We’ve learned a few things over the years about fishing in Western New York:
- Build it and they will come—both fish and anglers
- Western New York loves its waterways
- You won’t catch fish if your line’s not in the water
It’s no surprise that you’ll see anglers somewhere along the Buffalo River on most days, either trying to catch fish or not caring if they catch any. Anything just to be near the water.
Hook and worm:
The simplest, perhaps oldest and one of the most effective ways is to tie a sinker at the end of a line, tie one or two hooks with leaders about 12”-18” up from the sinker, put on your bait (worm, salted minnow, egg sack) and throw it in. Put the rod end in a forked branch, tighten the line and watch for a twitch of the rod tip. This method works best in slack or semi-slack water, but with heavier weights can be used in faster current. You can catch steelhead, bass, suckers, carp, perch, bullheads or rock bass.
Spinning with lures:
Grab a few Rapalas and a few small spinners like a Vibrax Blue Fox, Panther Martin or Mepps, a 7’-7½’ medium light spinning rod rigged with 6#-10# line and start casting away. Predator fish will readily attack a moving lure.
Drive up the Thruway in the spring or fall from the 400 toward the Galleria, then look to your right as you pass over the Buffalo River and you’ll see anglers standing in the water. They’re drift fishing for steelhead. Tie a hook on the very end of a line, place a few split shot sinkers about 8” above, place a bobber a few feet up from that, put an egg sack on the hook, cast into the current and hang on. While steelhead will readily take a Rapala or spinner, drifting an egg sack is one of the most productive ways.
Years ago, it was unheard of to fish in the Buffalo River. It smelled, had very little access, had no habitat and was polluted. No one fishes where there aren’t any fish. But today the river is a cleaner aquatic habitat, with shoreline access in development. “Build it and they will come” is truer than ever.
Fishing from a boat or shore is productive, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Here area few locations:
Starting at the Naval Park, take a walk along the river in the fall and you’ll likely see anglers trolling for muskellunge from their boats. Then they’ll turn and troll into the City Ship Canal. In the summer, bass anglers will fish along the sand piles and wooden pilings that are still in the river. Smallmouth and Largemouth bass are their targets.
Going upstream, the Ohio Street kayak launch and Mutual Riverfront Park are popular spots. At Mutual Park, you’ll see fishing rods laying against the railing while anglers tell their stories.
Moving upstream, I’ve launched a jon boat at Red Jacket Riverfront Park to go up to the Thruway. At Bailey Ave., Cazenovia Creek branches off from the Buffalo River. Branches like this are always excellent places because food is coming from both bodies of water. Kayaks, canoes and shore fishing are good ways to fish in those junctions. It’s not unusual to see Caz Creek holding many anglers looking to catch a steelhead.
Seneca Bluffs is getting a makeover and will offer plenty of shore fishing opportunities. I drove over South Ogden St. the other day and saw two kayakers trying their luck.
By far, the most popular place to shore fish on the Buffalo River is the Harlem Road fishing access and boat launch. There are people, both serious and not-so-serious, fishing away. It’s a great place to take a lawn chair and spend a relaxing day fishing. For the more serious angler, it’s a very popular spot for steelhead.
Just upstream at the Harlem Road junction, Buffalo Creek comes in. Again, two streams coming together means better-than-average fishing. At that point, the Buffalo River becomes Buffalo Creek and Cayuga Creek, meaning even more fishing opportunities.
If it’s in the river, it’s in the tributaries. Fish don’t distinguish one from another, so don’t discount any tributary of the river.
As with fishing anywhere in NYS, become familiar with the regulations published by the NYSDEC.
For those who aren’t familiar with fishing and want to give it a try, the DEC publishes a guide for beginners.
Additionally, four free weekends are available throughout the year when licenses aren’t required.
So many fish, so little time.