Steelhead Fishing Buffalo NY: 8 Best Steelhead Spots

Steelhead fishing buffalo and area is great for catching big steelhead like this.
Steelhead fishing buffalo and area is great for catching big steelhead like this.

You probably wouldn’t think about the city of Buffalo, NY, when considering a trip to fish for steelhead, but Buffalo is very close to some of the best steelhead fishing found anywhere in the Great Lakes region. In fact, two rivers out of the eight I’ll tell you about might be considered the best steelhead rivers in New York and possibly the Great Lakes.

I’m lucky that I am close enough to drive to these rivers and have fished them for the last 20 years.

About Steelhead Fishing Buffalo And Area

Andrew from Full Fishing Guide Service with a nice steelhead caught near buffalo
Andrew from Full Fishing Guide Service with a nice steelhead caught on a Western NY tributary.

Lake Erie is full of steelhead thanks to excellent stocking efforts. Not far north of Buffalo is Lake Ontario and its steelhead streams.

I fish the many great nearby Western New York Steelhead rivers. Streams like Buffalo Creek, 18 Mile Creek, and Cattaraugus Creek are all good options. The Niagara River might be the best steelhead river in the Great Lakes Area.

Lower Niagara River

The lower Niagara River offers some of Buffalo’s best steelhead fishing spots. You will find lucrative angling opportunities from Niagara Falls to Lake Ontario.

You need to find slow waters along the river for shoreline fishing, such as the area above Lewiston. However, if you are looking for deeper waters where you can only fish in a boat, the region above or below Lewiston can be good fishing.

One of the best things about fishing in this river is its numerous access points. These include:

  • Whirlpool State Park
  • Devil’s Hole State Park
  • Lewiston Sand Docks
  • Fort Niagara State Park

The Niagara River will have small runs of steelhead entering with the salmon as early as September, and it will get much better fishing from November to December.

It can also be excellent fishing on warmer days in January and February as the steelhead will stay in the river all winter.

Spring fishing is also excellent, with some of the biggest steelhead in the river. Steelhead in this river can get over 20 pounds.

NOTE: Whether you enter the upper or lower river from the USA or Canadian side, you may require both countries’ fishing licenses should you cross the middle of the river.

Upper Niagara River Steelhead Fishing

In the upper section of the river, anglers can catch steelhead and lake run browns. However, fewer anglers specifically target these species in this area than in the lower river.

During the spring and fall seasons, some anglers have reported success in catching steelhead off the walls and near the head of the river, although the numbers may not be as plentiful as the lower river.

Candian Shoreline Area: Anglers will back drifting Flatfish along the Canadian shoreline from the Peace Bridge to Thompson’s Hole, where anglers have caught plenty of rainbow trout and steelhead.

Fort Erie/International Bridge: In the stretch from Fort Erie to the International Bridge, anglers have found a mix of Lakers, Browns, Rainbows, and Walleye.

Thompson Hole: Anchoring at Thompson’s Hole with minnows, spawn sacs, or casting crankbaits can yield good results.

Ferry and Peace Bridge: Anglers have had success catching steelhead off the wall from the headwaters down to the foot of the Ferry, with the Peace Bridge hole being a particularly productive spot when using spawn sacks.

Methods: Effective methods in this area include back trolling Kwikfish, using spawn sacks or skein and swimbaits on a three-way rig, or drifting bucktail jigs tipped with minnows during the fall and spring seasons.

Additionally, in the spring and fall, anglers have reported success with Rapalas and other crankbaits trolled or back-trolled along the Canadian side wall for catching rainbows and walleye.

Pro Tip: One of the best ways to learn the rivers and the most effective tactics and baits used to catch steelhead is to hire a local guide. For this area, consider Andrew Full at Full Fishing Guide Service.

Cattaraugus Creek

Andrew from Full Full Fishing Guide Service holding a nice steelhead on Cattaraugus Creek
Fall is the best time to catch steelhead on Cattaraugus Creek. The image is Andrew from Full Fishing Guide Service.

Cattaraugus Creek ranks as one of the best Buffalo area steelhead rivers, boasting some of the state’s biggest runs. Locals call it the “Catt”.

Reports of anglers catching over 30 steelheads a day are common during peak times in late fall.

Although it’s called a creek, do not be fooled. This is a good-sized river averaging 40 to 50 feet wide up to the Dam in Springfield.

Spring can be good if and once the river water levels drop and clear, but this river can often be dirty a lot, or even stay dirty for most of the spring.

If you arrive to the river and it is dirty, you could fish nearby Walnut Creek, Silver Creek, or 18 Mile Creek.

The steelhead section runs from Lake Erie to Springville Dam, providing 34 miles of fishing opportunities. However, there is talk of opening the dam to allow further steelhead access.

A steelhead caught near the upper sections of Cattaraugus Creek,
Steelhead fishing near the middle sections of Cattaraugus Creek is very good, with some of the best water on the river near Springfield.

Cattaraugus Creek is rather dynamic, with wide sections, slow water, fast water, and some very scenic cliffs and forests.

Near the lake is where you will find slower waters, which are good for float fishing and casting lures.

However, as you move further from Lake Erie, the water gathers speed with a rocky bottom, making steelhead fishing excellent for most methods. This upper section is a favorite of the fly anglers and many fishing guides.

You will also find some small tributaries along this creek, some of which include:

  • Clear Creek
  • Coon Brook
  • Spooner Brook

 You can use the following access points to reach the fishing spots:

  • Scobby Hill Dam
  • Hanover Launch Ramp
  • Morton’s Corner Road

NOTE: Part of the lower river is on Seneca Nation of Indians lands, and special fishing permits or access permits may be required.

