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Fishing Steelhead in Johnson Creek

Michael Parzymieso

Sometimes it is a long wait from the time an angler steps onto the stream to the first hard yank of a game fish sprinting downstream.  If the wait is too long, most fishermen begin to bargain with the fishing gods hoping for at least one hookup. Then, if it goes on any longer they begin to ponder giving away family heirlooms for just one bite. 

One way to avoid promising away your next of kin to a deity with a sketchy track record for wish fulfillment is to have a couple of go-to places to fish. When all else fails it’s good to know a place with a few fast riffles, deeply undercut banks, or knuckles of water stuffed with active spawning fish that will produce a few hook-ups. 

Johnson Creek in the village of Lyndonville is a place that an angler can count on – even on tough days. The relatively wide rocky bottomed water course has plenty of fish holding structure and normally decent water levels throughout the fall spring fishing seasons. 

Most importantly, Johnson Creek is filled with spawning fish from the late fall to early spring.  There are fishable access points along the waterway from the dam at Lyndonville all of the way back to Lakeside Park where the creek empties into Lake Ontario. 

The stretch of Johnson Creek in Lyndonville that is very productive is bracketed by an eleven foot high and two-hundred and seventy five foot long dam that crosses the stream just west of the route 63 bridge and an old bridge trestle just over a quarter mile downstream. 

The dam prevents spawning fish from moving up the waterway any further and the trestle and its associated pool presents a starting point that is commonly populated by fish.  Between these two points fish stack up and in the large number of deeps pools and fast water of the stream.  This area can be fished in over the course of a couple hours.

The creek hosts a run of Coho and Chinook aggressive hard fighting salmon as well as steelhead and brown trout. 


Bridge Trestle


The trestle is really just a one foot wide slab of concrete squared off at the top and stretching across the stream. The concrete structure, depending on water level, pokes less than a foot above the waterline until two thirds of the way across the creek.

At that point the water piles over the south side of the trestle.  The pool behind the structure is thirty to forty feet wide and three to five feet deep. It has a three foot gap in the middle creating a narrow fast section of water that hollows out a fish holding zone stretching fifty feet behind the trestle. All of the area behind the structure holds fish but the fast water behind the middle gap is the most productive section.

Fly fishermen start out with an orange or yellow egg imitation or a dark woolly bugger drifted though the hole will draw strikes from steelhead and salmon. Heavy gear is the norm for salmon while steelhead can be handled with mid-weight gear.  

Spin casters can pitch worms, small jigs tipped with wax worms, egg sacks for steelhead and browns.  

This area fits the criteria of a go to spot because the fishable area contains several steelhead and Coho holding areas to work.   It is also the good spot to start from since there are few fishermen and the fishable area is large.


Fishing the Dam


The dam is by far the biggest fishing stop on Johnson Creek.  The dam is large at almost three hundred feet across and stands eleven feet high.  There is access on both the north and south sides of the creek. Caution is key because the water flow has scooped out very deep pockets in places. 

Fishing the south side of the dam is perfect for younger fishermen because the access though the library and a stable rocky shore.  It can be accessed by the north side of the pool and is best for more experienced waders particularly during peak times when crowds are larger but not the elbow to elbow madness.

According to local fishermen Johnson Creek has a very productive Coho and Chinook run in November and December but numbers of steelhead and Brown trout are smaller at that time.  However, during a spring run March and April the steelhead are far more abundant.

Fishing access is exceptional. There are several locations to get to the stream and in the water. The staff members of town hall and the library are helpful and more than one local was able offer ideas about where to fish and what o use. If you have just a short time to fish, enough to hit the two main holes, both sides can be done effectively in a morning.  

Lyndonville is a pleasant village and the fishing is good and the only conversation between the fishing gods and the fisherman will be a thank you.


Fly Fishing Equipment (Salmon) 
Rod 8/9 weight 10/11 foot length 
Backing 150 yards 20 pound test
Leader 36 inches 16 pound test 
Tippet 24-36 inches 12 pound test
Fly:  Egg imitations, Woolly Bugger
Spin Casting Equipment
Rod: Mid to heady
Line: 6-8 pound test
Presentation: eggs, skein, worms, small jigs tipped with wax worms.


How to Get There From Buffalo

Take the I-90 East to the Exit 48 then head north on route 77 until it becomes route 63. Take this route all of the way into Lyndonville.  There is parking for the trestle section if your turn right onto Railroad Avenue and take it to the end.

How to Get There From Syracuse

Take the I-90 East to the Exit 48 then head north on route 77 until it becomes route 63. Take this route all of the way into Lyndonville.  There is parking for the dam section near the library and in several public spots. Be sure to follow all local rules for parking and stream access.

Michael Parzymieso is an avid fisherman and enjoys the outdoors. He is married with three children. He teaches English for the Buffalo Public Schools.

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