Blogs > Oneida Outdoors

An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

OUTDOORS: Niagara fishing hot, even in winter

Snow flurries occasionally fill the air as the anglers in the boat turn up their collars and pull their hats down to protect against the chill of the winter breeze. Bundled up in warm clothing and personal flotation devices, the fishermen concentrate not on the weather but watching their rod tips as the boat drifts along the dark current. Suddenly the rod tip plunges down; the angler sets the hook, and gives a cry of joy. With rod tip held high and the reel screaming as line strips out, the angler knows that he is in for an exciting fight while battling a powerful fish in the strong flow of the river current.

While many anglers are aware of the fantastic fishing that the Niagara Region offers, not all are aware that there is great fishing to be had even in the dead of winter. But scenes like the one described above are fairly common along the lower Niagara River in the Lewiston area when the wind and snow are not too nasty. However, even if the weather is a bit cold, lots of anglers feel it is a small price to pay for fishing this hot.

The lower Niagara River from the Devils Hole down to the Niagara Bar is a hot spot for fishing in winter for steelhead and brown and lake trout. The area around the Artpark down to Lewiston is a popular drift with charter captains and skilled anglers who know the river and have the proper equipment and boat.

Drifting this area and fishing with Kwikfish, egg sacks or minnows is a proven method of getting into action with the trout mentioned above. Most of them will probably average 8 – 12 pounds and when you combine a fighting fish this size with the strength of the current you are in for excitement. Of course many larger fish between 15-20 pounds are also taken in each of the three species.

When I was fishing the lower river earlier this fall with Capt. Ernie Calandrelli, one of our anglers was less than enthusiastic about the prospects of catching lake trout. Ernie just smiled and said wait and see. After hooking his first laker, an 11-pound fish, Frank had all he could handle and changed his opinion of lake trout.

Some people think that lake trout do not put up much of a fight. But that usually comes from their experience of catching them on heavy duty salmon rigs and winching them up from the depths of over 200 feet in Lake Ontario. In addition to the heavy tackle, these fish usually have the “bends” and are unable to put up much fight. By contrast, when caught on lighter tackle in shallow water, especially the current of the Niagara River, they put up a spectacular fight.

On a side note, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that these lake trout spawn in the Niagara River. This is the first instance in New York State and only the third location in the U.S.

Steelhead are always exciting and the large size of these acrobatic fish only adds to the thrill and fun. It is possible to fish from shore in this area, but anglers should use extreme caution because of slippery conditions.

After reading a story that I had earlier about the lower Niagara River, Bud Sheedy was kidding me to keep it a secret since he enjoyed fishing there. Matt White just laughed and said that this fantastic fishing was hardly a secret, as he prepared for another trip out there. An article by Doyle Dietz on fishing this area in winter appears in the current issue of Lake Ontario Outdoors.

For more information on fishing the lower Niagara or the Niagara Bar contact Ernie Calandrelli ( or 716-523-0013), Dan Evans ( or 716-863-0018), or Frank Campbell ( or 716-284-8546). All of these are great guides with lots of experience to make your outing a special one.
But fishing isn’t the only fun you can experience in Niagara County during the winter season. Despite popular belief, Niagara Falls does not freeze. The water still flows over the brink at a rate of 600,000 gallons per second. Several portions of the park are open in winter and you can watch the Falls illuminated at 5 p.m. every evening.

The Niagara Falls Culinary Institute offers a state of the art demonstration kitchen, a fine dining restaurant, a N.Y. style deli, a Barnes and Noble culinary themed store and more. An aquarium, several art museums, N.Y. Power Authority Discovery Center, and other attractions beckon in all kinds of weather. For complete information on attractions, accommodations, and more contact the Visitors Center at or call 1-877-FALLS US.

But above all you can enjoy a very different and exciting fishing experience for steelhead and brown and lake trout. Even in the heart of winter Niagara fishing is hot!

Short Casts

Unsafe Ice: The recent warm weather and rising water levels have made the thin ice even more unsafe. Anglers, snowmobilers, and others are all urged to stay off the ice. Most places did not have safe ice, but even those few that did probably are unsafe now.

