Bass Fishing Escape to Cassadaga Lake

  • Drop-Shot Rigs Simplify Lure Location
  • Venom Worms Offer Unique Action on Drop-Shot Rigs
  • Colors, Bottom-Weight, Make a Difference

By Forrest Fisher

Scott Gauld showed us that big smallmouth bass and big largemouth bass can live together in the unique, healthy underwater habitat of Cassadaga Lake. Forrest Fisher Photo

When the wind on Lake Erie kicks up waves that churn over the top of the 7-foot breakwall at Chadwick Bay in Dunkirk, New York, it’s too rough to go bass fishing there.  In Chautauqua County, though, there are many other inland lake options that can offer the green light on those days. 

Mike Joyner and I had joined fishing educator, tournament bass angler and longtime friend, Scott Gauld, at Cassadaga Lake, a little waterway located near the village of Lily Dale, just 15 minutes away.  See: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/26964.html.   

We launched at the state boat access located on the Middle Lake, the scene was pristine, not crowded and offered two floating docks for launch and retrieve. 

Giant fluffy clouds masked a brilliant blue sky and there was a rising red glow of sunrise glimmering over the trees in the eastern horizon.  But surprisingly, to the north, there was another cloud line of demarcation, as a cold front with dark rain clouds was visible in that direction.  They seemed to hover there and we hoped they would stay away.  They did and we didn’t get wet. 

A Drop-Shot rig and “Standout Hook” are effective when used with a properly hooked Venom plastic worm. Forrest Fisher Photo

Scott explained that we would try our luck by fishing the weedline in the Lower Lake (there were three lake parts to Cassadaga Lake: Upper, Middle and Lower) and that would put our lures in about 10-12 feet of water.  He described the details that we start out by trying one of his old favorite baits he had used successfully there several times before, while fishing with his dad. 

He reached into a storage compartment on his new Nitro bass boat to hand each of us a 4-inch Salty Sling plastic worm (Venom Lures), then helped us rig up in drop-shot style using rather unique Size 1 “Standout hooks.” 

Green-pumpkin copper and green-pumpkin candy were the plastic worm color choices.   

We were using 7-foot Quantum rods with Sixgill open-face fishing reels loaded with 8-pound test Berkley Nanofil braided line that had 6-feet of Stren fluorocarbon leader (8-pound test) tied on to the end of the braid.  Scott said, “The braid will give us better feel and the fluorocarbon will help keep us in stealth mode so the fish can’t see our line.” 

I felt like we had a distinct advantage, such was the confidence in Scott’s voice.

The “Standout Hook” allows for perfect presentation and perfect hook set to allow release of the fish unharmed in any way. Forrest Fisher Photo

The plan was to toss the drop-shot rigs a few feet in front of the boat and allow them to reach bottom, then lift slightly and check, sense, feel for the slightest tap from a feeding fish.  Both smallmouth and largemouth bass lived in the lake, but so did crappie, walleye and musky too.  Lots of possibilities.

The standout drop-shot hook was tied about 8-10 inches above a specially made 1-1/4 ounce sinker made by the Western New York Bassmasters fishing club, that allowed for quick descent and positive contact with the bottom.  Scott demonstrated what to look for and how to react with a demonstration.  “Cast out, let it hit the bottom, lift the rod ever so gently, feel for a fish, watch the rod tip, if you get no reaction from a fish, then lift the rod tip and gently swing the bait toward the boat a foot or two – watching it the whole time, then drop it to bottom again and repeat.” 

We observed this process while he cast a few times and visually showed us how to work the bait back to the boat.  What he stressed for us to know and learn was to sense for that possible VERY LIGHT TAP, the strike signal, from a feeding fish.  A moment later, he said, “There’s one! Fish on.”  He lifted his rod tip to set the hook and started reeling.  A beautiful, healthy, 3-pound largemouth bass came aboard about 30-seconds later.  My camera woke up to capture this really handsome fish. 

