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Rod, Gun & Game: How and where to fish in Western NY

Kids learn how to fish and tie knots with Buffalo News Outdoor Editor, Will Elliott, at Chestnut Ridge Park Lake. The free annual Teach-Me-To-Fish event will be held this Saturday, June 22 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Shelter No. 10.
Every summer, many Western New York folks look for a place to vacation and kick back at a lake, river, stream, or anywhere else that Mother Nature allows us to enjoy our incredible nearby waterways.

The Finger Lakes and other inland lakes offer a wonderful distribution of rental cabins across a wide range of pricing, allowing folks to meet their budget demands and still get away to the water for some fishing and spectacular orange glow sunrise and sunset moments.

For a great many folks, they will be fishing “new water” and maybe fishing for the first time. In many cases, grandparents are on hand to be sure to introduce their grandkids to some of the things they themselves love about our local waterways — the calm serene of first light, fresh smell of coffee from the cabin wafting around camp, the sound of a slip bobber slopping into the water off the dock — all precious special outdoor moments to treasure. Learn more about nature through the fun of a fishing vacation, it enriches the human spirit.

So where can you go? If you need help with this because you are not familiar with all of the WNY waterways, there is direct online information. The NYSDEC now provides interactive, educational information with printed how-to-fish advice for multiple species, complete with where-to-go directions and lake depth contour maps.

Visit this NYSDEC link at From there, look at the NYS contour map displayed and select the region you would like to learn more about. For example, selecting Region 9 will offer a quick review of many local waterways. You’ll find bigger inland lakes such as Lake Chautauqua with advice on where to fish, what to use and a map too, as well as a collection of smaller lakes in the area. These include Alma Pond, Bear Lake, Case Lake, Cassadaga Lake, Findley Lake, Quaker Lake in Allegany State park, Rushford Lake, Silver Lake and more lakes.

Each of these is brought to the reader with a “hot link.” Simply click on that link and follow the e-routing that appears on your screen with all the information and more. Above all the lakes and streams, there is an incredible number of world class trout streams right here in WNY, many of which are noted for excellent fishing, complete with advice on what flies to use, where to access, equipment and when to fish.

For example, to access one of my favorite fishing places, Silver Lake, simply select that link (at and read on. You’ll learn how the lake was formed by glaciers, how big the lake is (836 acres) and where it is located (eastern Wyoming County). Next, the fish that inhabit the lake are detailed, the aquatic nature of the waterway is provided and advice for fish that inhabit the lake is there, too.

Places for public access to launch your boat or have a picnic are noted, how to fish for panfish such as crappie and bluegills, northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and perhaps the most prevalent fish in the lake, largemouth bass, is also detailed.

For any of these species, live bait (worms) will always catch panfish, crabs will usually catch bass, live chubs off a bobber and six-foot leader will usually entice the northern pike. If you catch a northern, be careful of their teeth...a hundred tooth points on them — they’re like freshwater sharks!

If you have kids, remember to keep it simple. If you have a boat, it will be exciting enough for the kids, but still, you have got to focus on safety first with life preservers, then find the fish for the kids. To do that, it is usually not difficult, but that is not always the case.

Start out this way, find the weedline. Do this by finding the visible edge of the weeds, usually about 10 to 13 feet of depth as you leave from shore, drop anchor, then fish the bottom with a simple hook and sinker, or a slip bobber rig (the best option) — set the slip bobber for about one or two feet less than the water depth, or tie on a simple one-eighth jig head with a half worm attached on the hook.

With the jig, let it go to bottom and slowly reel it back, but you might catch a few weeds with this technique. If you don’t catch any fish in your first spot, simply move up or down the weedline 100 yards and try again. I like the slip-bobber rigs for children and adults alike because it will keep you out of the weeds most of the time.

If you want to catch largemouth bass, plastic worms are a favorite artificial. Set up your rig on a size 3/0 worm hook, add a one-sixteenth ounce slip-sinker ahead of the hook, and thread the plastic worm on from the head to two inches down the worm and bring the hook out. Turn it over and slide the hook point into the worm body to make the rig totally weedless. With this rig, you can cast right into the weeds, near their edge, and you will have a chance to catch the biggest of bass offered in the lake. Some can tip the scales at seven pounds or more.

Anglers from different parts of the country all have their color favorites, but up here, it seems six-inch purple plastic worms made by Pure Fishing (Berkley) work very well. If you can find “powerbait” worms (type of worm made by Berkley) then purchase those, another favorite color is bubblegum, then the “Junebug” color. Each package is marked with the color. After all that advice, if you are shopping and see something you think will catch fish, get it! Fishing is all about developing your sense of confidence to try that next cast and then, hang on!

When you have tried your best and still can’t seem to find the fish, you will be asking yourself, “Now where could those silly fish be?” I have asked that question a hundred times! Today, technology offers us cool help with an underwater camera called the Aqua-Vu. Compete with color screen, you simply drop the weighted probe with camera down near the dock or the weed bed and take a look. Sometimes what you see will astound you! Fish everywhere and they are not biting, they’re just hanging out! Check the solunar tables, it’s just not dinner time for the fish yet!

The device can record what you see and allow playback, too. To me, this is the coolest, fun fishing tool since live worms. For more information, visit online at

Don’t waste another minute this year, get out there and do some summer vacation fishing with your family. We live in the best fishery region in all of North America.

Kids fishing day clinic

Chestnut Ridge Park Lake, Shelter 10, in Orchard Park will be the site for a free family fishing clinic this Saturday (June 22) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The NYS-DEC and the Erie County Federation of Sportman’s Clubs team up to provide a free family fishing event where participants can enjoy excellent fishing and visit six learning stations to learn about fish, fishing techniques and tackle.

This event falls on the NYS free fishing weekend, so no fishing license is required for those ages 16-and-over to fish. Youth ages 15-and-under can register to win free rod/reel prizes in the random drawing and receive a free Sahlen’s hot dog lunch. Fishing rods are available to borrow or bring your own. Live bait is provided free for all participants. Adult accompaniment is required.

To register, simply contact the East Aurora Boys & Girls Club at (716)-652-4180. Contact co-chairmen Mike Todd at NYS-DEC at 851-7010 or Dave Barus at 597-4081.

Lake Erie debris warning

Recent heavy rains have pushed trees from lake shorelines and area streams into Lake Erie and the U.S. Coast Guard station in Buffalo sends a warning to all boaters to exercise caution while on the water in the next few days and weeks. Reports of damaged boats have been recorded by many agencies in both Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

Outdoors Calendar

June 22: Kids Teach-Me-To-Fish fishing clinic, free, Chestnut Ridge Park, call 652-4180 to register, 597-4081 for information.

June 22: 29th Annual Southtowns Walleye Awards Picnic, 1 p.m., 5895 Southwestern Blvd, Hamburg.

June 23: NYS Archery Certification, Erie Conservation Society, Miller Ave., chaffee, 8 am start, call 585-680-2519 to pre-register (5-9 pm).

June 24-27: Children On The Stream, interdisciplinary fly fishing conference for adults teaching fishing to kids, $350, visit

June 26: Summer Fly Fishing with Ray Marks, six-week class, local waters and fly patterns familiarity, Lake Shore Central School, call 926-2270 to register.

June 27/28: 12th annual BassEye Celebrity Fishing Challenge, NFTA Small Boat Harbor, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fundraiser event, bass-walleye contest, call 204-2535 or visit

June 30: Springville Field & Stream annual woodchuck hunt, weigh-in 8pm sharp, call Jerry King at 592-3515.

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