Fishing on the Niagara River (Or “It’s Possible I’m the Fish Whisperer and Never Even Knew It.”)

May 19, 2013


I’m not gonna lie, you guys.

When the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation invited me to go fishing on the Niagara River this past week, I was apprehensive. And by “apprehensive” I mean, “You want me to do WHAT NOW?”

It’s not that I’d never fished before.

In fact, I’d fished a lot as a kid.

But fishing was one of those things I did, for the most part, against my will.

That’s what happens when you grow up on a farm – you do a lot of stuff against your will. Like, say, learning how to milk goats. Or collecting eggs even though chickens are vindictive jerks and will totally try to peck your hands off.

I would usually only fish when I had friends over. You see, most of my friends were from the suburbs. They didn’t have ponds in their backyards like I did. So for them fishing was something different – exotic even.

My childhood nemesis: the backyard pond.

Our backyard pond: my childhood nemesis. Along with the vindictive chickens.

I understood their fascination.

I felt the same way when I’d go to their houses in the suburbs and get to experience things we didn’t have out in the country – like, you know, sidewalks. (“You mean there’s this little road just for people to walk on? And you’re saying I don’t have to worry about being run over by a tractor? TELL ME MORE!”)

Even though I understood why my friends would want to go fishing, I still never wanted to go fishing.

Instead, I would present them with a list of alternative activities – activities that were infinitely better than fishing in my mind.

For example, we could climb on barn roofs! While holding poultry! Who wouldn’t want to do that?



Or, we could play another one of my favorite games: Lock Someone in the Chicken Barn Until They’re Forced to Climb Out of the Teeny-Tiny Chicken Door or Until We All Get in Trouble.

And when my friends still insisted on going fishing, I’d pull out the big guns: dressing up baby goats in doll clothes. I mean, come on, you guys. GOATS IN DOLL CLOTHES? Talk about an instantly fun time!

Okay, not a goat in doll clothes, but it is a guinea pig in doll clothes. Which is ALMOST as awesome.

Okay, this is not a goat in doll clothes, but it is a guinea pig in doll clothes. Which is ALMOST as awesome.

My friends would invariably still insist on going fishing, and I’d begrudgingly agree. After all, I didn’t want them to get mad and stop being friends with me. I still wanted to be invited over to their houses in the suburbs. I mean, how else was I going to get my sidewalk fix?

The reason why I hated fishing so much had nothing to do with the squirmy worms or flapping fish. I could handle a worm or take a fish off a hook with the best of them. In fact, I considered those parts the fun parts – at least there was a little bit of action involved.

My problem with fishing was the waiting.

I hated standing on the banks of the pond waiting for something – anything – to bite. The minutes standing there felt like hours to me – hours I could be using to do something productive. Like, say, tying baby bonnets on goat heads. I mean, SERIOUSLY.

So, given my less than enthusiastic childhood experience with fishing, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t enjoy my Niagara River fishing trip this week.

You see, I have not become any more patient with age. I still hate to wait for things.

I didn’t want to be stuck on a boat, waiting for fish to bite and wondering when the heck I could get off the boat and be able to do something productive – like, you know, watching Youtube videos of swimming pigs. (Yes, I realize my definition of productivity is a bit skewed. But SWIMMING PIGS, YOU GUYS!)

Luckily, I discovered fishing on the Niagara River is infinitely better than I could have ever imagined.

It was definitely much better than fishing in a little backyard pond.

It’s possible it was even better than dressing up goats in doll clothes. But that could be just the endorphins talking.

First of all, before I could even go fishing this past week, I had to get my one-day fishing license. And I think we can all agree that if an activity requires a license, it automatically becomes a lot more dangerous and awesome.

Mind you, the license was super easy to get – all it took was five dollars and a trip to the Walmart. But I still felt like a total bad ass walking around with a fishing license in my wallet. Like, “Oh, what’s this? Just my LICENSE TO FISH. That’s right. Fish better be watching their backs because I’m legal.”

Gonna pop me some fish, yo.

Gonna pop me some fish, yo.

Secondly, all the fishing took place on a super fast boat. And every time I’m on a super fast boat, I can’t help feeling like I’m in some kind of James Bond movie.

