There’s more to New York than the Big Apple

New York?  Wait a minute.  You’re probably thinking sky scrapers, the Statue of Liberty, maybe even the Niagara Falls.   But did you know that there’s more to New York than the Big Apple?  Have you ever thought of it as a fishing vacation destination where you can get monster smallmouth bass?

They can be found in New York and I was able to experience the great fishing that can be found at the far western part of the state.

For a couple days I had a blast fishing Lake Chautauqua.  I won’t try to tell you that I’m an expert on this lake.  No one can say that when they’ve only fished there a couple times.  But one thing I will say to you is that the fishing there that I experienced was enough to convince me that there will be a return trip to the Garden State, sooner instead of later.

Lake Chautauqua is about 7 miles long and at its widest part, about 2 miles wide.  Rumor has it that Native Americans named this lake Chautauqua because it is split in two.  If you take a long narrow lake and pinch the middle to create a narrow mid section, that would give you a visual of what this lake looks like.

It’s not a deep lake.  One of the lake halves averages about 20 feet deep while the other about 40 feet I’m told.

“They say that the lake’s maximum depth is about 78 feet”, fishing guide Bob Green told me.  “But with all the year’s I’ve been there I’ve never found it.”

Chautauqua has a fantastic population of big smallmouth bass.  I’ve fished many lakes in the Midwest that have smallies but this one ranks number one in my book.  In just a couple days of fishing, guys in the same boat as me caught 6+ and 7 pound smallmouth bass.  My biggest was a healthy five.

What strikes me as a bit odd is the locals who caught the big smallies really didn’t get all that excited about it.  Here in Illinois the state record smallmouth bass is still 6 pounds 7 ounces.   In New York, theirs is 8 pounds 4 ounces and it was caught in Chautauqua County from Lake Erie.  I don’t care what anyone says; I got pretty excited with my five pounder.  Maybe I would have got out of control if I got a six or a seven.

The Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers held their 2014 Cast n Blast at Lake Chautauqua and what a great decision that was to pick this beautiful lake.  I fished with some fellow outdoor writers and AGLOW corporate members.  The fish stories that are coming out of this trip are as exciting as the catches themselves.

A couple of the AGLOW members were fishing out of Hobie kayaks and caught muskies while smallmouth fishing.  One of our guides was dragging a plastic creature bait along the lakes rocky bottom and pulled in 50 inch muskie with his bass gear.

One afternoon as we pulled up to the boat ramp at Long Point State Park we saw one of the locals getting his photo taken by one of our members.  It was a nice photo op for a bass angler showing off a five pound walleye and a 14 inch crappie.  He too was fishing with plastics.  The walleye and crappie both ate up the green tube he dragged it slowly on the bottom.

Yes, Chautauqua has a variety of species.  Largemouth and smallmouth bass and I’d guess they are pursued the most on this lake.  But it has its fair share of big walleyes, crappies, and bluegills as well.

The lake is host to a number of fishing tournaments and has a claim to fame in the TV world.   Rumor has it that Lucille Ball of the I Love Lucy show was cleaning here attic in one episode.  She found a mounted fish in an old trunk and made mention that her husband, Ricky Ricardo caught the fish from Lake Chautauqua.  For the tourist, the Lucy Desi Museum and Center for Comedy is located in Jamestown, New York, found at the south east part of the lake.

There is a lot to see and do besides the fishing in Chautauqua County.  That makes it a great family destination.  There you can enjoy not only the fishing but also other outdoors sports and touring.  Your best bet for help with lodging, dining and guide service for fishing Lake Chautauqua can be found at  It’s a great website that tells all about this beautiful area.

Although Lake Chautauqua is about 8 hours east of Chicago’s south suburbs, its expressway travel all the way.   And while you’re driving and talking about the great smallmouth bass fishing, the time will pass quickly.  That means that  “Great fishing is not that far away.”

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