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Rod, Gun and Game: Buffalo fishing in spotlight

Local anglers wonder why bass fishing tournaments with stars such as Kevin VANDAM (above), once held in Lake Erie from downtown Buffalo with nationally publicized BASS TV Elite Series have not returned. Photo by Forrest Fisher.
Magazines and periodicals printed from all around the country have been good to the fishing scene for New York. Simple search will show that everyone who is anyone in the outdoor world seems to be publicizing the goodness of fishing in New York, Lake Erie, and more specifically, from Buffalo. We live within the biggest bass, walleye, musky and trout fishing magnet the fishing world has ever known!

Erie County has over 104,000 licensed sportsmen that reside here and our local folks know how good fishing is. We have many local tournaments that draw hundreds if not thousands of participants. According to recent articles in Bassmaster Magazine, Outdoor Life, In-Fisherman, Adirondack Outdoors and more, and some regional periodicals such as Buffalo Rising, where author Adrienne Boudreau starts out with a great article title: “When it Comes to Bass Fishing, Buffalo is a Heavyweight”.

You gotta wonder why the Erie County CVB does not promote any major nationally based fishing tournaments like the FLW bass and/or walleye circuit, Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society (BASS) or Crappie-Thon. They did once, but not in the last five or six years? Seems everyone else in the entire country knows about our fishing secrets except them. It’s too bad too, because our “Buffalo-Is-On-The-Move” theme that has been impressively rolling around these last few months is missing some great fishing and incredible economic impact.

Some of you may know that I humbly sit on the Erie County Fishery Advisory Board with several other qualified and knowledgeable fishery folks. Under the leadership of Chairman Joe Fischer, this group has researched many activities and reported to the Erie County Executive and Erie County Legislature with recommendations to help improve the local access to fisheries, help spread the awareness of our precious Lake Erie resources, and helped with educational outreach programs for inner-city kids and rural kids alike, through the assistance of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen.

Can you believe that the legislature has cut funding to support the youth outreach programs from $10,000 to $5,000 some 10 years ago, then to zero financial support for kids programs about five years ago? The funding was cut to zero about the same time that support from the CVB group stopped promoting fishing tournaments to come to Erie County. Does it make sense? Not to a lot of people, but maybe there are things we do not know and should respect their decision making. Maybe they believe that fishing is bad for taxes, bad for economy, bad for local businesses and not bad for folks who hate fishing.

On the other hand, Niagara County has had $30,000 set aside for the last three years waiting for Erie County to provide matching funds to reprint the Niagara Region Fishing Hotspot promotions map. Yes, it is hard copy paper, folds up to fit into your hip pocket and, yes, we know that most folks would rather use on-line maps anyway, but don’t we need to do something?!

Add to this omission that Chautauqua County through their vacation groups wants to join Erie and Niagara County to promote the Lake Erie, Niagara River and the Lake Ontario fisheries to the rest of the world with yet a more comprehensive map. Still, we know there must be trouble in paradise in Buffalo with education – we see the TV newscasts every day, but folks sitting on the legislature are supposed to already be educated, right?

Understanding all this, it sure would seem proper for the legislature to find matching funds to help align all three counties in this nationally publicized world of fine fishing, allowing for printing a simple 24 x 32 inch map. Even with that humble map, people in the northeast region of the USA will come here to check it out and help our local economy move forward for fishing reasons.

With hundreds of billions of dollars destined to Erie County and Buffalo from Governor Cuomo’s office, it appears rather bizarre that such a “big miss” continues to occur. If you can figure this one out, please drop me a line!

In the meantime, happy summer days and tight lines to everyone! There are plenty of cooperative fish out there!

DEC Fishing Report

Mike Todd, a wildlife and fisheries biologist with the NYSDEC in Dunkirk has maintained the Region 9 fishing hotline for several years now. Local charter guides, local expert anglers and the everyday fisherman too, report in to Todd to help others learn more about where to fish in Lake Erie and nearby waters and be successful. That’s because what they say is true most of the time: 90 percent of the fish live in 10 percent of the water. With that in mind, improve your chances with this advice from Todd:

Chautauqua Lake bass are hanging around docks and weed edges, with some fish to 5-pounds common, using wacky style Senko worms in pumpkin pepper color. Walleye there are hugging the bottom in the weedbeds off Lakewood Bar, Grasse Island Shoal and similar weedy areas, but leeches or worm tipped off lead head jigs are effective. Mike Sperry, musky guide fishing out of Chautauqua Reel Outdoors Tackle in Ashville has caught over 30 musky’s to date, trolling with giant stickbaits. Call him at 716-969-4633.

In the Upper Niagara River, smallmouth bass are hugging the outside weedline edge, 3-way bottom rigs with crayfish or chubs for bait is hot. Musky are hitting the big 10-inch tube jig baits. For Lake Erie perch anglers, the river is full of emerald shiners and dipping has been productive for free bait. Just stay on, or west of, the I-90 travel corridor when you transport the minnies to stay legal.

Walleye fishing in Lake Erie is hot from Buffalo to Barcelona. Anglers working three to six colors of leadcore line with 75 foot leaders to Renosky stickbait offerings or spinner/worm rigs have scored daily limits of six fish per man.

Perch fishing is hot off Cattaraugus Creek and east toward Evangola State Park in 50 to 60 feet of water, using emerald shiner bait from the Upper Niagara.

Smallmouth bass in the lake has slowed as the fish are in post-spawn mode. Stick to sharp dropping structure for now, as the fish will soon move to roam open waters for forage bait. Drop shot rigs or tube jigs are among best artificial offerings for bass right now.

NYS Youth Hunt Calendar Dates

New York youth waterfowl hunting days are set for October 4 and 5 (Saturday and Sunday). One week later, on October 11 and 12, the youth hunt dates for pheasant and deer will run concurrently. Adult mentors need to be licensed with HIP stamp to accompany in the waterfowl event, and duly licensed for hunting small game to chase pheasants with the kids or licensed for big game to deer hunt on that the following weekend. Note that adult mentors are not allowed to hunt or carry a hunting implement shotgun, etc.). Circle your calendars!

Outdoors Calendar

July 10: Lake Ontario Trout & Salmon Meeting, Lake Erie walleye seminar, 7PM start, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Route 78, Lockport, call 636-0519 for info.

July 12-13: Amara-Can Walleye Classic, Chadwick Bay Marina – Dunkirk Harbor, 5 fish/day for 2 days, call 716-875-8148 for info.

July 26: Sunset Bay Walleye Shoot-Out, Lake Erie at Sunset Bay, NY, 6 fish/day for 1 day, email:; cell: Bob Rustowicz 716-830-6394

Aug. 1-3: Northern Chautauqua Conservation Walleye Derby, Dunkirk Harbor, contact: Zen Olaw 716-640-2776.

Send outdoors info to Forrest Fisher Column 10 days in advance, email:


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