Can't you just hear the James Bond theme song playing in the background? Or is that just me?

Can’t you just hear the James Bond theme song playing in the background? Or is that just me?

Plus, it helped that it was a gorgeous day to be on a gorgeous river surrounded by some gorgeous scenery.

Not too shabby, right?

Not too shabby, huh?

But, the best and the most surprising part about the fishing trip was the fact that I actually, well, liked fishing.

Probably because I actually caught some fish – a lot of fish, in fact. And not just a bunch of puny little bluegills like we used to catch in our pond.

First, there was this big-mouthed bass.

My first catch!

My first catch!

And then I caught two big huge trout.

Whoa! Look at that whopper. (The fish. Not me. But, yes, I have put on a little weight lately, thanks for asking.)

Whoa! Look at that whopper. (The fish. Not me. But, yes, I have put on a little weight lately, thanks for asking. Jerk.)

I caught six fish in total, but three of them got away before I could reel them in. Probably because they were HUGE RIVER MONSTERS WITH FANGS THE SIZE OF BANANAS. So it’s all for the best that I wasn’t able to get them into the boat. I wouldn’t have wanted to get anyone hurt, you know.

As much as I would like to chalk up my surprising fishing success to some latent secret skill I never thought I had, I suspect it all had to do with our amazing guide, Captain Frank Campbell, of Niagara Region Charter Service.

After twenty years of working as a guide on the Niagara River, this man knows his fish.

Frank, the fishing guru, hard at work.

Frank, the fishing guru, hard at work.

Not only did he know exactly where to go to catch fish, he also knew exactly when we had fish on our lines versus when our lines had just snagged on the bottom of the river — even though it all kind of felt like the same thing to me. It was uncanny really. It’s like the guy has some kind of weird fishing sixth sense.

Plus, even better, he did all the hard stuff for us – like driving the boat and tying the lures and catching the fish in the net once we’d reeled them in. You know, all the stuff that probably would have resulted with me floating in the river if I’d attempted to do it myself.

And, well, he turned this reluctant fisher-woman into a total trout-catching pro. So it’s pretty much a given that he’s some kind of miracle-worker.

Me, my fish & my new fishing guru, Frank.

I caught this! (Again, I’m talking about the FISH, people. Sheez.)

Have you ever gone fishing? Do you love it, like it or only tolerate it because you want to be invited to your friend’s house so you can see her sidewalk?
P.S. I’d like to thank Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation for arranging my trip, and Captain Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charter Service for being the awesomest fishing guide ever. I’m telling you, the man’s a fish-magician.
P.P.S. Check out this post on the Niagara USA blog for more information on the trip and to find out how you can book your own.

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On May 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm tom said:

    I have to admit, I’ve never, ever gone fishing before. And I grew up on a farm with a river about a five minute walk away across a field. I was too busy playing traditional English farm games like Being Chased By A Tractor Down A Hill And Screaming, Convincing My Little Brother That The Electric Pylon On The Hill Is A Tornado, and some kind of weird squash-tennis hybrid played against a barn wall made from corrugated iron. We never knew what way that crazy ball was going to go!

    Also, I think you’re totally the fish whisperer. Or a mutant. It’s possible that this is some kind of X-Men like power. I have a power right now where my skin goes really red and peels off. I’m telling you, us farm kids are stepping up on the evolutionary ladder.
    tom recently posted..The Best Food in Charleston, or Southern Food Heaven

    • On May 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm Sally said:

      I’m telling you we totally need to write a book: The Farmkid Games Handbook. And maybe we could run a summer camp where we take in city kids and teach them important farmkid things — like how to blame your brother for the manure fight. Not that that ever happened.

  2. On May 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm James said:

    Funny! Sounds like a great time had by all. Now the question is: What are you going to DO with those three lovely fish (the three that got away totally do NOT count, you know…) Cat food or human food? I’m waiting for the Trout and Bacon recipe!

    • On May 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm Sally said:

      Actually we released them all. I hadn’t brought anything to keep them in. Plus, I was staying overnight nearby and didn’t want dead fish sitting in my car.
      And those three that got away totally DO count. Jerk.

  3. On May 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm Priya said:

    Whoa Fishing License? Girl, you got it made! Watch out fish of Niagara!

