consistently excellent fishing Lake Ontario delivers day in and day out.