If you tell your buddy to meet you at Eighteen Mile Creek in New York to fly fish for steelhead, you better be a bit more specific.
You see there are two creeks named Eighteen Mile Creek in New York, and they both get runs of steelhead.
One is a tributary to Lake Erie in Steelhead Alley which we discuss below. The other is a tributary to Lake Ontario - see our DIY guide to fly fishing the Lake Ontario tributary for the later.
So if you’re heading to Steelhead Alley to hit up Eighteen Mile Creek for steelhead you are in the right place. Find out where to go, when to visit, and what you’ll need to take with you right here.
A aerial view and scouting report on Eighteen Mile Creek (Lake Erie) in Steelhead Alley
The tributaries of Lake Erie are well-known for their trout, and especially steelhead, populations. This creek offers 1.4 miles of public fishing rights with stocked brown trout and steelhead, along with plenty of smallmouth bass and other types of fish. Of course, people usually come here for steelhead.
Eighteen Mile Creek is often confused with the Eighteen Mile Creek that flows from Lake Ontario, but this one is located about 6 miles from Eden and flows from Lake Erie. It’s easiest to differentiate because the other is sometimes called Burt Dam Creek. Plus, the origins of the streams are different.
This creek runs to the falls below the Route 62 bridge, and much of it is on Erie County Parklands. There are some private access points on this creek to be mindful of, as well. Special regulations apply for fishing this creek, so be sure to read up on them before you go. This creek also has a South Branch that runs for about 6.3 miles, while the creek itself runs 8 miles in total.
Eighteen Mile Creek (Lake Erie) Map and Fishing Access Sites
This is the second-largest tributary to Lake Erie in New York State (Cattaraugus Creek is the largest) and was originally named the Koughquaugu Creek, courtesy of the Seneca Nation. The new name reflects its distance from the Niagara River in Buffalo.
The lower section of this creek has been known for having an abundance of fossils, which has been common knowledge since the 19th century. Some areas of the creek and certain parts of Hamburg have been designated “critical environment areas” because of their fossil abundance and the desire to protect them.
Of course, you’re here for fly fishing, not fossil hunting. Let’s talk about where to find those trout.
Best Places to Fish Eighteen Mile Creek (Lake Erie)
You will find plenty of spots on this creek that are great for steelhead fishing. The spawning runs attract plenty of anglers and you can find access in several areas. The best and easiest access is from Eighteen Mile Creek County Park, where there is a catch and release area with artificial lures only regulations.
There is a gorge running along the creek and the parking lot found on South Creek Road allows anglers to access hiking trails that run for about five miles, as well as the creek itself for fishing. As part of a new project, the upper section of the creek near the headwaters is no longer fishable.
The country purchased the forested parcel at the headwaters, and they have been developing it into a habitat and nature preserve, dedicated namely to fish and wildlife, as well as drinking water improvement. There is an area of over 1,000 acres near the headwaters that are protected and are only accessible for passive recreation.
The rest of the creek offers fairly good access throughout, including where it runs through Evans before it gets to the mouth of Lake Erie. You can walk most of it without much difficulty, but some areas can get a little tricky in spots.
Best Time to Fish Eighteen Mile Creek (Lake Ontario)
The spawning season that attracts most anglers runs from October until early May, but some people come for brown trout all year long. The creek offers great fishing in the fall with ideal water temps and plenty of fish.
You’ll also find good steelhead runs throughout the winter since these guys love the colder water. As spring comes around, the hatches will bring out everyone else, and make sure that there’s plenty to catch. This is the time when you’ll want to use imitations of hatches, but we’ll get to that next.
You may find some good fishing during the summer months in deeper spots or cooler areas of the creek, in particular for smallmouth bass. Choose days with cloud cover for even better odds or try fishing in the early morning or late at night, although at the peak of spawning season time doesn’t matter. The fish are plentiful.
Fly Box - What You'll Need
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for Eighteen Mile Creek:
- Glo Bug (#8 - 16)
- Sucker Spawn (#8 - 12)
- Nuclear Roe (#10 - 16)
- Black Stonefly (#12 -18)
- Brown Stonefly (#12 -14)
- Hare's Ear (#10 - 12)
- Woolly Bugger (#6 - 10)
- Muddler Minnow (#6 - 10)
- Pink Panther (#6 - 10)
- White Bunny Spey (#6 - 10)
- Pot Bellied Pig
- M.C. Hammer (#4)
- Spawntruder (#4)
A single-hand 10-foot, 6- or 7-wt fly rod with a weight-forward floating line is perfect for fishing for steelhead and lake-run brown trout on Eighteen Mile Creek.
Similar weight switch rods 10 and 11.5 feet in length are also popular. If you like to swing flies, a 12-foot-6, 6- or 7-weight rod is all you need for steelhead and brown trout.
A 9- to 14-foot leader, tapered down to 10- or 8-pound-test is pretty standard. In super clear water conditions you may need to taper down to 6-pound-test.
A standard leader configuration for use with a floating or intermediate line is:
- 2 feet, 25-lb monofilament (mono)
- 2 feet, 20-lb mono
- 2 feet, 15-lb mono
- 2 feet, 12-lb fluorocarbon (fluoro)
- 2 feet, 10-lb fluoro
- 2 feet, 8-lb fluoro
A standard heavy sink-tip leader is:
- 2- to 5-feet straight 15-pound Maxima
- 2-feet straight 12-pound Maxima
Eighteen Mile Creek (Lake Erie) Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide an Eighteen Mile Creek fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:
The state of New York requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.
You can purchase a New York State fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Trip Planning Tips
Those visiting this creek will find plenty of options for lodging and accommodations along the way. The creek runs south across U.S. 20 and I-90, just a short distance from North Evans and Eden. It’s also easy to reach the creek from the freeway for those driving in.
Buffalo is just 30 minutes from the mouth of the creek, so those flying in can come to Buffalo-Niagara Airport. You should rent a car for convenience, but there is a bus route that runs from the city out to Eden, which lets off about a mile from the creek at Erie Rd and Creek Rd South.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in New York
Feature image by Doug Kerr