  4. On May 20, 2013 at 11:27 am Carmel said:

    I like fishing, but I haven’t done it in years and while most people get more patient with age, I am definitely less patient. Plus I have to pee a lot more often, so that makes sitting on a boat a little more difficult. On second thought, no, I don’t like fishing.

    • On May 20, 2013 at 4:30 pm Sally said:

      I’m also super impatient and have a bladder the size of a marble. But the trip was probably only about 2 hours long — it was kind of perfect. I didn’t have to wait too much and I was back on shore before I had to run to the bathroom.

  5. On May 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm Madhu Bhardwaj (@madconnection) said:

    Move over Old Man and the Sea. Here comes the Niagra fisher. 🙂
    You made me laugh Sally.
    Entertaining as always.

  6. On May 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    Holy cow that’s a huge fish you caught!!! I’m too impatient to fish, having said that my favorite show on TV is River Monsters. 🙂

  7. On May 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm mallory said:

    I used to go fishing a lot with my Dad. He’s a big fisherman — loves fly fishing and has even done harpooning in the Caribbean. I loved it when I was little and then less into it in middle school. I have yet to do it again. I suspect that (depending on the day) I would either totally love it or totally hate it. Also I really detest worms. I should get over that…but I do.

  8. On May 21, 2013 at 8:36 am Heather said:

    Okay, that trout is impressive. I went fishing once and the only things I caught were a seahorse (I didn’t even know that was possible) and one very scary looking puffer fish. Of course, we didn’t have a fish magician on board our boat. Rookie mistake.

  9. On May 21, 2013 at 9:40 am Christy@SweetandSavoring said:

    Looks like you had so much fun! Kind of in awe over here that you caught fish so big!
    I have actually never been fishing, which feels sort of weird, only because…hasn’t everyone? I mean, I’m from Long Island. For most people it’s a mandatory rite of passage to catch their first fish.
    Also I’m vegetarian, but I do sort of miss eating fish. It’s a quandry.

    • On May 21, 2013 at 10:36 am Sally said:

      Well, you could always catch & release. That’s what we did. Although I kind of wanted to bring them home so I could impress my family with my new fishing-awesomeness, but I doubt they would have survived the car trip.

  10. On May 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm Brittany @ Paws for Beer said:

    Looks like you had fun!

    My first fishing experience was a little embarrassing! I was in a boat with my boyfriend, an avid fisherman, and my line kept acting funny. I said to him “I think there’s something wrong with the line” and handed my pole over to him. His response “that’s because you have a fish on your line”… Oops!
    Brittany @ Paws for Beer recently posted..Day 4 – Wine Tasting in Hill City, South Dakota

  11. On May 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm Uncle Ed said:

    Above or below the falls? I like ocean fishing for the surprises and the tasty food. But I still haven’t figured out exactly how to take a 2 foot angel fish off a hook, like the front is on the side, and you have this huge thing with teeth like a piranha tucked up under your arm and all the time you think, boy is this a beautiful animal but it’s white and black and mean and ghostly and angry. So if you were smart enough to put the pliers back in your left pocket, then maybe, nature cooperating, you can retrieve the hook. I found this picture, apparently they are called spadefish (you bury them in the garden as a surprise?). mine were always bigger and pointier 🙂

    • On May 22, 2013 at 6:52 am Sally said:

      This was below the Falls in Lewiston. I’m not so sure it would be a good idea to go fishing above the Falls… well not near them at least.

  12. On May 22, 2013 at 12:43 am Megan said:

    Hot damn, that’s impressive! I always loved chicken herding/cow chasing/sheep shearing/llama taunting/horse jousting/farm activities…but fishing never appealed to me much, either. Apparently I need to meet a fish-magician!
    Megan recently posted..Flashback Friday: Ballin’ Eco Lodge in Costa Rica

    • On May 22, 2013 at 6:51 am Sally said:

      LLAMA TAUNTING? Oh man, now I really wish we had llamas while I was growing up. Imagine the taunts I could have come up! “Hey, llama, yeah, you with the llama-y face!” Okay, I really need to work on my llama taunts.

  13. On May 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm Brea said:

    Where did you stay on your Niagara fishing adventure?


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