Chautauqua: Hard To Spell, Easy To Fish!

musky-fishingTo improve the quality of bass fishing on Cassadaga, DEC implemented a slot limit that requires anglers to release all bass between 12 and 15 inches long and encourages them to remove the overabundant smaller bass. The benefits of this regulation are paying off. Last season, during a three-hour stretch, two anglers caught two largemouth bass that each weighed over five pounds, and several others that weighed between three and five pounds.

Access to Cassadaga Lakes is easy. From the Dunkirk exit off Interstate 90, head south on Route 60 until you enter the town of Cassadaga. The lake is just west of Route 60, with several signs leading you right to the lake. There are two boat ramps; a state ramp and a marine ramp at Lake’s End Marina.

Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua Lake is truly a diamond in the rough. Historically known for its excellent musky fishing, Chautauqua Lake’s largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing has recently gained in popularity by leaps and bounds. With more than 20 miles of dock-filled shoreline, this 13,000-acre lake has ample room to fish.

A lake of glacial origin, Chautauqua has a deep northern (or upper) basin, a much shallower southern basin and a narrow outlet. Averaging 25 feet deep, the upper basin has a maximum depth of 75 feet and deep rocky points with several sunken turn-of-the-century paddle wheel boats. The basic hard bottom makes it an excellent home for smallmouths. I have found that a plastic grub on a 1/8-to 1/4-ounce jig head will generally keep a live well filled with bass. Fishing around the rocky points off Warner Bar, the Bell Tower and Point Chautauqua are a sure fire way to wear out your forearms.

Another great spot to fish in the upper basin is along the lily pads just off the Prendergast boat launch. Plastic flogs or Slug-Gos work great here. Just south of the Prendergast launch is Whitney Bay. Casting spinner baits from the shallows into the weed pockets along the inside weed line generally produces a limit of largemouth. Across the lake you will find Warner Bar which offers a mixture of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Smallmouth can be caught on the inside of the bar with tubes or grubs. The weed pockets on the northern section of the bar host some of the larger bass in the northern basin.

One little-known area of the northern basin is just off the Village of Mayville’s boat launch. With a rocky shoreline and weed beds toward the middle of the lake, an angler can spend a very productive day.

Chautauqua Lake’s shallower southern basin also provides great fishing. Here, the lake averages 11 feet deep, and has a maximum depth of 19 feet. South of the Chautauqua Lake Memorial Bridge (Interstate 86) is some of the best largemouth bass fishing north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Even during the dog days of summer there is plenty of good Weed growth in which to fish. From Burtis Bay to Arnold Bay, the southern basin bays hold a concentration of bass throughout the season. A couple of “must-go-to” spots are the outside weedline at Belleview Point and the inside weedline in Bly Point. A jig and pork or plastic crawfish trailer will almost always produce big bass.

The outlet to Chautauqua Lake is like a step back in time. One trip down the outlet will give you the feeling of the rivers in Africa. The narrow outlet is home to two sunken ships. Perfect bass habitat, the outlet’s shoreline has numerous downed trees and low hanging branches. Using a worm or a jig and pig, anglers can catch lots of bass. In addition, the “no wake zones” mean fewer anglers venture here, and so bass experience less fishing pressure.

As a whole, Chautauqua Lake is a dock-angler’s dream. Unfortunately, many anglers share this opinion, which results in wary fish. One way of making your presentation stand out from others’ is by casting something nobody else casts, such as a four inch Slug-Go. I use spinning tackle for Slug-Go fishing, and to make it easier to set the hook, I use a 3/0 wide gap off-set shank Eagle Claw hook. The key to successful Slug-Go dock fishing is letting the lure fall slowly. Because you’re trying to imitate a dying baitfish, be sure to let the lure sit after casting, then twitch it a couple of times and let it sit some more. While this will try any bass angler’s patience, it usually works.

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