We were having a friendly contest with two buddies in another boat. Hardy, old time anglers and long-time friends, Leon Archer and Wayne Brewer, were fishing with pro bass angler, Scott Callen, in another bass boat.

Mike and I grinned at each other because it seemed that Scott had insight and skill for this Cassadaga Lake waterway.  The fish went into the live well to be released after we weighed them and finished fishing later in the morning.  The plan was for each boat to weigh in a three fish bag of bass for the top-gun honor.  A little friendly competition.

One moment later, Mike hooked a smallmouth bass and brought it aboard.  We caught several fish along the weedline and enjoyed just working the baits and learning this new fishing method.  

The Rattle-Shake swim jig lure tipped with a white Venom Skip Shad tail fooled at least one musky while I had been casting for bass. Fun! Forrest Fisher Photo

We caught many other fish, smaller bass, a perch, and then I even hooked-up with a giant musky.  He looked like about 45-inches or so, maybe a 30-pounder, using one of Scott’s Rattle-Shake swim jig lures tipped with a white Venom Skip Shad tail.  The big fish swirled at my bait, grabbed it, and took off with my line like a freight train to Texas.

Then, in less than five seconds, he spit it back toward the boat, the line went twang, and the bait went airborne as it came flying back right past my ear.  WOW!  The rod was a just little too light to set the hook into the jaw of that monster, but what a huge fishing moment! I’ll never forget that fish.  Unforgettable memories are made of this.  Pure fish power.

Our three biggest bass tally weighed in at a little under 10-pounds.  A very nice morning of fishing, fun, good natured joking, busted laughing and serious hook setting above talk-to-fish expressions.  There were one or two comic expression, “Oops, that one got me,” or “I should’ve set the hook sooner,“ or “Thought that was a weed.”  Fishing with friends, it’s the best.

One other new secret to learn on this trip was the covert hooking of the plastic worm.  The worm was hooked by pushing the hook point right through the worm diameter about a half-inch from the heavy end of the worm, so the rest of the worm just dangled freely.  It looked so very real in the water.  Tantalizing.  

The rod, the line (type and size), the hooks, the weight, and where you cast was important too, but the most important thing was the technique of hooking up the Salty Sling worm to the hook.  That’s what gave the worm the action that provoked the fish to strike.

It was deadly.

The best part of the fish day can be the rabble-rousing jokes that fly among fishing buddies that share their love for the outdoors with a rod and reel. From L to R: Leon Archer, Wayne Brewer, Scott Callen, Mike Joyner and Scott Gauld.  Forrest Fisher Photo

I added a little diagram to the “fishing secrets” book I keep after each trip for future use and to share with some youngster learning to fish along the way when the chance to help a kid occurs.

Cassadaga Lake is a sleeper lake for sure.  When the bigger nearby waterways of Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake are too rough with wind or rain, this is one secret spot to be aware of. 

Lots of cooperative fish for catching and releasing for the fun of fishing. Especially with friends. Right now, you know at least one way to fish and what to do when you get there.

Tight lines everyone!

DONUTS, HOT COFFEE and WALLEYE AT SUNRISE!

  • The “Great Lakes Experience” EVENT is Exemplary
  • Allowing Lures, Lines, Rigs, Rules and Laws, to Meet Each Other
  • Communication, Great Fishing and Laughter Create EFFECTIVE FUN
  • Summer Fishing for Lake Erie Walleye in Chautauqua County, NY

By Forrest Fisher

Which lures to choose are among key questions that anglers ask each time they head out to Lake Erie for walleye.  This year, some of the solid choices are shown here. Forest Fisher Photo

If there is a language common between anglers and fish, they were talking to each other off Chadwick Bay in Dunkirk, New York, during the Great Lakes Experience earlier in August.  More than 20 charter boats each caught dozens of walleye.  Yes, each.  If we average the catch at 20 fish per boat, that’s about 400 walleyes in less than four hours of fishing.  And when the fish are biting, good things happen, especially when folks from local, state, county and federal positions get together to discuss the recreational fishery and all that goes with it.

