The mighty Niagara flows between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario carving the World famous Niagara falls and forming a deep gorge and formidable rapids below it. In the past, the Great Lakes were inhabitted by two char species - lake trout and coaster brook trout. On some of Lake Ontario tributories, runs of atlantic salmon also existed. Today the fishery has changed drmatically with the introduction of pacific salmon species and steelhead. Although the stocking program is quite strong in the US, many populations have been established and can now be considered wild.
There are ongoing efforts to re-introduce atlantic salmon in streams where they disappeared a century ago but even without this species, the runs of salmonids in most great lake tributories are impressive. Fish that run up the Niagara river in fall and winter include chinook, brown trout, lake trout and steelhead. Fishing is done in a few places from shore on both the US and Canadian side, and more water is available when a boat is used. The Niagara is a huge, cold intimidating river with gigantic outcrops of rock on its shores and the ice formed in wintertime can be ove 5' thick. Lake trout and steelhead fishing starts in November and lasts until May. Conditions often change quickly. With the power stations below the falls, the river level fluctuates during the day by 10' or more. Strong winds on lake Eria muddy up the water and the river can become unfishable for weeks. On other occasions the whole surface of the river can be covered by ice blocks. It is useful to check the satellite pictures of lake Erie before planning a trip to the area. Winter conditions can be extremely cold, and the ice formations dangerous.
On good days holding pools, like the Whirplpool, Pebbly or Queenston attract a lot of fishermen. In spring a lot of them get to the water before first light so that they can reserve their favorite places. With this being said, some parts of the river rarely get fished, and those willing to walk and explore can always find a spot for themselves. Keep in mind that the gorge can be quite cold and challenging even in April.
Being a deeep river, the Niagara lends itself better to fishing spoons and jigs. Unfortunately, its bottom is strewn with big rocks and holes, that make gear fishing one expensive sport. At times steelhead and browns will swim close to the surface, taking spoons at fast retrieve. Other times they will be deeper. About half the anglers prefer float fishing with salmon eggs, flies or soft baits. Fly fishing is difficult due to the steep banks but not entirely impossible. Little Cleo spoons of 3/4oz have worked well for me, as well as 1/2oz jigs with twistertails of 4-6". Floats and roe are usually even more effective. The Niagara can be a generous river where an angler can sometimes catch 5 or more big trout a day. Most of the winter days though can be quite slow if the most productive water has been already taken.