Keys For Catching Niagara and St. Lawrence River Muskies
The Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers rank among the world’s top musky flows for guided muskie fishing trips. Evidence of that fact lies in the long history both rivers have for producing numbers of muskies and big muskies, at that.
In recent years, though, the Niagara and St. Lawrence have not produced the numbers of musky they rivers once did. Likely causes of this decline are shoreline development in spawning areas, loss of quality nursery habitat, VHS, and angling pressure.
Despite the drop in muskie numbers, the rivers maintain their world-class status and continue to produce huge muskies year after year as evidenced by the 60-inch monster caught and released by Dan Polniak.
Go with a Guide
Polniak hooked his giant muskie while enjoying a guided muskie fishing trip with Captain Rich Clarke of Sign Man Charters out of Clayton, NY, and going with an experienced musky guide will likely increase your odds of catching a musky by 10-fold if not 20-fold or more. Niagara and St. Lawrence River guides have the know-how for catching muskies, and the guides will utilize time-proven techniques in time-proven locations to help you catch a musky.
Even A Guided Muskie Fishing Trip Isn’t a Sure Thing
Still, going with a guide is no guarantee that you’ll hook into a muskie because fish-less outings are a reality for all who pursue the king of freshwater fish. Guided trips, though, do guarantee that you’ll learn a lot about musky fishing techniques and that this knowledge will benefit you on future outings.
For example, when I first developed an interest in muskies, two friends and I spent two days fishing with a guide on Ontario’s Rideau River. That experience provided me with the knowledge and confidence to return to my home water, the St. Lawrence River, where I began hooking up with musky.
What To Do Once You Land Your Muskie
Another benefit of using a guide is learning how to handle these big fish once they get to boat-side. A strong catch-and-release ethic dominates modern muskie circles, and there is no better way to learn how to successfully handle and release a musky than witnessing an experienced guide do just that.
In addition to increasing your odds of catching a muskie, learning how-to musky fishing techniques, and learning how to properly handle muskies, a guided muskie fishing trip means the opportunity to catch a BIG fish. If you look at the various media for big musky photos each year, you will likely see a smiling angler alongside guides such as Larry Jones of Buffalo Harbor, Frank Campbell of the Niagara River, Myrle Bauer or Richie Clarke of Clayton, and Don Lucas of Massena.
Fish a Known Hotspot
While musky swim anywhere in the combined 150-plus miles of the Niagara River and St. Lawrence River, the majority of catches occur in certain locations. Thus, another key to catching musky is to fish an area that has a reputation as good muskie water, a lesson I learned from while on a guided muskie fishing trip with Al Russell, legendary St. Lawrence River musky angler.
Northern Pike Vs Musky Fishing
In my early days of dealing with “muskie fever,” my efforts were producing more northern pike than muskies. When I went to Russell for advice, he said, “Don’t waste your time going all over the river. Instead, spend your time in the traditional musky areas—Sandbar at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River at Ogdensburg and the shoals near the Ogdensburg International Bridge.” Upon heeding Russell’s advice, my musky catches increased dramatically, and your catches will improve too if you concentrate your efforts in the following areas.
Musky Fishing on Buffalo Harbor
When fishing Buffalo Harbor, concentrate along the various breakwalls. If wind conditions allow, check out the Lake Erie shoals in front of the harbor and at the Dumping Ground. In the Upper Niagara River, work the waters around and between Beaver Island and Strawberry Island as well as the waters between the two islands and the Fort Erie, Ontario shoreline. Weed-edges can be particularly productive.
Lower Niagara River
Musky areas in the Lower Niagara are less defined than those in the upper river, but good bets are the points, eddies, and current edges along the drifts from Lewistown, NY or Queenston, Ontario to the river’s mouth. Be advised, though, that an Ontario (Canadian) license is required when fishing the Ontario waters of the Niagara River.
St. Lawrence River
Among the traditional trolling areas along the St. Lawrence River are Hinckley Flats Shoal, Featherbed Shoal, and Carleton Island out of Cape Vincent; Round Island to Reed Point, Black Ant Shoals, and Forty Acre Shoals out of Clayton; American Island out of Morristown; Sandbar at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River and International Bridge Shoals out of Ogdensburg; and Hawkins Point and Robinson Bay out of Massena.
Since good muskie spots are not well-kept secrets along the St. Lawrence River, a visit or phone call to any bait shop should steer you in the right direction about where to fish. Like the Niagara River, an Ontario license is required when fishing Canadian ports of the St. Lawrence River.
In addition to advising me to troll in known muskie areas, Al Russell said, “You have to be patient and persistent to catch muskies.” Veteran muskie anglers know the wisdom in this advice as there are no guarantees of a hookup on any muskie outing or even a string of outings. Still, an angler who fishes a traditional musky location along the Niagara or St. Lawrence River and who is persistent in his or her efforts will catch muskellunge, especially if that angler utilizes an experts knowledge on a guided muskie fishing trip.
Original Article By Mike Seymour
About The Author
Captain Mike Seymour is a licensed Coast Guard Captain and NYS guide who has guided extensively on the St. Lawrence River, Black Lake, and western Alaska. He is a member and former president of the New York State Outdoor Writers’ Association and is an active writer for several publications. In addition to fishing the St. Lawrence River, he is actively fishing Lake Ontario, the Adirondacks, and the other waters of the state. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.