The Fun Of Spring Fishing In Chautauqua County Is Upon Us

Lake Erie walleye are tasty and plentiful. Early season fishing along the Lake Erie shoreline or in Chautauqua Lake can be especially rewarding for anglers young and old. Photo by Forrest Fisher

Spring is here and with it comes the thrill of a new fishing season!

It’s not just about the warmer weather, it’s about the anticipation of the hunt. May 1 marks the opening day for New York State wild turkey hunting and also for walleye, northern pike, chain pickerel and tiger muskellunge.

The excitement is palpable.

Because of our warmer-than-usual spring weather, many anglers have already been fishing.

Lake Erie has been hot for limit catches of giant yellow perch; Chautauqua Lake has welcomed many anglers searching for black and white crappie. Yesterday, the walleye season opened all across NYS. In Lake Erie, walleye catches there are usually made from a boat in one of two ways: slow trolling mini-planer boards with shallow-running, smelt-looking stick baits (Rapala, Rebel, Bandit, Rattlin’ Rogue) right after sunset or for daytime – casting a blade bait (Heddon Sonar, Cotton Cordell Gay Blade, Cicada lure), allowing it to sink to bottom, then lifting it and jigging it back.

At Chautauqua Lake, walleye anglers fish from shore in waders and also from a boat, both methods usually as the sun is beginning to set. Spinner-worm rigs are popular with old-time anglers, as are jig baits tipped with a half-worm. Shore casters toss stick baits on light action, fast tip rods with light lines after dark while standing in waist-deep water.

The NYSDEC access at Tom’s Point, as are all the other state park access sites, is popular for shore angler access. I have caught my share of walleye limits standing in the water casting near the Bemus Point Ferry Landing with permission from landowners to walk in. Ask permission to access via private land — most folks say OK.

Also hot is the bass fishing in near-shore waters all along Lake Erie. The Lake Erie smallmouth bass fishing at this time of year is for the biggest fish. Record-size fish. Anglers can only fish with artificial lures and can only keep one fish over 20 inches (Lake Erie trophy season special rule), though most everyone fishes bass as catch and release whenever they fish for bass.

Careful care and handling of these early-season fish is required if you fish for bass since the females are fully laden with eggs for the spring spawn. Bottom dragging jig baits work well along shoreline and harbor areas; casting lightweight jigs (1/8, 1/4 ounce) with swim-style tails or tossing small shallow-diving stick baits works well in shallower waters. Drop shot rigs are most effective in deeper waters along the Lake Erie shoreline.

The lake waters everywhere are still chilly, so fish slow. If all of this is new to you, hire a guide on Chautauqua Lake or a charter captain on Lake Erie. Visit the NYS Guide index or the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (ELECBA) at their Come-Fish-Lake-Erie website (https://comefishlakeerie.com/) for a certified charter captain for Lake Erie.

Some of the local Chautauqua Lake and inland waterway guides for Chautauqua County include Dillan LaBarbera (716-499-7545), Marty Kleeman (716-410-3720), Frank Schoenacker (585-406-5764), Anders Ohl (716-969-3633), Alberto Rey, (Trout; 716-410-7003), and Mike Sperry (716-969-4633). Give them a call, book a trip and learn something new about catching fish.

Before you head out, remember to have a valid fishing license. It’s a crucial part of our responsibility as anglers. Don’t forget to check the latest regulations online or by reviewing the NYS fishing syllabus. Knowing and following the rules ensures a sustainable and enjoyable fishing experience. And if you hear a buzz around you, it might just be the hummingbirds returning.


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