I can only speak for myself, but March felt like the longest month ever here in Buffalo Niagara. Very high highs and very low lows. The following article is by no means a knock on our fishery. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a place in the U.S. that fishes better than the Buffalo Niagara region during the month of March. Considering that we are spoiled in that regard, I will tread lightly. However, I think it’s a fun exercise to relate to whomever wants to read this what the past 31 days has been like. It’s been an emotional journey that, because of the numerous challenges we experienced, ultimately made us better anglers.
You Know it’s March When…
To make this somewhat easy to read, I am going to divide my observations of the longest month ever into a few parts. Part 1 will address the weather. Part 2 will address the tactics. The emotional spectrum will comprise Part 3. Finally, Part 4 will be what we have to look forward to next month. Here it goes.
Part 1 – March Weather in Buffalo Niagara
You know it’s March when:
- The Forecast is wrong/right 50% of the time.
- You see the highs are supposed to be in the 50s so you go light on layers. That’s a mistake, as find out the hard way, because the water is still cold. Like below 32 degrees cold. Water that cold still produces a layer of cold air above it that causes you to freeze your ass off when on the water.
- Once per week you think spring is here only to wake up and find snow on your driveway.
- Bookings are lighter than normal – it’s even hard to get your friends to come out to endure the cold.
- People start seeing the sun for the first time in months and decide to wear shorts around town. Ridiculous!
- You fantasize about NOT wearing gloves. Actually, you try it a couple times just to remember what it feels like only to end up regretting it shortly thereafter.
- The tributaries start locked up with ice, then flood, then get super clear. All in short order.
- You check the ice coverage on Lake Erie multiple times per day – full knowing it only updates daily.
March weather in the Buffalo Niagara region is a roller coaster. Only the most resilient can endure. One would think that because we’ve been fishing for the past 4-5 months in frigid temperatures that we’d be used to it. We are used to it but this is the time when it becomes taxing. Being cold gets REALLY OLD. When conditions start to get to you, you’ll find that you keep telling yourself, “4 more weeks until good weather.” Well…one can only hope.
Part 2 – March Fishing Tactics
You know it’s March When:
- You start thinking 6lb test might be too heavy for the big water.
- Even if you’re running a 7ft leader, you still think it’s not long enough.
- You start tying bags of every color and size imaginable in the hopes that one will be more productive than the other.
- Minnows vs beads vs sacs becomes a heated debate among friends.
- Weight size, rod length, line type, and reel type also become topics of debate.
- You begin to believe, perhaps rightfully so, that a half digit on your trolling motor speed will make all the difference in the world.
- You start experimenting with new tactics you never thought to use before.
March fishing tactics are somewhat different than the other, “easier,” times of year here in the Buffalo Niagara Region. Because Lake Erie is still frozen, it keeps the sediment levels down in the Niagara River. Low sediment = the clearest water of the year. Often there is close to 20ft of visibility in the Lower Niagara and more than that in the Upper Niagara. Stealth becomes key. Matching the hatch becomes extremely important. You find yourself constantly questioning everything. I believe this is an awesome opportunity – if you can do well in March, you’ll crush it the rest of the year.
Part 3 – The Emotions of March
You know it’s March when:
- You have an awesome day on the water followed by an extremely slow day. Same conditions, same drifts, yet far less fish. You don’t know why. You find it hard to accept. You start questioning reality as a result.
- You start wondering if March is the better month for your annual family vacation instead of January.
- Although you are stoked to get on the water every day, somewhere around 10:00, with only a couple fish in the boat, your frustration levels start simmering.
- When it’s sunny out, you tell yourself that it’s just great to be out there.
- When your clients say, “That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching,” and you aren’t frustrated.
- You begin to feel like all confidence is false confidence.
Maybe I’m showing too much of my hand in this section – but that’s just me. I wear it all on my sleeve and my friends, colleagues, and clients know that about me. I love this profession PRECISELY BECAUSE of the range of emotions we experience every day. It makes me stronger and it makes our clients appreciate the skill required to do this job well.
Of course, I prefer an easy-going day where we end up boating numerous fish. However, if it was like that every day, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much. If all days were “great days” none of them would really be great. People from the Buffalo Niagara Region pride themselves on embracing the idea of delayed gratification. We’re no different.
Part 4 – What we have to look forward to
You know it’s the END of March when:
- The forecast has rain instead of snow and you are POSITIVE that the rain will produce a fresh run of fish.
- You don’t care how cold it is, you don’t wear gloves just to make a statement to yourself.
- Fresh runs of steelhead start showing up in the tributaries as well as the Upper and Lower Niagara River.
- Big browns start feeding like crazy in the tributaries as well as along the mud lines in Lake Ontario.
- Lakers, smalljaws, cohos, and kings start crushing baitfish on the Niagara Bar.
- The removal of the ice boom on Lake Erie is coming REALLY SOON.
- Hope/optimism shoots up.
- Trees start budding.
- Every hen steelhead you catch drops eggs.
- The rest of the non-angling world finally thinks it’s safe to go outdoors and the charter business starts booming.
March is over and spring is here my friends. It’s time for you to re-embrace the outdoors. Give us a call if you want to get outside.
Stay Fishy My Friends,