VNSP Winter Schedule: Vernon National Shooting Preserve still has openings in the Five Stand League on Tuesday evenings or Sunday mornings. Tuesday night is steak night and Sunday morning is pancake breakfast. They are also open Wednesdays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, subject to weather conditions. Call 315-982-7045 or contact for more information.

Outdoor Show Trip: The Chittenango Rod and Gun club will sponsor a bus trip to Harrisburg, Pa. to visit the giant Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show on February 9. This is the biggest sports show in the Northeast and has an incredible number of attractions, seminars and special guests. The bus will leave Shoppingtown Mall at 5 a.m. and return at 10 p.m. Cost of $60 includes bus, refreshments and ticket to the show. Make reservations with Bruce Bream at 439-0260.

New York Sportsman’s Expo: The N.Y. Sportsman’s Expo returns to the State Fairgrounds on January 25-27 with double the size of last year’s successful show. A wide variety of fishing charters, outfitters, manufacturers, sportsmen’s organizations and retailers will be on hand. There will be a full schedule of seminars, exhibits to appeal to every type of outdoorsmen and special attractions such as the Realtree Reunion of outdoor TV personalities, calling contests, casting pools and the popular dock dogs. Hours are Friday 12-9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check out for more details.

CNY Sportsmans Show: Save the date of Feb. 3 for the always popular Central NY Sportsmans Show. There will be the usual mix of tackle vendors, conservation groups, guides and exhibitors. You will have the chance to meet and talk with expert hunters and fishermen such as Jim Massett, the Salerno Brothers, Todd Mead, Bob Dick, Jay Peck and others. Among the new attractions this year will be Feather Art Studio with well known artist Deb Brosen and wildlife photography by Angie Berchielli. Youngsters can also sign up for the special youth turkey hunt with an ECO, as well as the ever popular exhibit by the Utica Zoo. The new lineup of seminars will be publicized in the next few weeks.

Adirondack Exposure Hits Florida: Scott Locorini, owner of Adirondack Exposure, will be offering a variety of kayaking adventures in Florida this winter. Some of the trips through the Everglades involve camping while others like Cedar Key are based in motels. For the complete list check or call 315-335-1681, but hurry because only a few spots remain.
Crossbow Coalition: The Crossbow Coalition is actively working to gather support for the NYS Legislature to pass a bill that would allow the use of crossbows during the regular archery season. They are available to come and give a presentation to any organization that is interested in learning more about the issues. Contact Rick McDermott at 315-822-1540 for more information.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Enjoy wildlife in your backyard by feeding birds

Throughout the day we enjoy the sight of beautiful crimson cardinals, azure blue jays and goldfinches or chickadees fluttering around the backyard. Usually they are just a few feet away, on the other side of our windows or the nearby birch trees. Many people in the area enjoy the same sights, if they provide the types of food birds need to sustain themselves in cold weather.

Surveys consistently show that bird watching, including feeding the birds in your yard, ranks among the most popular of outdoor-related activities. Especially popular in winter, bird feeders draw birds to food located close to windows or patios where birds can be seen and enjoyed.

There are many kinds of bird feeders and many kinds of foods that go into those feeders. In order to maximize the numbers and kinds of birds that are attracted to your backyard, it is best to place feeders in all the feeding niches: ground level, eye level, tree hanging and tree trunk. If you have many birds in your backyard, you will find it necessary to have several feeders to accommodate the different types of birds and the food they prefer.

Forest birds such as chickadees, titmice, finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers are used to clinging to limbs. Thus, tube and wooden feeders, as well as suet cages, work well for them.

Cardinals and blue jays usually live on the edges of forests or in mixed habitats and are used to feeding on the ground. They will frequent feeders both in the trees or on the ground. Juncos, sparrows and mourning doves often feed on the ground and will commonly visit food spread on the ground when it is not covered with snow.

Cardinals prefer sunflower seeds but will generally feed only at feeders that have flat footing for them. That means cardinals will eat from a tray feeder or a hopper feeder that has an edge wide enough for them to get good footing. Cardinals cannot hold on to small perches such as those used on most hanging feeders.

Black-capped chickadees, on the other hand, prefer to eat sunflower seeds from feeders with tiny perches. They will even hang upside-down on any kind of perch, wire or bag feeder. Woodpeckers eat suet from laminated cage-type feeders that hang on tree trunks.