That’s what happened during the 9th Annual Great Lakes Experience Fishing Day.  About 100 people from Erie County, Niagara County and Chautauqua County were invited to fish together.  Attendees met at the harbor at about 6:00 a.m. on August 9, 2017, for the annual Tim Horton’s “Meet & Greet” session. Nothing like donuts and hot coffee at sunrise!  We divided into groups from there as we were assigned to captains from the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (ELECBA), that provided a unified effort with a simple goal: To catch some fish and share more about reasons why the Lake Erie resource is so important and so priceless.

I was fishing with Captain Jim Skoczylas (Ultimate Adventure Sportfishing (716-796-5372) and first mate, Tom “TJ” Yetzer. They provided guests on board Jim’s 31-foot Tiara, a fun and comfortable time, even in the 4 to 6 foot waves that came up later in the morning. 

 

Ally Pawarski from the Buffalo Sports Commission, shares in the walleye fun and bounty of Lake Erie with a nice 5-pound fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

Skoczylas says, “While the fishing has been really good this year, each day we play it by ear to adapt when we need to change lures and methods.   On some days the fish want crankbaits, other days they want spinner/worm rigs, on finicky days – color matters, but on most days this year, it has not mattered too much what you put down there.  The walleye have been looking to eat and there are many year classes, especially young fish, in our New York, Lake Erie, fishery right now.  Many of us are wondering if there might be a shortage of emerald shiners and smelt – the primary baitfish groups out here, because the fish usually want to eat our lures quite readily.”Between hearing Yetzer holler, “Fish-on, who’s up?” and Tom Hersey, Erie County Commissioner of Environment and Planning say, “Oops, I think I might have lost that one (four times),” there was lots of kidding, laughs and honest fascination with the rigs and processes used to catch fish.” 

Captain Skoczylas found fish about 70 feet down in 80 to 105 feet of water. Downriggers, diving plans and long lead-line rigs were used to catch 26 fish in less than 4 hours of fishing. Forrest Fisher Photo

On the other hand, Ally Pawarski, Sales and Services Manager with the Buffalo Niagara Sports Commission, didn’t lose a single fish and was tuned-in for the whole trip – landing the largest walleye on our boat. 

Dan Rizzo, Commissioner of Erie County Parks, Chris Catanzaro, Project Manager for the Erie County Harbor Development Corporation, along with Patrick Kaler, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Visitors Bureau, all enjoyed fish-catching and common conversation.  I was happy to be among this dedicated group.

Spinner/Worm rig colors for blades and beads, and hook size, can vary from day to day, but the question can be finding the right one on the day you are fishing. Forrest Fisher Photo

We talked about the fishing goodness, Buffalo Harbor State Park boat ramps, the Central Train Station location, Canalside activities, Buffalo Riverworks, Lake Erie recreational access, kayaks, the health of the fishery, the Coast Guard, the people and the fun of the outdoors on the waterfront.  Add in ideas for marketing and distribution, thoughts of a virtual fish-catching program from Lake Erie on the internet, on-board drone videos for future customers fishing Lake Erie along the New York shoreline, and you can see, conversation was all-inclusive with new ideas.

Running 12 coordinated lines at depths of 70 to 80 feet down in 85 to 105 feet of water, and using all the gear dressed up with spinner/worm rigs and stickbaits, we hooked up with 26 fish in a very short 4 hours on the water.  Diving planes, weighted leadcore lines, downriggers and lots of lures and stickbaits were all part of the presentation mix with a trolling speed of 2.1 mph.  It was a perfect scenario for catching fish and to discuss issues/answers. 

After the fishing, the perfect walleye fish fry lunch was served at the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club.  We heard from several speakers, perhaps the most notable was about raw sewage overload on our Great Lakes from Rich Davenport, Director from the Erie County Fish Advisory Board. 