18 Mile Creek

Andrew with a nice steelhead from Eighteen Mile Creek in wester NY
The South West Lake Erie tribs might be smaller, but they can produce lots of big steelhead. Image provided by Full Fishing Guide Service. Check them out for steelhead and Brown trout guiding in Western New York.

18 Mile Creek flowing into Lake Erie is a famous steelhead fishing location thanks to lucrative fish runs occurring in the fall, starting in late September and peaking in November.

Run timing will depend on weather, rains, and temperature, so they may start later.

Not to be confused with Eighteen Mile Creek, which flows into Lake Ontario, which is another good creek for fishing.

The spring steelhead runs start in early March or just after ice-out, with good steelhead fishing into early May.

This is also one of the larger rivers in this part of the state, providing anglers with over 15 miles of fantastic fishing grounds.

Eighteen Mile Creek has some of the state’s best steelhead runs, starting mid-fall to spring. You can access this creek through the South Creek Road. See more on Eighteen Mile Creek fishing.

Chautauqua Creek

An angler fighting a large steelhead near Buffalo NY
Many of the rivers in the Buffalo area are smaller, less crowded, and get good runs of steelhead—image Courtesy of Full Fishing Guide Service.

This is yet another well-known fishing spot near Buffalo, New York.

It offers anglers a solid 15 miles of steelhead fishing spots. However, only about 8.5 miles have public fishing rights, so seek the landowner’s permission before fishing on private land.

The best access route to this creek is through the Westfield Waterworks Dam Passage.

Buffalo River Steelhead Fishing

Buffalo River is very close to the city limits, and it can have decent steelhead runs in the main river and its tributaries.

This river was once known to be very polluted and not worth fishing, but it has been cleaned up and now gets small annual runs of steelhead, particularly during late fall and mid-spring.

Buffalo River flows from Western New York to the eastern end of Lake Erie at Erie County. This river has steelhead tributaries, Cayuga Creek, Buffalo Creek, and Cazenovia Creek.

To get to the river, use the following access points:

  • Bailey Avenue Peninsula
  • Red Jacket River Front Park
  • Harlem Road Fishing Access Point
  • Seneca Bluffs Natural Habitat Park

There is limited access, but anglers can try fishing West Seneca Buffalo Creek fishing and hiking area, which is just below the Blossom Dam, which is as far as steelhead can migrate on this creek.

Cazenovia Creek Steelhead Fishing

Cazenovia Creek is a Buffalo River tributary that gets steelhead runs, which can be fished in the lower west branch to the falls at West Falls and to the dam on the east branch in east Aurora near center street.

There is limited access due to private property, but there is public fishing access at Cazenovia Creek Park.

Cayuga Creek Steelhead Fishing

The Buffalo River splits into two, with the north branch being Cayuga Creek and the south branch being Buffalo Creek.

Cayuga Creek is another tributary of the Buffalo River with steelhead fishing up to the Como Park Lake Dam. There is access at J.C. Stiglmeier Park, Como Lake County Park.

The Best Methods for Steelhead Fishing in Buffalo, New York

There are many good methods for steelhead fishing in Buffalo area.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing for steelhead is an effective method since the rivers are well suited for nymphing and streamer fishing, and the steelhead here are very receptive to eating well-presented flies.

Be sure you know how to fly fish for steelhead and use my most productive steelhead flies.

Spey Fishing

Spey fishing is a great method for catching some steelhead on larger rivers, especially if you are pressed for a backcast room in your fishing location. The Cattaraugus Creek is one of the best for Spey fishing.

Streamer Fishing

Streamer fishing is another good method that will work on all the streams around Buffalo, including the upper and lower Niagara River.

Float Fishing

Float fishing will likely be the most effective method overall in most streams in the area. Drifting the pools and deeper runs with a good bait or flies under a float is common practice that produces a lot of steelhead.

Float fishing with slip float on the Niagara River is a good way to cover water.

Drift Fishing

Drift fishing is another good method for fishing larger rivers with after currents like the Niagara River. Drift fishing could mean drifting a boat down the river, but in this case, it’s the method of drifting a bait down the river without the use of a float. See more on the methods on my page, Drift Fishing For Steelhead.


Plunking is a popular still fishing method used a lot on the Niagara River as well as the lower section of most streams. It is also good at the mouth of the rivers and when fishing the shorelines of Lake Erie.

Lure Fishing

Lure fishing for steelhead is a good method on any of these rivers, as well as at the mouths and shorelines of Lake Erie. Using lures like spoons, spinners, and crankbaits will produce the most steelhead. The key to lure fishing in rivers is ensuring you are doing it properly.

Other methods like jigs and plugs, which you can see on my page, Lure Fishing For Steelhead can also be very effective.

Best Baits

As with most steelhead tributaries around the Great Lakes regions, effective baits include:

  • Salmon and Trout Eggs: Salmon and trout eggs tied into spawn sacs are great for steelhead using the float fishing and plunking methods.
  • Beads: Beads are a salmon egg imitation that is very popular for steelhead
  • Artificial Flies: Flies can also be used with float fishing methods and are a very good option for steelhead
  • Minnows: Due to the abundance of baitfish in the Niagara River, using live or dead minnows is often very effective.

Be sure you are aware of the fishing regulations for the area by checking out the DEC website.

For more on the best methods and best baits, be sure to check out Steelhead Fishing NY.

Tight Lines,


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