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Fishing With Or Without Weeds

Some time ago, I came across some old issues from local newspapers, like back in the early ’60s. It seemed back in the early ’60s, the main concern regarding Chautauqua Lake was weed growth. Further research uncovered another series of articles from the early ’70s, with the main concern being weed growth on Chautauqua Lake. Continuing with my amateur detective work, I looked in the early ’80s and guess what, the main concern and topic that seemed to be at the top of most folks’ minds was the weed growth on Chautauqua Lake.

Anybody with a computer and a little time on their hands can do the same thing and uncover with the same results. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that if we don’t learn from our mistakes we are going to repeat them. As a wise old man once said, repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results is a sign of insanity.

The issue with weeds on Chautauqua Lake will, I am sure, continue until some major issues are dealt with and everybody gets on the same page. If history has shown us anything, that may or may not happen. Coming up with a plan that everybody is on board with is great but as we see currently, what sounds good one year to some doesn’t sound as good in years to follow.

Much has been written about weeds in Chautauqua Lake and for some time I have chosen to stay out of the mix. I have said many times before, that I sat in weed control/issue meetings for 30 years and most generally, they are all the same. The property owners want the lake to be a fish bowl and anglers want some weeds for the fish.

I understand both sides of the fight. Property owners pay huge taxes to live on the lake and their property value goes down along with the quality of their life. When you cannot sit on your dock because of the aroma of dead weeds, there is an issue.

Anglers know that fish hang and thrive in the weeds. Hence, they like the weeds — to some extent.

It’s a major balancing act. In my humble opinion– from fishing and guiding on the lake for over 40 years — somebody is going to lose. All users of the lake aren’t going to be happy at the time. It’s what Grandpa Robbins would call a lose-lose situation.

With that being said, anglers still have an excellent fishery in which to chase their favorite species of freshwater fish.

Our lake is changing and there are different species of weeds that are showing up.

This isn’t something that has happened overnight, as some would suggest. The nonindigenous vegetation we are finally seeing has been showing up for decades now. Those who spend time on the water instead of talking about it would know these simple facts.

The difference in the adjectives hot, warm, cold, high and low is open to personal interpretation. I think warm temperatures are in the mid-80s and cold is sub-zero, high is 20-plus feet, low is a few feet and hot is in the 90s. Others may have individual differences and that’s OK. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that no matter who you talk to they will say, so far this year’s weather has not been the norm.

Hence, the critters that swim in local lakes, ponds and streams are feeling the difference.

When it comes to fishing, I have found that fishing deep provides bigger and less-harassed fish. We like the deep weed edges. Yes, Chautauqua Lake has them this year but one has to search them out. When found the deep weed beds tend to hold good schools of bait fish. Where the bait fish are, their larger cousins aren’t far away.

Earlier this past week we found schools of bait fish with deep water and weeds 2 feet down off Lighthouse Point and Upper Dewittville Bay. Over a couple days several nice smallies, good limits of walleye and three muskie were caught off these spots.

No matter what the temperature, fish have to eat to survive. Now, they may not eat as often or they may change their feeding patterns but nonetheless they still have to eat sometime.

Matching your bait selection with the natural forage fish of the fishery your fishing is the key now.

Next, keep your offering close to where the bait are hanging out. With warmer-than-normal surface water temperatures, large fish aren’t going to hang out in the shallower water long. If they do they will end up like the floaters that have been showing on the lake this past week.

Finding and keying your fishing on deep water with shallow water close by will increase your creel. When the surface temperature gets in the high 70s and into the 80s, larger fish can’t handle the warmer temperatures and they get stressed out much faster. Just like we do when our body tells us it’s warm and we need to cool down.

Knowing where these critters go is important to your success. Understanding why fish go were the go will make you a better angler.

The great thing about Chautauqua Lake is its diversity. The lower end of the lake offers some great shallow-water fishing opportunities, with the upper end playing home to some of the finest summer deep-water action in the Northeast.

For years I would troll for muskies in 20 feet in what I thought was deep water. Then several years back I was able to find areas that hold good numbers of big toothie critters in 30-40 feet of water. When presented properly with the right bait the fish can be caught and safely released alive back into the lake.

Now I am not saying that I am pulling fish off the bottom at these depths but they are hanging on drop-offs at these depths. Here again I prefer to fish the shelves close to deep water. What makes shelves great is their close proximity to shallow and deep water. Bigger fish — no matter if they are bass, muskie or walleye — don’t need to move far to feed.

Fishing and releasing fish to be caught another day under these conditions isn’t easy, but with a little work and changing your way of thinking, it can be done and done successfully.

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