Everyone enjoyed a great time networking about life in the outdoors and the incredible natural resource, Lake Erie, and agreed to work hard together to keep this treasure alive and well into the future. 

There were representatives from the NYSDEC, including Stephen Hurst – Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Bureau Chief from Albany, Patricia Riexinger recently retired from that same position, Don Einhouse and Jason Robinson, fisheries biologists from the NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Unit, a host of legislative leaders – Senators and Assemblymen, the charter captains and their crews – the proper combination for networking and laughter too.    

Gene Pauszek, outdoor communicator for the Dunkirk Observer, caught this 11.41 pound walleye monster a few days before the Great Lakes Experience in early August.  He was fishing aboard Sassafras Charters with Captain Lance Erhardt and using a borrowed fishing rod and rig to fool this whopper.  Go figure.

This annual event allows local groups to bring certain very real issues to light and provides the potential for discussion on the battlefront of conservation, the outdoors and our Great Lakes resources.  There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting of the minds.  Issues and solutions, in between catching fish and a few grins, become a solid focus.  

Amidst the apparent visual complexity of multiple rods/reels, downriggers, diving planes, planer boards, temperature measurement and trolling gear, and lots of lures, the confidence in the voice of our hosts on board each charter craft was reassuring.  Confidence reigns.

The event was organized by Zen Olow (Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club), Lance Erhardt (Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association) and Andrew Nixon (Executive Director Chautauqua County CVB), and a supporting cast of dozens. 

Fish on!  Who’s up?! God Bless America.

Children in the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program

  • Free for Kids 10 to 110 Years of Age
  • No Experience necessary
  • Classes Conducted at State University of NY at Fredonia

The Children in the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program will be starting its eighteenth year of providing weekly free fly tying and fly fishing classes to youth and adults in the western New York region.  The classes will be presented every Tuesday starting August 29, 2017, from 7-8:30 pm at the Costello Community Room (P84) in the new addition to Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia, in Fredonia, NY.

No prior experience is needed and all classes are free. Classes are appropriate for anyone between 10 and 110.

In 1998, Alberto Rey and Mike Conley attended Sportfishing and Aquatic Resource Educational Programming (S.A.R.E.P.) through the Cornell Cooperative. The seminars provided training for teachers and future instructors who would provide educational conservation experiences to children. Shortly afterwards, S.A.R.E.P. Youth Fly Fishing Program was founded after a grant was received from Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency.  The program has continued to grow over the years as enrollment has steadily increased and as the program has provided new services to the community. In 2016, S.A.R.E.P. /4H Youth Fly Fishing Program’s name was changed to Children in the Stream/4H Program.

Children in the Stream is an educational program that provides children with information and experiences related to aquatic resources, conservation, ethics, and fly fishing. Fly fishing has a long history of integrating these elements into the core of the sport. The ethics of the program promotes “catch and release” as well as respect for fellow fisherman and the land on which one fishes. It is our goal to protect the species and the land for future generations. Our program closely ties together the importance of understanding nature with the rewarding act of fly fishing.

Children in the Stream is a volunteer organization that relies on the generosity of the fly fishing industry and of public and private donors. It provides programming to the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County and to middle and high schools in the area. Children in the Stream provides workshops to an average of 350 children a year.

Here are the elements of the program: Weekly Fly Tying and Rod Building Sessions Monthly Fly Fishing Field Trips Canadaway Creek Conservation Project Conservation Days Workshops  Brook Trout Restoration Project Children in the Stream Conference: An Interdisciplinary Fly Fishing Conference

For more information on our efforts you can look at this episode by a national television show, Aqua Kids, who documents the Children in the Stream’s Canadaway Creek Conservation Program and Brook Trout Restoration Program. Here’s are also some recent articles and blogs written about the program and the Children in the Stream Conference; http://buffalonews.com/2016/11/17/bill-hilts-jr-fly-fishing-program-gets-anglers-ages-involved/ http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/outdoors/will-elliott-helping-fly-fishing-take-flight-20150321 http://www.fishhound.com/blog/bringing-brook-trout-back-great-lakes http://www.fishhound.com/blog/when-you-live-and-love-fishing-possible http://www.orvisnews.com/FlyFishing/Children-in-the-Stream-Conference.aspx http://www.orvisnews.com/FlyFishing/Children-in-the-Stream-Conference-a-Success.aspx http://www.flyfishergirl.com/

You can also see recent pictures, movies and information from our recent projects in the blog section of this site. For more information about our home waters, check out our our history of Canadaway Creek link.

