Steelhead Fishing Western NY: 11 Best Streams

Steelhead fishing Western NY has good fishing for steelhead like this.
Steelhead fishing Western NY has good fishing for steelhead like this.

There are plenty of of opportunities for steelhead fishing Western NY in late fall, winter, though to early May, especially if you know where to go and what to use.

Western New York has two of the top 5 steelhead rivers in the entire state of NY. These rivers are known for large numbers of steelhead, and the steelhead caught here are often big.

But when I fish Western New York steelhead, I don’t just focus on those two rivers because I know that at times, those rivers might be dirty or just not fishing well, which is when other lessor known streams could be fishing well.

Key Takeaways

I will discuss the best rivers in the area, run timing, and good methods to try, plus expert tips that I use to catch more fish by being in the right spot at the right time.

  • Major Rivers: Bigger rivers like the Niagara and Cattarugus Creek are great options unless the fishing pressure is high or the rivers are muddy.
  • Smaller Rivers: Smaller streams like Canadaway Creek and Silver Creek can rise quickly, have good runs of steelhead, and then drop to fishable numbers long before bigger rivers are clear enough to fish. Knowing when to be on each river is a great way to be fishing the best spots all the time. I’ll list the rivers and best times.
  • Tactics: The three most popular tactics to fish for steelhead in these rivers are fly fishing, float fishing, and casting lures.

Lower Niagara River

The 14 miles of the Lower Niagara River below the falls presents anglers with plenty of exciting fishing opportunities and is likely the best Western New York steelhead fishing the area has to offer. It might even be one of the best steelhead fisheries in the world.

The river’s waters flow quickly between Niagara Falls and Lewiston, then settle into a calmer pace between Lewiston and Lake Ontario. If you are not familiar with the Niagara River, it starts at Lake Erie and ends in Lake Ontario and is separated by massive waterfalls that fish can not pass.

The Lower Niagara River is known for its fantastic steelhead runs, especially in the fall, winter, and spring. However, you can also find some fish in summer if the conditions are right.

The river has several access points for anglers and boaters, such as Sand Docks in Lewiston, Whirlpool State Park, and Devils Hole State Park.

I discuss fishing the upper Niagara River in my article Steelhead Fishing Buffalo Area.

For more on fishing in this area by foot or boat, check out Niagara River Steelhead Fishing.

Chautauqua Creek

An average-sized Western New York Steelhead held in the water, ready to be released.
An average-sized Western New York Steelhead held in the water, ready to be released.

Chautauqua Creek is another good steelhead stream in Western New York. The creek starts in Sherman, New York, and winds its way into Lake Erie. In total, the creek system spans about 15 miles.

However, only five of these miles have fishable grounds. The best fishing spots on the creek are found in the Westfield Water Works Village. During the fishing season in fall and spring, it is not uncommon for anglers to find ten-pound, 30-inch steelhead.

The creek also presents anglers with a fantastic sport fishing opportunity 1.3 miles above the Westfield Waterworks Dam. However, beware that this is a catch-and-release-only section, and anglers are only allowed to use artificial lures.

Cattaraugus Creek

Andrew from Full Full Fishing Guide Service holding a nice steelhead on Cattaraugus Creek
Andrew from Full Full Fishing Guide Service holding a nice steelhead on Cattaraugus Creek

The Cattaraugus Creek is one of Western New York’s largest fishing areas, spanning over 34 miles and about 100 feet wide. It runs from Lake Erie to Scooby dam, (Springville Dam) in Scooby Dam Park.

It is considered the best steelhead stream in Western New York for fly fishing and float fishing and is one of the top 5 steelhead rivers in New York State.

The area near the lake has some slow-moving water, while the Zoar Valley Area has fast-moving rapids. The varying water speeds make the river ideal for anglers who prefer to fish in shifting water conditions.

The Creek is quite a famous steelhead fishing destination, which means it has a lot of fishing pressure. This is particularly so during the peak fishing seasons of fall, winter, and spring.

If you prefer to fish in solitude in smaller water pockets, you can try the following smaller creeks:

  • Spooner Brook
  • Coon Brook
  • Waterman Brook
  • Clear Creek

Additionally, beware that some of the creek’s fishing grounds are in the Seneca Location of Indian Lands. About 13.5 miles of the lower Cattaraugus Creek are on the Seneca Nation of Indians Reservation. Fishing here requires a special license for the reserved area.

Eighteen Mile Creek

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.

 The Eighteen Mile Creek has 15 miles of decent steelhead runs and is one of the best fishing locations in Western New York.

It is smaller than the Cattaraugus Creek but has plenty of steelhead and good spots to try.

Its shale and rocky bottom mix make it ideal steelhead water for fly fishing, float fishing, and fishing with lures.

Walnut and Silver Creeks

Andrew with a nice steelhead from Eighteen Mile Creek in wester NY
The Southern East 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.

 The Walnut and Silver Creeks offer 14 miles of fishing grounds, which are perfect for upstream steelhead fishing in Western New York. Both are found in Chautauqua County near Dunkirk.

Canadaway Creek

 This 6-mile creek runs from Lake Erie to the Laona Falls. The falls act as a barrier, preventing the steelhead from migrating farther upstream. As such, you will find fantastic runs on this creek.

I use the online USGS Stream flow charts to help me determine the best times to fish, predict the steelhead runs, and determine water clarity and color. I discuss my methods for reading these charts on my page Interpreting Stream Flow Data Related To Fishing.

Best Fishing Methods for Steelhead in Western NY

 The best steelhead fishing techniques in Western New York are:

  • Fly fishing
  • Streamer fishing
  • Spin fishing
  • Float Fishing
  • Plunking

If you want to learn more about each of these methods and the best bait, best lures, and best flies for NY streams, be sure to check out Fishing For Steelhead.

The Bottom Line On Western New York Steelhead Fishing

Western NY has numerous steelhead fishing opportunities, but anglers should know the fishing regulations for the area. From the mighty Lower Niagara River to the tiny Walnut Creek, this area of the state is brimming with fishing options.

Tight Lines


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *