Buffalo NY Fishing Report – Observations from 12/18/2023 – 01/07/2024
Here’s our latest Buffalo NY fishing report: It’s been a few weeks, my friends – I hope everyone got a chance to enjoy themselves with friends and family through the holidays. I certainly did – from partying to relaxing to a little bit of fishing, I closed out 2023 feeling strong and looking forward to 2024. With the holidays in the rearview, it’s time to get back in the rhythm. This report, as well as those that will follow for the next couple months, will be a little different from what I usually put out every week. Keep reading for more details.
Days on the Water: 6
Who we fished with: friends/clients
Where we fished: Lake Erie, Lower Niagara, Lake Ontario
What we caught: lake trout, steelhead, brown trout, smallmouth bass, walleye
Tactics: 3-way rig with live bait, beads, or plugs; drop shots, bucktail jigs, swimbaits
Episode 73 of Two Angles on Angling: After taking the last couple of weeks off due to the holidays and generally poor fishing conditions, Jordan and I are back to discuss what we’ve seen both on the water and off. Much has changed around the Buffalo Niagara Region so there’s a lot to talk about. We recorded from the road while recon’ing the fishery to provide a report of current conditions. We get deep about travel plans for 2024 – how/why we decided on the locations we plan to visit and what goes into the planning process. https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/two-angles-on-angling
Detailed Reporting/Daily Observations
12/21/2023 – I wasn’t booked but when I looked at the forecast the evening prior, conditions looked too good to spend the day inside. It had been awhile since my last day on Lake Erie, so I called my buddy Ryan to see if he was down for a Lake Erie bucktail session. He was.
When we linked up at the harbor in the morning, the wind was far bigger than forecasted. It was a particularly hard NE wind that had us drifting FAST in 2-3’ waves. Although both of us were elated that I just installed new Wavepro seats (Wavepro, LLC – Boat Seat Pedestal, Shock Absorbing (waveproshock.com)), the smooth ride out and back did nothing to slow down our drift speed when we got to fishing. We picked away for awhile and decided to call it early. (yes, that’s a steelhead he’s holding – a random bycatch off a rockpile a ways off shore. I’ve boated more than a handful of steelhead in the Buffalo safe harbor, but this was a first in open water.)
12/22/2023 – Fished the Lower Niagara with my new client/friend Ron. Catch rates were decent – good enough to keep us entertained. However, the conversation was the best part of the day. It’s not often that I get a single client/lone angler. It’s even more rare that I get lone angler who can carry a conversation all day. As a psychologist for over 30 years, that was definitely NOT a problem for Ron. Awesome day…and I’m now a fan of Goose and Dead and Company thanks to him.
12/23/2023 – Fished Lake Erie with Andrew, his son Jet, and his nephew Bray. Andrew and his son are from South Dakota and were in town visiting Andrew’s sister, who moved here awhile ago. Andrew owns a hunting and fishing lodge back home and spends much of the winter hard water fishing. That gave me confidence that they’d be successful (and enjoy) bass fishing Lake Erie in December.
Conditions were less than optimal. Temperatures were in the low 40s, barely any wind, and on-and-off drizzle all day. Still, with a little help from a small space heater and some competition between anglers, morale remained high throughout the day.
12/24/2023 – Fished Lake Erie with Nate, Colt, and Liam. Initially, Nate didn’t know if he could make it out with the boys. His family hosts a big Christmas Eve party and his wife (Jen), needed help setting up. However, she decided it’d be easier if everyone was out of the house while she prepped.
It had been months since I had my bro and his boys on the boat and the conditions were good. Temps were in the upper 40s/low 50s, no wind, and partly cloudy skies. Those are perfect conditions for slow trolling/bottom bouncing (which is great for kids). Colt was already familiar with the technique having employed it over 2 days in North Dakota. He connected quickly and stayed on them for hours. Liam, with Nate’s help, did the same.
12/29/2023 – Fished the Lower Niagara with Randy and his boys. They fished the Lower a few years ago from the bank during the peak of the lake trout run. This time, they wanted to cover some water and see what else the lower had to offer. It was a decent day from the bar to Devils Hole.
Water clarity downstream of the hole was poor due to a ton of rain that hit the region in the days leading up to our trip. Plus, big W winds had the current ripping from Artpark down to the bar. Still, we boated fish at entertaining numbers – particularly in Devils Hole where the water clarity was perfect.
01/07/2024 – Fished Lake Erie with Jordan. JDO Lure Co bucktails are what we offered. They received it them with enthusiam. Consistent action across a 4 hour period. Nothing huge, so we didn’t take many photos but 10 minutes never passed without a bent rod.
Seasonal Assessment/General Observations
On the Conditions
As you can see from the day-to-day reporting above, I haven’t spent a lot of time on the water lately, so I feal ill equipped to provide an assessment of things with confidence. I will, however, provide the following observations:
- The smallmouth bass bite on Lake Erie is very good right now…if you know where to find them. Unfortunately, many folks know where to find them, so if you’re looking for solitude, that ain’t gonna do it for you. If you decide to make it out there, say hi to all the Canadians fishing U.S. water for me. Bring bucktails or swimbaits – in white.
