Fishing the Niagara River with John Long Sr. An Outdoors Niagara Exclusive!
page dedicated to John Long Sr., 1933~2007
Niagara River Successfully
Fishing the Niagara River with John Long Sr.
Printed with permission from my long time friend John Long Sr.
INTRODUCTION TO STORY
By Mark Daul
Mr. Long just reached his 74th. Birthday [July 2007] and is still a strong advocate of the outdoors having fished and hunted all his life and all the while giving back to fishing and hunting that most people could never accomplish in two lifetimes. The following story was written by Mr. Long on or about 1992 and it appeared in the Sander’s Fishing Guide. [Below is a description of Sander’s well-read guide and how to obtain a copy.] In the story Mr. Long relates to his experiences spending his early days of fishing the Niagara River for blue pike and yellow pike and in the story he explains how to and where to of fishing the river by telling you how to and where to fish the famous drifts. Both shore fishing and boat fishing are covered in the article.
John Long was elected to New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame in the Spring of 2007!
THE BRINK OF SOMETHING WONDERFUL
of the most often repeated arguments that my father made as he waged his
relentless battle to keep me in high school and college was that an
education was “something no one can ever take away from you.” I was
all for quitting school and living a life hunting and fishing on or near
the lower Niagara River. Dad won and I earned my degree at Niagara
Like most college kids in those days I had to work to pay for my tuition. There were no educational loans. They, like the ball point pen, fiberglass and aluminum boats, and television had not been invented yet. So, we worked all summer to be able to pay our tuition in the fall.
My spring, summer, and fall job was fishing the lower Niagara River. My pay was the sale of the fish, blue and yellow pike. This was a thriving business on the river in those days. Commercial netting enterprises lined the riverbank at Youngstown and commercial fish traps dotted both sides of the river at the point where the gorge ends and the more navigable section of the river begins just above what is now Artpark.
vast majority of the fish taken commercially were taken by the nets and
the traps. The next substantial sources of commercial fish were those
taken by spear fishermen in the gorge. This activity was legal above the
old Lewiston suspension bridge and catches were astronomical. Stone piers
called docks extending several feet out from shore were constructed in
placed where the current ran close to shore and the water was 2 or 3 feet
A stone wall a foot or so high was placed on the bottom of the river about 4 feet out from the dock and was flared away from shore to guide fish toward the waiting fishermen.
kerosene or gasoline lantern was placed at the front of the dock and
dimmed so as to cast just enough light to see the fish and not frighten
fish could be taken during daylight hours, night fishing was most
productive. The view from the old bridge during the hours of darkness
revealed the glow of dozens of lanterns reflecting off the swift waters.
Other lights and fires further up the bank marked the location of
fishermen waiting their turn at the dock. There were far more fishermen
than places to fish. Some camped in the gorge, using the same dock all
summer, taking turns carrying the catches out for sale to hotels as far
away as Buffalo. They brought back their supplies on the return trip.
terms of numbers of fish harvested commercially, the boat fishermen were
the least important. Since the rod and reel was the tool of the trade and
outboard motors of more than 10 horsepower were almost nonexistent, these
fishermen could cover only a fraction of the water that we can today. Rods
were steel, level-wind casting reels were the only ones available, and
braided line was the order of the day. It was well into the 1950’s
before the 25 horse-power motor, the fiberglass rod, the spinning reel and
the monofilament line were generally available. Equipment and tackle were
primitive by today’s standards.
spite of all this, catches could be awesome. Blue Pike thrived in those
days and, although common in the river, concentrated in huge numbers on
what we still call “The Bar”. This area is simply a large sandbar
created from the sediment deposited by the river at its end in Lake
Ontario. Depths over the bar range from 12 to 18 feet. Catches of a
hundred Blue Pike a day were not uncommon.