If you would like more information on the program please contact me Alberto Rey here or at alberto@albertorey.com or by calling 716-410-7003.

Lake Erie-Lake Ontario-Niagara River “On-Line” Fishing & Vacation Map is FREE

  • Integrated Map Provides Fish Locations, Shore Fishing Access, Boat Access
  • Depth Contours ZERO-IN on Hotspot Fishing Locations
  • Bait Shops, Marina Locations, Shipwrecks, ALL HERE…ALL FREE
Depth Contours as well as on-shore landmarks for boater access, shore fishing, restaurants and marina locations are included for Niagara County, Erie County and Chautauqua County waterway areas.  The website map link and info is free. 

By Forrest Fisher

There is a NEW interactive, online, Western New York Hotspot Fishing Map application that is yours FREE at this link:  https://wnyfishing.mrf.com.

The regional website map has been designed for everyone, including for cellphone and laptop use.  It is the perfect “get-it-now” reference tool for many user groups.  Boaters, anglers, scuba divers, vacationers and many other groups, family fishing groups, now have good waterway reference map.  Need to research waterway areas of the Greater Niagara Region of New York State BEFORE the trip?  Here is your resource.

The map spotlights lake depth contours, boating access points, marinas, shore fishing sites, sunken wrecks, fish species locations, bait shops, information sources, dining establishments and give all that to the user with GPS coordinates.  Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties offer some of the best freshwater sportfishing the world has ever seen!

World class walleye, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, musky, trout, salmon, all here, and many species of panfish.  Nearly everything an avid fisherman would ever want.  Carp and Channel Catfish too.

The Greater Niagara Region has established a reputation that boasts excellence in sportfishing, boating, kayaking, and outdoor on-the-water recreation.  Hire a charter, bring your own boat or fish from shore, the new regional map website will be useful for everyone who looks to quench a hungry angling appetite.

The website map is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast and for families looking to get back to finding the family fun of the outdoors through fishing and boating.  There are many other outdoor attractions, state and county parks, hiking paths, bird-watching opportunities (the Niagara River Corridor is internationally recognized as an important bird area), hunting options and more.  There are cultural, historical and recreational highlights from Lewiston in Niagara County, to Buffalo in Erie County and to Jamestown in Chautauqua County.  The new website and map app offers access to outdoor information and adds value for visitors and residents alike.

The area below Dunkirk, NY, and Barcelona Harbor, in Westfield, NY, is the “HOT WALLEYE ZONE”. Here is the 1st look-see from a free fishing map link that all anglers can enjoy for the very first time at no charge.

The website (https://wnyfishing.mrf.com) offers information to get you started and headed in the right direction, from charter listings to marina information; from shore fishing spots to license information. Unfortunately, it can’t help you set the hook and reel the fish in!

Greater Niagara – You’ll “fall for us” all over again reel soon!

Lake Erie Fishing Hotline, (716) 855-FISH, www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/, fishhotlines.html

Niagara Co. Fishing Hotline, (877) FALLS-US, www.niagarafallsusa.com

This map was made possible through the funding of Erie and Niagara Counties. It was prepared cooperatively between Erie and Niagara County’s respective Sportfishing Promotion Programs, with assistance from the Erie and Niagara County Fisheries Advisory Boards. Additional maps may be obtained by calling: Buffalo-Niagara CVB at 800-BUFFALO or Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. at 877-FALLS US.