Some other common birds attracted to feeders — and their preferred foods and niches — are: juncos (wild birdseed mix; ground level), goldfinches (hulled sunflower and nyger seed; tree hanging), blue jays (sunflower and peanuts; eye level), house finches (hulled sunflower and safflower; tree hanging), mourning doves (seed mix, hulled sunflower; ground level), and nuthatches or woodpeckers (sunflower and suet; eye level and tree trunk).

Birds also require cover where they can hide from predators, like hawks, and find protection from the elements. If your backyard is near cover or has adequate trees and shrubs, then you will probably get a lot of birds. But if it is relatively open you can temporarily create cover by gathering some Christmas trees that will be discarded this weekend.

You can tie tops of trees together to create a tepee-like shelter that will protect ground-feeding birds. However, you need to be careful that these do not provide shelter for the neighbor’s cat to go dining al fresco.
A metal stake driven into the ground will support a discarded Christmas tree and create inviting cover near your feeders. Put up several to attract the birds and create a windbreak for your feeder.

Many people have a problem with nuisance squirrels eating much of the seed or driving birds away. There are baffles and other devices, but most squirrels are incredibly resourceful in foiling these attempts to keep them away. Another alternative is to get corn on the cob and secure this at different places where the squirrels can feed conveniently. This often keeps the furry little pests busy and they will be less likely to hit the bird feeders.

If you intend to develop a bird feeding station now is the time to start it, if you haven’t already done so. In addition to the recent snow cover, many of the natural feeds have been depleted so birds will be attracted to a site where there is food and cover. It is also important to continue the feeding program until spring because many of the birds will become dependent on a regular food supply.

Short Casts

New York Sportsman’s Expo: The NY Sportsman’s Expo returns to the State Fairgrounds on January 25-27 with double the size of last year’s successful show. The commitment of Wight-Ox productions to a pure outdoor show has paid off with an increased lineup of vendors and exhibitors. There will be a full schedule of seminars, exhibits to appeal to every type of outdoorsmen and special attractions such as the Realtree Reunion of TV personalities, calling contests, casting pools, and the popular dock dogs. Check out for more details.

Snowmobile app: Oswego County has a new, free trail app available for Android phones and iPhones. The interactive web map makes it easy to map your trip, zoom in on a trail section and locate lodging and dining establishments, dealers and much more.

Fishing report: The recent cold weather and snow has hampered steelhead fishing. Most days there has been slush ice on the lower Salmon River and the drop in temperature has slowed the action. Most anglers have been taking fish later in the day in the deep pools between Pineville and Altmar.

Ice fishing is non-existent at this time since there is no safe ice on traditionally popular spots like Oneida Lake or Sandy Pond. Even though there are colder temperatures in the forecast, the snow on top of the thin ice will slow the formation of thicker ice. Be safe and stay away. Check for ice conditions and fishing reports when safe ice starts to form.

The Wild Life: The Old Forge area has lots of snow and is bustling with activity for snowmobiling, downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. But there is another activity for outdoorsmen or anyone who appreciates art. The View art center is hosting a Wild Life Exhibition of painting, sculpture and photography. Among the nationally known photographers on display will be Eric Dresser, Jeannette Fournier, Bob Ripley and J.C. Parker. Also, from now through April 28 will be the photography of Don Andrews. Concurrently the Artventures of Tom Yacovella will show his creative sculptures, paintings and other prize winning art of the outdoor world through January 13 . January 19 through February 24 will feature the paintings of Michael Ringer. Call 369-6411 or see for more information.

Outdoor show trip: Again this year the Fayetteville Rod and Gun club will sponsor a bus trip to Harrisburg, Pa. to visit the giant Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show on February 9. The bus will leave Fayetteville Mall at 5 a.m. and return at 10 p.m. The trip costs $60 and includes bus, refreshments and a ticket to the show. Make reservations with Bruce Berean at 439-0260.
CNY Sportsmans Show: Save the date of February 2 for the always popular Central New York Sportsmans Show. There will be a mix of tackle vendors, conservation groups, guides and exhibitors. You will have the chance to meet and talk with expert deer and turkey hunters like Jim Massett and Shawn Fox, in addition to well-known anglers like Jay Peck. The new lineup of attractions and seminars will be publicized in the next few weeks.