- The Lake Ontario bar ain’t what it was back in the fall. Sure, you can still catch lake trout, browns, and maybe even the occasional king out there, but don’t expect to have a wild day. Size and numbers are FAR LOWER than what we were spoiled with about a month ago. Much of the bait has moved on as evidenced by few birds and even less surface activity.
- The transition to minnows (I’ve been using emeralds lately but small goldens will work just as well) is complete. I’m sure beads and bags will produce something, but minnows are your ticket for size and numbers. Match the hatch for the greatest likelihood of success.
I want to say more, but I need more days on the water. OK, one more note – remember back in November when I was hesitant to speculate about the steelhead run on the Lower Niagara? We had some banger days with great numbers and I was “optimistic” about this year’s run. Let’s just say I’m not so optimistic anymore…but I need more time on the water to solidify my position. To be continued.
The water temperature flowing out of Lake Erie is 41 degrees as of this writing (1/7/2024). It’s only been that warm a couple of times since we’ve been recording water temperatures (1920s). Although that doesn’t bode well for ice fishing around here, it means Lake Erie will be open and productive for a little while longer. However, ice brings stability to the region by preventing a source of moisture for lake effect snow. It also prevents water-clarity-wrecking waves from forming. Until/unless we get locked into more than a couple weeks of frigid temperatures, ice ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.
On a Personal Level
Some Thoughts on Winter Fishing
Throughout the fall, I mentioned to many of my clients that I didn’t plan on guiding much this winter. Don’t get me wrong, I love the beauty, solitude, and silence characteristic only to this time of year. However, after guiding over the past 7 winters, I’m not sure it’s worth it to try to pack my calendar. Low catch rates, damage to the boat and trailer, difficulty in the general upkeep of equipment, a dearth of folks willing or able to don winter clothing and expose themselves to the cold, etc. got me thinking I should winterize the boat after the holidays and put it in storage through early March. Well, I’m not going to go that far…but close.
I am going to become a fair-weather angler for the winter. By fair-weather I mean at least 2 of these factors must be in place for me to fish between now and early March:
- Winds less than 10kts
- No precipitation
- Water clarity at least 3’ of visibility
- Daytime high over 30 degrees
- Bluebird skies or minimally cloudy – the sun has to be out
Yeah, yeah, yeah – I can hear the hardcore anglers saying it now, “You’re a b**ch bro.” I get it – I’ll take the lumps. Think of it from my position through – I’m running a business, and that business IS NOT DESIGNED to make folks miserable. If catch rates are high (I’ll define “high” in another report), I will endure anything that’s safe. When they’re not (meaning, there aren’t a lot of fish around), enduring any or all the above is akin to torture – or paying me to be tortured. I’m not, at all, good with that.
With the Long Game in Mind – Some Changes in Pattern of Life
I’m not saying that I’m done fishing in the winter. What I am saying is that I’m going to be far more selective about when I go out and with whom. This change in the way I operate my business will also affect what I do in my personal life – particularly, when I go on vacation. Winters will now include more vacation time (this winter will be no exception – Okeechobee (largemouth bass), Miami (tarpon), and Guyana are already on the docket. In turn, my summers will involve more guiding and less vacations (maybe…probably…unless I do more than a handful of doubles).
Winter will also be a time for me to rest and refit – lots of reading, lots of exercise, lots of sleep, and plenty of time to see health care professionals for preventative types of things. All with the focus on longevity/being able to work my ass off the other 3 seasons. If you think about it, it’s kinda like what all the other mammals do that live around here – a sustainable pattern that’s existed since mammals have walked this clime and place.
Buffalo NY Fishing Report – Forecast for 01/08/2024 – 01/14/2024
The forecast for this upcoming week looks like…winter. Better yet, chaos – which is what the weather often is this time of year here in the Buffalo Niagara Region. Monday looks excellent but beyond that, if the forecast holds, expect to see a significant amount of snow, rain, plenty of BIG wind days, some unseasonable warmth, and below freezing temperatures – a wild week to say the least. Thankfully, the forecast is often WAY OFF this time of year beyond a couple of days. Fingers crossed it doesn’t unfold as predicted.
The plan is to fish Monday. After that, I have some preventative medical stuff to attend to (more on that in next week’s update) as well as some maintenance on the boat. If the forecast allows for it, I’ll get back on the water at the end of the week.
On a different note, I know it seems like it’s far away (and it kinda is since we’re not even 3 weeks into winter), but spring will be here before you know it. I sold a lot of gift certificates over the holidays and many folks had the foresight/ability to book a spring trip over the past couple of weeks. In other words, my spring calendar is already packed. If you want to experience spring insanity, please get in touch with me ASAP. If you’re new to this newsletter, tap this link to see what the spring is all about: Spring Fishing In Buffalo Niagara At Its Finest – Brookdog Fishing Co
Stay healthy my friends – mentally and physically,
P.S. – Every year around this time, I update the photos on my website with fish/clients from the previous year. Why? If you’ve spent any time scrolling through my site, there’s plenty of amazing photos (not bragging, I’ve had great clients who’ve caught some beauties). Still, keeping it fresh is important to me.
As someone who books guides around the country, if I visit a website with new photos (you can tell), it’s a signal to me that person/company cares about their “virtual storefront” and appreciates keeping it relevant. Plus, it also shows that year after year, our fishery continues to produce trophies and with a little bit of help, folks of all experience levels can land one for themselves. Take a look – you might find out you’re on the trophy board.