A trip to the bar, the Niagara Bar, that is

Josh Miller fishing
Recent Ohio State University graduate Josh Miller holds a Chinook, or King Salmon, one of several caught on his first visit to the famed Niagara Bar. (Mike Tontimonia photo)

Recently graduated and just days away from his first day as a full-time civil engineer, grandson Josh Miller agreed quickly to my invitation to visit a well-known bar, a huge bar that doesn’t serve up fancy micro-brewed beers or garlic spiced wings.

The bar in question is the nationally known Niagara Bar, a town-sized, sand and gravel bar that marks the dumping grounds of the Niagara River, a fast moving connector that basically drains all the Great Lakes except Lake Ontario.

The journey

The swift current river races through Buffalo, New York, tumbles majestically over Niagara Falls, then swirls and charges its way to meet with cavernous Lake Ontario. And with it, the river carries materials from who knows where to add to the Niagara Bar.

Nearly every fisher worth his or her salt knows about the bar and most have been there, or should be there, to enjoy a mouth watering serving of big, hard fighting, silver-sided fish in the form of lake trout, salmon, and steelhead.

“Its prime time,” said Niagara River and Lake Ontario fishing guide Matt Yablonsky, a full time captain who plies the river and lake year-round, choosing his prey and location as weather and active fish determine.

Good fishing

We visited with Yablonsky as we watching him float his trailered 20 footer at the Fort Niagara launch ramps. “It’s been really good fishing recently,” he said, as he readied rods and gear for the outing, adding that he already had a morning crew out who matched muscle with several angry salmon.

He promised that chances were good we would get into some rod bending action in the next few hours, a promise that he kept soon after dropping an array of shiny spoons into his well- practiced pattern of trolling rods.

The right time

Yablonsky explained that mid-May is a great time to fish the bar because right about now is when the bigger salmon join the feeding frenzy that takes place each and every spring.

“It’s about the smelt migration that attracts the predators. When the smelt are here, the salmon follow,” he said. Yablonsky fishes nearly half of the days in a year, all year every year.

It’s his full time job and he loves what he does. His unique approach to the business of guiding is that he charges according to the number of anglers who booked his services.

He’ll take one to four customers with an affordable charge for each person. It’s a different approach in an area dominated by large charter boats that feature set fees regardless of the number of clients.

The excitement

He is a detail oriented guide who mixed well with our crew of two. Under clear blue skies and moderate temperatures, we were shown a fine afternoon of anticipation, excitement, and fun as we anxiously waited the next strike. The larger fish yanked layers of line off our reels, seeming determined to tire us before we tired them.

Josh has been a fisherman since pre-school but this was his first time catching one of the strongest fresh water sport fish available in our region. I doubt quite seriously if this was his last visit to the bar.

For more information contact Captain Yablonsky at Getthenetwet.com or 716-550- 0413.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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