pike, (called pike-perch in those days and walleyes today) were most
common in the river. The same drifts that produced well in those days
produce other species, especially trout, today. Catches of thirty to forty
walleyes were a regular event and, in fact, a fisherman needed to do
nearly that well to avoid the necessity of getting a job on shore. The
going price wholesale was twenty-five cents a pound live weight and the
average size yellow was about 3 pounds. Allowing for rain, unfavorable
winds, muddy water, and the unreliable nature of those primitive motors,
it was important to get a good catch when conditions were right. At best,
it was a marginal business and the hours were long when fishing was at its
after World War II the traps disappeared from the gorge. A few remained on
the Canadian side into the very early 1950 netters were next and, as we
all know, the fish were all but gone by the end of the decade, along with
the spear fishermen and the commercial boat fishermen. I caught my last blue,
a monster of some eight pounds, during the summer of 1961.
regarding the disappearance of the blue and yellow pike runs
rampant. At that time Lake Erie was reported to be near death and the fish
disappeared from those waters at nearly the same time. After all, the
theory went, Lake Erie is the source of the Niagara River. The same
disease that killed the lake killed the river.
felt that the pike never did spawn in the lower river, but that the
species received its stock from Lake Erie fish coming over Niagara Falls
or through the Welland Canal.
figured that the appearance of two new predator species after World War II
fed on the young pike. After all, smelt began their run up the river at
the same time walleye were hatching, and silver bass choked the river at
the time the walleye fry were growing to minnow size. Both appeared
shortly after the war.
fishermen blamed the commercial fishing interests. In any event, the fish
the early 1980s, the walleye has begun to reappear in small numbers in the
river. No one seems to know where they reappeared from, and speculation
again runs rampant. Some feel that they are again the product of the Lake
Erie fishery, which has rebounded dramatically. One or two fish have
carried tags from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. These fish
were marked on the north side of Lake Ontario at the Bay of Quinte.
those few walleyes began to appear, the Niagara River Anglers Association
took interest. Believing that there could once again be an exciting
walleye fishery in those waters, they formed a committee to explore the
possibility of restocking the river with large numbers of walleye
walleye rearing facility was constructed on the property of one of the
members* in 1985, and the first stocking of the river was done in
late June of 1986. Since then ever increasing numbers of small walleyes
have been caught by anglers and one lucky sportsman caught and released
over twenty undersized fish on a Saturday morning in 1988.
Note: Mr. Long, is the property owner who graciously donated total use of
this property [61 acres]
knowledgeable people are predicting a blossoming walleye fishery in the
river beginning in the early 1990’s. **
of catching these fish will be nearly identical to those of the good old
days. Modern Equipment should make fishing much easier.
and safer boats will allow the sportsman to cover much more water and
change drifts in a matter of a few minutes. Modern rods and spinning reels
eliminate backlashes and allow the use of a wider variety of lures,
although our guess is that the old stuff will still work well.
Monofilament has less water resistance than braided line and allows the
use of much lighter sinkers. Fish-finders and other modern gadgetry will
also give an edge to today
From the fish preserve the resource, and we still have to contend with unfavorable winds and muddy water. The end of commercial fishing and the continuation of the stocking program should all help to give the fish an edge.
We are on the brink of something wonderful!
Bass and Walleye Hotspot Drifts Explained!..... in Part Two!
ODN Note: The walleye fishery had certainly blossomed in 1990's and is now in full bloom in the 2000's in the Lower Niagara River due to fish stocking efforts, cleaner waters, fish migration, [Bay of Quinte, Lake Erie] increased size limits and lower creel limits have all combined to make this an envious fishery. Add this all up and throw in good Catch & Release efforts by the fishermen! ......Always practice Catch & Release!
Fishing Guide Western New York Edition written and researched by John M.
Sander, is like an area fishing bible and covers all the major fishing areas of
10 counties in Western New York. Sander's Fishing guide has reached it's third
edition. [$19.95] The guides include plenty of maps and descriptions. You can
order from your favorite bookstore or contact the publisher: Sander’s Fishing
Guide and Services Directory Inc. P.O. Box 0624, Amherst NY 14226
Go To Sander's Fishing Guides Website
[Top] Outdoors Niagara Home Page Go to Blue Pike pages Back to John Long page