Fishing is fun no matter what the season is, but I think springtime fishing on Chautauqua Lake takes the prize. Up until three years ago, my dock would have gone in the lake by the time the ice was out. And, by now, the fishing boat would have been well used and my fillet knife dulled from cleaning crappies. But things change, and you have to make adjustments. This spring, fishing off my dock might be the only way I get to enjoy a meal of fresh fish.
My new neighbor, Jerry, is an avid fisherman. His dock went in weeks ago, and he put his boat in this weekend. He rises early, tip-toes out on his dock and slips away at first light with very little noise or fanfare. By the time the rest of us are stumbling out of bed, wiping the sleep from our eyes, he is back with his catch. This weekend, he was grinning like the Cheshire cat. He had three nice black crappies on his stringer and tales of catching dozens more that he had to throw back because they were too small. Then, he had the gall to talk about cleaning and cooking them. By this time, my mouth was watering, and I was ready to knock him over the head to steal his fish. Knowing that plan was doomed to start with, I began to assess the situation. My dock was doing me no good stacked up in front of my house I had to get it in the water.
As many of you know, putting in a dock is no easy task, especially when the lake water is high. The 3.5 inches of rain we got last week raised the level of the lake immensely. At my house, in Burtis Bay, it was nearly to the top of the break wall and had caused problems with some of the docks that were already in. Up the lake, another neighbor had lost a couple sections of his dock because of the high water and winds. My nephew, Mike, and his sons were booked to help me on Saturday, but I had to cancel because the water was still too deep. I was bummed, but Jerry showed me no mercy. He and his wife stood out at the end of their dock and, without any shame, brought in fish after fish. I think I even heard him singing "nah nah nah nah nah" as he turned towards my house swinging his pole with the fish on the hook. Grrr. Revenge doesn't suit me well, but in this case I was willing to give it a try. So, on Sunday, when I found out my neighbor on the other side was having his dock put in, I jumped at the chance to get mine in also.
Finally, the docks are in. Let the fishing begin.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver
Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy
Having to hire someone to put my dock in was a bitter pill to swallow. Being self-sufficient and independent is very important to me, but I knew I'd never have any fish to call my own if I didn't jump at this chance. A couple more weeks might go by before Mike could come and help. So, hire I did, and now I'm ready to challenge the neighbor for bragging rights. I can smell the fish frying already.
If you like to fish but haven't gone to get a license yet, you are going to be pleasantly surprised. I saw ads on TV about how the price of a fishing license has gone down, so I checked it out online at www.dec.ny.gov. Click on the "Permit, License, Registration" tab and scroll down to "Freshwater Fishing." The fee for a resident dropped a few dollars to $25, and a non-resident license is now only $50. The huge change is that your license is now good for 365 days from the date of purchase. In the past, it expired on Sept. 30, no matter when you bought it. The website also has tons of other information which you might find helpful.
I'll let you know how the neighborhood fishing rivalry plays out. In the meantime, get outside and enjoy. See you on the trails and on the lake.
Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.