Where can an angler hop into a charter boat a few feet from a hotel in a major city and catch bass, muskies and other fun fish species within a mile of the dock?
That was a question Bill Hilts posed to 21 attendees of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association conference, based in the Four Points Hotel in Niagara Falls on Oct. 18.
Writers from across the state got to fish and hunt interesting places all around Western New York, including the Niagara River, Lake Erie, and hunt sites in nearby counties.
No deer or woodcock were taken; pheasant hunters enjoyed a harvest. Dan Ladd of West Fort Ann bow hunted with Bill Hollister from Valatie. Both had great deer sightings that were out of bow range. Hollister watched a nice wall-hanger cross a nearby field; Ladd brought in a clear photo of a nearly white piebald, 4-point buck he shot with a camera at about 100 yards.
J. Michael Kelly of Marcellus and NYSOWA president Leon Archer hunted pheasants at Tails and Feathers Bird Hunting Preserve in Newfane and took some nice birds.
For most other outings, the emphasis was either on sighting game (birds and beasts) and catch-and-release fishing forays.
As for the woodcock hunt, the old “you should have been here last week” could be altered to “you should be here next week.” George Franke of Norwich and I took to the Timberdoodle trails Saturday morning with Arnie Jonathan, local fish and hunt guide from Newfane, in search of these migrant upland birds.
By now, flights should be heavy in Western New York, but the warmth and dry summer conditions may have the migration schedule askew. We saw signs of a few birds, heard two of the four flushes Jonathan put up with Berry, his yellow lab, but no birds in sight or in a bag that morning. Maybe they will arrive later in a season that extends to Nov. 14.
Many an angler enjoyed a big fish and multiple-catch outing. NYSOWA vice president Wayne Brewer of Seneca Falls fished the upper Niagara River both outing days. On Friday, he and I fished with guide Mike Mogensen from North Tonawanda for upper-river bass. On purpose, Mogensen had us fish the shoreline docks and piers for largemouth and also the open waters near Strawberry Island, Motor Island and Grand Island.
Brewer and I did what guides and recreational anglers enjoy virtually every day out on the river. We caught big mouths in great numbers, smallmouths in both numbers and sizes and even one northern pike that cruised the shore in search of smaller bass on which to munch.
We had and used live crayfish for bait, but either a chartreuse spinner bait or a gray/black tube jig was all it took to get deep and shallow hits in river currents.
Brewer not only hooked into the biggest smallie on Friday, he headed out on Saturday and hooked into two monster muskies - one 36-incher and one 42-incher. Mike Kelly measured one at the 35-inch mark and Mike Seymour of Canton had a nice one lunge close enough to ID. “Four muskies on the line in one hour isn’t a bad time on the water,” Seymour said later.
The lower river salmon run was done, but writers got into many a lunker lake trout and a few steelhead trout both days. Big laker honors went to Mike Lynch of Saranac for a 16-pound trout taken and released on a drift outing with guide Joe Marra.
Along with these outings, writers visited the newly-opened Culinary Institute in downtown Niagara Falls. Chef Patrick Rhodes prepared his Coffee-Crusted Venison roast that even the most squeamish game-meat eater might enjoy. Folks from Hobie Kayak, some arriving from California, had writers plying lower Niagara River current waters with ease.
Otis Technologies reps showed how to quickly and thoroughly clean every kind of firearm fired. Check them out at otistec.com.
Hunters may have already heard about a new line of Ted Nugent Ammo “Killer Ammo for Serious Hunters.” Not only is this ammo made in the USA, company rep Joe Calabro informed me that the Nugent rifle rounds are manufactured right here in Buffalo at Pierce Performance Ammunitions. For available caliber and grain loads, give them a look at piercemunitions.com.
Writers left Niagara Falls enlightened and with notes on enjoyable outings and gatherings that could be seen soon in media productions across the state, outdoors activities area folk have at hand most days of the year.