Photos and Article By Pete Robbins

From finger-sized smelt to over-sized beasts, Western New York is a fish-centric place.

Although the Niagara Falls area has long been heralded as a vacation hotspot for newlyweds, I can honestly say that if my wife and I had honeymooned there we might be divorced today. While most of the necessary and appropriate honeymoon activities can be completed after dark, they might get short shrift if you've worn yourself out chasing big fish from first light to sunset.

On a late spring trip to Lewiston, New York, my hosts promised me enough smallmouth bass action to rub the skin on my thumb raw, along with a chance at big lake trout and some of the best king salmon fishing found anywhere outside of Alaska, so you can imagine my surprise when the first fish that came over the side of the boat while dragging soft plastic tubes was ... a 7-pound walleye. Oh, we got into the bronzebacks in a big way shortly thereafter, but part of the thrill of fishing any of these waters — renowned Lake Erie, the Niagara River and massive Lake Ontario — is that you never quite know what you're about to catch. Do you like to chase muskies? Covered. Jerking big yellow perch your thing? Not a problem. Brown trout? Also here in good numbers.

In the unlikely event that one bite dries up or — heaven forbid — you get bored of catching a single species, you can pull up stakes and take the boat elsewhere. That may mean just a few hundred yards, as when we moved from fishing for lake trout to catching bass in front of historic Fort Niagara — or you can put the boat on the trailer and be on a different body of water altogether in a matter of minutes.

Buffalo's famous Anchor Bar reputedly gave birth to the city's namesake chicken wing, but while I downed more than my share of poultry over three days in the region I couldn't escape fish on the dinner plate, either. On Saturday evening I arrived back at the hotel, located on what had been a sleepy riverfront street the day before, and found the streets loaded with parked cars and several hundred locals lined up to partake in the Smelt Festival, an ode to fried fish that people elsewhere might consider bait.

From finger-sized smelt to over-sized beasts, this is a fish-centric place. If you go, make sure your marriage is solid, because otherwise you might never go home.  End of story hook

— Published: Summer 2011

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