“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it New York, New York!” Okay, I realize that Frank Sinatra probably didn’t have wild turkey, steelhead, and smallmouth bass in mind when he sang that. But nevertheless, that song was in my head as I left Chicago towards Western New York for a recent outdoor writers event. Organized by the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers and Niagara Tourism, this trip offered us opportunities to hunt wild turkey and fish some amazing bodies of water. As I quickly discovered, the Niagara Falls region is undoubtedly a must-visit destination for sportsmen.
Lewiston, New York was “home-base” for the trip. Located on the majestic Niagara River, this quaint community had friendly people, amazing history, and a quiet downtown shopping district. Our turkey hunting took place south of Buffalo, in the rolling hills about 20 miles from Lake Erie. With large tracts of timber, open grass meadows interspersed between cornfields, the hunting terrain was not much different than Illinois. With only two days to hunt, we had our work cut out. The early spring severely impacted the turkey behavior. Since birds starting gobbling and chasing early, our hunt was near the end of the mating season presenting a much more challenging hunt. The birds were not very vocal, so locating them was extremely difficult. I saw some giant toms but never filled my tag. I figure they will be there next year when I go back.
A FISHERMAN’S DREAM
The Niagara Falls region is without a doubt a fisherman’s dream. Three bodies of water — Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the Niagara River offer a variety of species including walleye, smallmouth bass, salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, lake trout, panfish and catfish. Did I miss anything? Our group did fantastic on the salmon, boating several 18-pound-plus Kings. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to fish the big lakes, I fished the lower Niagara River several miles below Niagara Falls. Fishing a three-way rig, we drift-fished bouncing a one-ounce weight along the bottom with a five foot trailer line baited with emerald shiners. Our technique was to drift about a quarter mile, then fire up the motor and boat back up river and start the drift again. Pass after pass we hooked into 3 and 4-pound smallmouth and 5-10-pound steelhead. On our last afternoon, my buddy Don Dziedzina hooked into something big. With the drag screaming and line peeling off the reel, we fired up the motor and chased it down river. After one heck of a fight, we boated a giant 18-pound lake trout.
The Niagara River is unlike any water I have ever fished before. The water is a beautiful bluish-green very similar to Lake Michigan, and crystal-clear due to a granite rock bottom. Combined with vertical solid rock walls that confine the river, the scenery is simply spectacular. It’s pretty cool to drift down a river with Canada on one side and the Unites States on the other.
For those that remember the smelt fishing phenomenon in Chicago in the early 80’s this is your chance to step back in time. The smelt are usually running at the end of April and the city of Lewiston hosts a fantastic Smelt Festival.
The Niagara region is not just for hunters and fishermen. History buffs will enjoy Old Fort Niagara. Built by the French in 1726, the Fort overlooks Lake Ontario at the entrance to the Niagara River. With some of the oldest buildings in the region, this “living history” attraction is complete with actors and tour guides that offer a glimpse of life during the 1800’s.
For more information or to book a trip to this incredible region, start by visiting
And for exceptional food and lodging, be sure to visit the Barton Hill Hotel and Spa.
For more information and photos, visit the photo gallery on www.DanStefOutdoors.com!