Andrew Nixon, director of the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, and Dave Barus, fishing and hunting promotions consultant for the bureau, invited me to participate in the Chautauqua Outdoor Media Fall Fish Camp. Dave organizes and hosts the fish camps. The goal of the camp is to introduce visiting outdoor media members to the fishing and hunting opportunities in Chautauqua County.
Chautauqua County is located in the southwest corner of New York state. Lake Erie is on its northern border and Chautauqua Lake is located in the center of the county. Both Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake are premier walleye lakes and have excellent musky and bass fisheries.
Although the camps focus on fishing, there is a lengthy list of other activities to do such as winery tours, visiting state fishing stations and hatcheries, hiking nature trails like those offered at Panama Rocks Scenic Park, touring museums such as the Troy Peterson Institute and sipping locally brewed beer at micro-breweries. The three-day camp is a great getaway to fish, communicate with and share ideas with other outdoor writers, enjoy excellent homemade meals and take in as much as Chautauqua County has to offer.
Our campsite was a private home located off Route 430 at 6060 Orchard Road on Point Chautauqua. It is a year-round heated two-story cottage with four bedrooms that could sleep nine individuals. It has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room, two bathrooms, a screened porch and washer/dryer. The cottage was located one street from Chautauqua Lake and had a path down to the lake, where there was a dock and an available 14-foot aluminum boat for our use. Anyone that wants to bring their own boat can launch it a few miles down Route 430 at Long Point State Park and maintain it on a mooring buoy near the dock. The cottage is available to rent and anyone interested should visit www.chautauqualakerental.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon arrival at the camp I met our host, Dave Barus, and the other attendees. They were Jim Proffitt, an outdoor columnist from Ohio, Wade Robertson, an outdoor columnist from Pennsylvania and his guest from Olean, Fred Dwaileebe. After “meeting and greeting” we decided to have dinner at Guppy’s Restaurant and Tavern a couple of miles down Route 430. The restaurant has a full menu that ranges from wings, pizzas and burgers to soups and salads, along with nightly specials. I had a great platter of mussels steamed in garlic butter wine sauce and topped with fresh tomatoes. I highly recommend stopping in Guppy’s anytime you’re in the area.
The fishing itinerary for the first day had Jim Proffitt and Dave Barus fishing for walleyes on Chautauqua Lake with Chautauqua Bassmaster Don Staszcuk. Wade Robertson and Fred fished for walleye on Lake Erie with Captain T.J. Yetzer (Reel Time Charters, (585) 764-2006). I also fished Chautauqua Lake for musky and walleye with Frank Shoenacker (Infinity Charters, (585) 406-5764 or www.infinitycharters.com). Frank uses a 17.5-foot Lund when he guides on Chautauqua Lake and also guides on Lake Erie with a 25-foot Pro-Line.
I met Frank at Long Point State Park, which is located a few miles south of our camp off Route 430. We trolled for musky on the north end of the lake at about 3.5 miles per hour. We used Shimano rods with Penn reels strung with 80-pound braided line tipped with a couple of feet of 80-pound fluorocarbon line. The lures we used included RW Smith homemade musky lures, perch-colored Wiley musky lures and very large green spoons with black dots. We trolled several areas where Frank had been having success catching muskies, but the big lunkers were not feeding. We then switched to some lighter tackle and drifted for walleye using one-ounce perch-colored mooneye shimmer minnows and rapala jigging raps. We were marking all kinds of fish, but like the musky, the walleye were also suffering from lock jaw. However, the white perch kept us busy. Some of them were nice-sized white perch, so we focused on catching them. Frank told me that “you fish for what’s biting!” So we did and had a great day catching one white perch after the other and brought a few dozen home for a great fish fry.
Frank and I talked about walleye fishing on Chautauqua Lake and he told me that he considered the best time of the year to catch walleye was mid-May to mid-June. That time of the year he trolls along the outside edge of the weeds along shore with a slip sinker worm rig because the bait stays in the cover of the weeds. Then, as the bait moves out into deeper water the walleye follows, and then he drifts for the walleye using jigs. His preferred jigging lure is a rapala jigging rap.
