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Guide to Steelhead Fishing in Western NY

August 24, 2015

Streams in Western New York

Western New York has a number of streams that offer high duality lake-run steelhead fishing from November through March. Streams included in Niagara, Erie, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties are; the Lower Niagara River, Cattaraugus Creek, Eighteen Mile Creek and it's South Branch, Silver Creek, Walnut Creek, Canadaway Creek and Chautauqua Creek.

The majority of the steelhead in these streams are the result of smolt stockings by NYS-DEC. There is some natural reproduction of steelhead that adds to the fishery, particularly in the Cattaraugus Creek system. Studies are ongoing to evaluate the contribution of these wild fish to the angler catch. Projects are being planned and implemented to increase the contribution of wild steelhead.

This is a brief overview of these streams. For more detailed information, please call the Olean Fisheries Office at (716) 372-0645 or the Lake Erie Fisheries Unit at (716) 366-0228.

Please note that very little of the property along these streams is publicly owned, so be sure to ask the landowner's permission.

Lower Niagara River

The Lower Niagara River offers a totally unique steelhead experience to anglers in the eastern United States. From below Niagara Falls to Lake Ontario, anglers will find 18 tiles of large river that varies from breath taking rapids to wide, deep, fast-moving flay water. From the falls to Lewiston the rives s as brawling as any western river and from
Lewiston to Lake Ontario, it is wide and deep. Below Lewiston, the river can be fished from a boat, while the river above there can only be fished from shore.

There are numerous areas to access the river including; Whirlpool and Devils Hole State Parks, Artpark, Joseph Davis State Park and the Sand Docks in Lewiston, the New York Power Authority fishing platform and Fort Niagara State Park.

Cattaraugus Creek System

Cattaraugus Creek offers over 34 miles of steelhead angling opportunities from Lake Erie to the Springville Dam. A portion of the stream and it's lower tributaries are on Seneca Nation of Indian Lands, so if you plan to fish there, you will need a license for the Reservation. The Cattaraugus is a large stream, averaging over 100 feet wide and varying from slow water near Lake Erie to boulder filled rapids in the scenic Zoar Valley Area upstream of Gowanda.

Several tributaries to Cattaraugus Creek offer steelhead opportunities in a small stream setting. Some of these streams include; Clear Creek and it's North Branch, a short section of the S. Branch of Cattaraugus Creek, Derby Brook, Coon Brook, Spooner Brook, Waterman Brook and Utley Brook. Check for special fishing regulations on some of these waters.

View a map & guide for Steelhead fishing in Cattaraugus Creek.

Read more about Steelhead fishing in Lake Erie Tributaries

Smaller Streams

Eighteen Mile Creek and it's South Branch are medium size streams that offer a total of 15 miles of water upstream to impassable barriers. Silver and Walnut Creeks are fishable for a total of 14 miles. Canadaway Creek is accessible to steelhead from Lake Erie to Laona Falls, a distance of 6 miles. Finally, Chautauqua Creek provides 5 miles of fishing up to the Village of Westfield Water Works.

Steelhead Tackle

Steelhead in Western NY generally average 3-6 pounds, but fish from 8-12 pounds are common so fairly heavy equipment is required. Spinning rods of 7'-9' in length, capable of casting 1/2 ounce lures and using 6-12 lb. test lines are needed. Heavier gear is required on the Niagara River.
Fly rods from 8'-10' in length that handle 6-10 weight lines work well for landing these fish, although sometimes in low, clear flows very light tippets of 2-4 lb test are required

Catch and Release

The steelhead of western New York are a magnificent resource that can be enjoyed by anglers more than once. By voluntarily releasing some or all of the steelhead you catch you can help to ensure high catch rates for yourself and other anglers throughout the season.