Observations from the Water – 12/12/2021

by | Dec 12, 2021

Days on the Water: 2
Who we fished with: friends/clients
Where we fished:  Lake Erie, Lower Niagara
What we caught: smallmouth bass
Tactics: beads, Mr. Twisters, live bait


Observations from the Water – this Past Week (6-12-Dec)

Wow! My predictions were WAY off in my previous Observations from the Water – the forecast did NOT go down as predicted. Huge wind at the start of the week trashed the river through Wednesday afternoon. Another huge wind that started yesterday morning and carried through last night, ruined any hope of weekend angling (see below for photos – they don’t do it justice – when I drove over the skyway yesterday, the lake was rocking so big that the waves were generating their own rain – it was magical. I went for a run and a few gusts nearly picked me off the ground – it was unsettling…but fun).

I managed to get on the water Thursday and Friday. It was slow fishing on the Lower Niagara on Thursday, so we opted to fish Lake Erie on Friday…the results weren’t much better. Still, I got to spend some valuable time on the water with friend that I’ve watched grow a ton over the past 5 years and was happy we had the opportunity to catch up.

Theories and “Off the Water” Anglers

Why was the fishing slow on the Lower Niagara? I don’t know. I spent a lot of time thinking about this as often happens after a slow day. Conditions were good – decent water color, low winds (on the day we fished that is), and I had good anglers on the boat. The catch rate should have been good…but it wasn’t. Those of my colleagues that managed to eke out a session on Thursday and Friday had the same experience. What gives?

I’ll say this much – unless the lackluster bite is the result of some human intervention, like a dam collapse or massive amount of pollutants getting dumped into the water, it’s all guess work that one can only resolve by fishing as often as possible. Let’s face it, Mother Nature doesn’t always make it easy for us (it wouldn’t be fun if she did), so tough days happen, and we accept that. However, if the grind persists beyond a couple of days, worry starts to creep up…and so do the theories. If I’m having a hard time coming up with a theory, I can always rely on my friend/colleague, Matt Yablonski, to come up with one. Here’s what we discussed the other night:

– In a “normal” year, the steelhead bite would be great by now, but it just hasn’t kicked in yet. Sure, we’ve had a couple decent days for those fish but nothing consistent. The brown trout never really came into the river in good numbers – I’m not sure why. Those that did tended to be small – yearlings and maybe a little older. The lakers seemed to last forever this year and now their spawn is nearly complete – most of those fish have migrated back to Lake Ontario leaving millions of eggs behind.

– If you’ve been fishing the lower Niagara River lately, you likely noticed a ton of bait fish in the system. From juvenile smelt to emerald shiners, there’s a ton of calories floating around. The gulls have been going nuts for them and I’m sure the fish are doing the same. Also, maybe my memory is deeply flawed, but it seems like there are far more gulls around this year…and far more bait compared to what I’m used to seeing this time of year. Coincidence…conjecture?

– Bottom line – there is undoubtedly a ton of easily accessible calories floating through the system right now. Possibly – and this is the heart of the theory – far more than what is “normally” present during the heart of the fall steelhead run. Are they full/super well fed right now and in turn, less willing to eat what we’re offering?

Of course, it’s impossible to answer that question – but interesting to consider. Those of us who spend a ton of time thinking about this absorb every bit of intel possible when on the water…if for no other reason than to try to make sense of it all. Ironically, time on the water is the only way to get answers. Even though we have unresolved questions, the conditions often change before we get answers. Another way of thinking about it is – action gets hot again before we find out why it was slow. Then, freshly content with a steady bite, we forget all about that slow period we endured. Until another slow period unfolds, and we go back to theorizing again, as if the previous slow period hadn’t occurred at all. Good times!

This photo was taken at an old cargo ship slip underneath the Skyway. For those that don’t live here – these waves formed INSIDE the safe harbor. On the other side of the walls (in the distance) the waves were 20’+!

This photo was taken at an old cargo ship slip underneath the Skyway. For those that don’t live here – these waves formed INSIDE the safe harbor. On the other side of the walls (in the distance) the waves were 20’+!

This was taken at the boat launch at the end of Sheridan Drive. Not only were the west winds trashing the place, the “wind tide” created by all that wave energy on Lake Erie raised the water level by a couple feet, putting those launch slips under water.

Looking Forward (13-19-Dec)

This upcoming week is looking as problematic as this past week. Lots of wind and some precipitation. The huge storm that hit us last night turned the river into chocolate milk. There is a small possibility the river will be in fishable shape by Tuesday…Wednesday is more likely. Thursday could be OK but the wind looks like it’s going to get severe so who knows. Beyond that…it’s a crap shoot.

At some point, the transition into winter will happen…I guess. What I mean by that is – all these storms and windy days gotta level out at some point, opening a long window of fishable days and great fishing. We’re just in a rough patch right now so remaining flexible for scheduling is key. Plus, it was over 60 degrees yesterday…on December 11th. It looks like we’ll break into the 50s and maybe even the 60s this upcoming week. Who knows what’ll happen in January but I’m betting the new year will be off to a mild start. If you normally associate January with frostiness and the desire to stay inside, reconsider. The way things are lining up – it’s going to be a great winter.

Get outside my friends – make Vitamin D and be merry. Although the weather has been wild lately, don’t let it keep you inside. Even when things seem crazy out there, make it a point to take a break from whatever you’re doing (unless it’s fishing) to observe what’s going on. We live in an incredible place.

Stay healthy my friends – mentally and physically,