When Frank and I returned to the marina we met Don, Dave and Jim, and found out that Don had a couple of secret hot spots for walleye. Each of the three anglers had limited on walleye and had also released several others. Wade and Fred had a great day on Lake Erie and had limited with walleyes as well.
Mother Nature threw us a curve on the second day of the fish camp. Wade Robertson and I were to fish Lake Erie for bass and walleye with Captain TJ Yetzer. But, the lake had 6 to 7-foot waves and was just too rough to fish. However, this was not an issue, because when Dave Barus plans these events, he always has backup plans and alternative activities lined up. Dave had made arrangements for us to fish Chautauqua Lake for bass with Chautauqua Bassmaster President Mike Russo. Mike checked out a few areas earlier that morning before he picked us up and caught a couple of bass. Not long after he picked us up and headed back out to fish these areas, the wind picked up and the lake got rough. We threw everything in the boat at the bass, including spinnerbaits, jigs, grubs, crankbaits and even live bait, and could not entice one hit. They had shut down completely. We tried different locations all over the lake until we entered a small channel that Mike said had put tournament anglers on the winner’s podium. It looked and felt promising, but we had no luck catching bass. Half way down the channel where it widened out, Mike and Wade were tossing spinnerbaits when a “cloud” of nice sized yellow perch swarmed up chasing them. We immediately decided to fish for the perch. Mike and Wade used the minnows and I used a small white plastic grub below a bobber. We caught perch on practically every cast. Not all the perch were keepers, but Wade and I ended the day with about 70 fish.
That night Julie Szur, a local fly fishing consultant and guide on stream fishing tutoring, joined us for dinner and gave a very interesting presentation on a variety of different flies and fly-fishing techniques. Julie is an extremely knowledgeable and accomplished stream fishing expert. View her website at www.flyfishingjulieszur.com and contact Julie at email@example.com or (716) 481-6619.
The next day Lake Erie continued to have high seas and so instead of fishing for walleyes, Dave, Jim, Wade and I met Julie at Chautauqua Creek to check out the steelhead fishing. Dave and I were observers while Jim, Wade and Julie fished. The creek was low and clear with very few fish, but Julie did entice one fish to strike at her speckled streamer.
Fred and Don Staszcuk fished for walleye on Chautauqua Lake with Rob Oram, a local walleye tournament pro. The trio boated some nice-sized walleye.
The Chautauqua Fall Fish Camp was an exciting and unique experience. All of us caught a lot of fish even though the wind kept some of us off Lake Erie. It’s terrific to fish in Chautauqua County because there are several bodies of water to fish and they all support a variety of different species of fish. There are six lakes in the county and 50 miles of Lake Erie shore line. There is no place in the county more than 25 miles from open water. So, if you cannot fish one lake you can fish another, and if one species of fish is not co-operating there are always other species to fish. And, if you cannot fish, there are plenty of other activities in the county to enjoy and have a great time.
I highly recommend putting Chautauqua County at the top of your places to visit. For more information on the county, visit www.tourchautauqua.com or call (716) 357-4569. You can also request a visitors guide to use as a reference for planning your getaway to Chautauqua. To keep updated on news and events, sign up for the monthly e-newsletter and for daily news and updates, and join in the conversation on the Chautauqua County Facebook page. You can also check out the Visit Chautauqua, a downloadable app, for helping to plan your trip.
CANADA GOOSE DAILY LIMIT
Next year local waterfowl hunters will have to deal with another decrease in their daily harvest limit. In addition to reducing the mallard daily limit from four birds to two, which can include only one hen mallard, the Canada goose daily limit of three birds will be reduced to two birds.
The changes in the Canada goose daily limit apply only to Atlantic population zones and not to north Atlantic or resident population Canada Goose zones. In the Atlantic flyway states north of Chesapeake Bay (Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey), the limit will decrease from three birds to two. In the Chesapeake Bay region (Maryland, Delaware and Virginia), the limit will decrease from two birds to one. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved reducing the season length for all states from 45 days to 30 days. The changes reflect declines in populations of mallards and Canada geese in the north Atlantic region.
In the Atlantic population, Canada geese have decreased during the past two years. In 2018, a late spring thaw and cold weather on the population’s northern breeding grounds prevented the geese from nesting successfully. In fact, gosling production was virtually nonexistent, which officials claim is unprecedented in the 22 years that this has been monitored.