Using The Lake Will Add To Success

Each individual body of water we fish has its own makeup.

A stream offers twists and turns, rocks, gravel and wood. Banks of a streams often have been cut out due to changing current flow, which can offer lots of different hiding spots.

Ponds, on the other hand, offer everything from weeds to rocks to soft bottoms. Shorelines could be made up of downed trees, little points or cattails.

Larger bodies of water can have totally different characteristics. Take Lake Erie, for example. At about 210 feet at its deepest, It is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, while Lake Superior, at its deepest, is around 1,300 feet.

The Eastern Basin of Lake Erie offers some of the most diverse fishing in the country, but it’s shallow in comparison to other Great Lakes. While many of the same fishing styles on Lake Erie work on other bodies of water, Lake Erie is clear in comparison to inland bodies like Chautauqua.

With Chautauqua Lake being a glacier lake, some believe it’s the first Finger Lake to be offered. I say look at a map of the “Finger Lakes” and tell me it’s not a “finger lake.” It offers a shallower fishery with a mixture of weeds, rocks and offshore structures available to anglers.

I have all but stayed out of the weed discussion for some time now and will continue to so, to an extent. But often I just cringe when I see what is going on with our lake. The thing I can say for certain is summer fishing trips on Chautauqua Lake are always exciting because one never knows what’s tugging on the end of the line.

Recently, I came across some old issues of local newspapers, and I’m talking way back. It seemed back in the early 1960s the main concern regarding Chautauqua Lake was weed growth. I then uncovered a series of articles from the early 1970s and the main concern was weed growth on Chautauqua Lake. Continuing my search, I looked in the early 1980s 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.

If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we are sure to repeat them. Well, the issue with weeds on Chautauqua Lake will, I’m sure, continue until some major issues are dealt with and everybody gets on the same page.

With that being said, anglers still have an excellent fishery in which to chase their favorite species of freshwater fish. But during the early days of summer one can see things changing. Recently, the talk of weeds hasn’t really been a hot topic, but from what I have observed, I believe that issue will begin to be discussed more and more.

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. It has taken decades for Chautauqua Lake to get to this point. The nonindigenous vegetation we are finally seeing has been showing up for a few years now. For those who spend time on the water instead of talking about it would know, these are the simple facts.

The recent heat wave in Western New York has had an interesting impact on friends that call local lakes their home.

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, our summer has been hot.

Hence, the critters that swim in local lakes, ponds and streams are feeling the stress. With that being said, how does one go about catching these critters during the dog days of summer? There are a couple things that we have found that work well.

First, deep weed edges. Yes, Chautauqua Lake has them. This year especially they are producing fish in big numbers. One has to search them out, but 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.

Recently we have again found schools of bait fish with deep water and weeds two feet down off Lighthouse Point. Each year when the temperature climbs, I go deep. In the deep weed beds we were able to pluck out largemouth, walleye and couple nice muskies. It can be difficult at times,but when we are on it, everybody knows because rods start popping.

Matching your bait selection with the natural forage of the fishery you’re fishing is the key now.

Next, keep your offering close to where the bait is 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 up. This is what happens when folks spray the week of a holiday. Go figure.

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 where they 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.

There are areas in the upper basin of the lake that I call Dog Days fishing hot spots. For years I would troll for muskies in 20 feet of what I thought was deep water. Currently, we have been 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 dropoffs 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.

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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