Fishing the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region
By Victoria Pane
The Chautauqua-Lake Region of western New York is highlighted by five amazing lakes, including Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake, and numerous streams making it a top destination for world-class fishing.
Lake Erie Charter Fishing
Anglers from all over travel to Chautauqua County for access to Lake Erie’s eastern basin, home to some of the best small and largemouth bass, walleye, and trout fishing the country has to offer. Lake Erie’s shoreline between Dunkirk and Irving, New York, was named the #3 Best Bass Lake in the Northeastern U.S, by Bassmaster Magazine (July 2021). Bass are found along the entire New York shoreline with hotspots concentrated around rock drop offs in 15 to 35 feet of water.
Anglers can enjoy an early bass season on Lake Erie, which runs from the first Saturday in May until the third Saturday in June. The eastern basin of Lake Erie is well-known for trophy-size walleye (8-10 pounds) found in deeper waters. Tournament winners often exceed 11 pounds.
Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, making for quickly changing conditions. Lean on the expertise of area sport fishing guides, many of whom have years of experience and are happy to share the wisdom that could help land the catch of a lifetime.
Fly Fishing in Steelhead Alley
Lake Erie’s tributary streams receive an annual run of migratory rainbow trout called “steelhead.” From October through April, this area transforms into the renowned Steelhead Alley as thousands of trout ascend five streams on their mission to spawn.
As the fish migrate upstream, anglers from near and far travel here to enjoy a few days of fish-catching fun. Colorful steelhead from 3 to 6 pounds are common, with larger fish weighing upwards of 10 pounds offering the occasional surprise. Excellent fly-fishing opportunities await in Chautauqua County!
Cattaraugus Creek is the largest of all Chautauqua County Lake Erie tributaries, with the first six miles of this magnificent waterway located in Chautauqua County. The mouth of the stream provides access for shore and boat fishing. Silver Creek joins Lake Erie in the village of Silver Creek, New York, to offer several miles of smaller water steelhead fishing from the mouth to the Hanover and King Road crossing. When other streams run muddy, this stream is typically less stained.
Tiny Walnut Creek flows into Silver Creek near the mouth with productive fishing upstream to the falls. Canadaway Creek provides excellent steelhead fishing with colorful brown trout in the mix too. Anglers will find good numbers of both species from the mouth to six miles upstream. Westfield Water Works Dam on Chautauqua Creek allows steelhead to swim much farther upstream permitting several more fish to occupy the waterway without over-crowding.
A Variety of Prey in Inland Lakes
Among local inland lakes, Chautauqua Lake has exceptional fishing for walleye, bass, muskellunge, and several species of panfish. It also ranked #23 Best Bass Lake in the Northeast by Bassmaster Magazine (July 2021).
The shallow, weedy areas and docks offer exceptional cover for largemouth bass, and both boaters and shore anglers do best by waiting to ambush prey.
Findley Lake’s beds of aquatic vegetation provide habitat for a variety of sportfish and panfish, while the three interconnected lakes of Cassadaga Lakes provide angling opportunities for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskellunge, and panfish.
Bear Lake’s shoreline is predominantly wetland, providing excellent habitat for bass and other predator and prey fish.
The Fish of a Thousand Casts: Musky
Chautauqua Lake specifically is recognized as a world-class muskellunge fishery, with many fish in the 40-50-inch class caught each year. Better catch numbers tend to come from shallower areas along weed edges, where trolling or drifting and casting are both effective methods. Several fishing guides specialize in musky outings on Chautauqua Lake. They are experts at navigating local waters and all work very hard to make each angler’s trip as memorable and enjoyable as possible.
Chautauqua’s musky population is supported by an annual stocking of 13,000 fall fingerlings (8.5 to 9 inches) by the DEC Chautauqua Hatchery at Prendergast Point.
Chautauqua County is also a popular “hard water” fishing destination, with anglers seeking walleye and a variety of panfish from the frozen depths of Chautauqua Lake, Findley Lake, Cassadaga Lakes, and Bear Lake, all of which offer plowed access points.
By Land or By Boat
There are several great places throughout the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region to fish directly from the shore. For those who prefer to fish by boat, many of the region’s lakes offer full-service marinas, boat launches and boat rentals.
Start planning your next fishing adventure to the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region. Visit TourChautauqua.com today or call 866-908-4569 and request a FREE copy of the 2022 Travel Guide.
Fishing the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region