Western New York anglers have access to bountiful waterways.
There are two Great Lakes, major inland streams, the Niagara River mouth and large feeder streams. There are so many options that choosing one can be frustrating.
The type of fishing you want to do can narrow your choices.
Anglers interested in open-water fishing will need a large vessel equipped with elaborate electronic and fishing gear. However, since boat rentals have disappeared from the shoreline you will need to charter a boat. Take a weekend walk along the lakes Erie and Ontario harbor slips and talk with charter boat handlers. They will tell you about current fishing conditions and when it would be best to book a trip.
Rentals have also become scarce on inland lakes, but a few liveries at Chautauqua Lake and in the western Finger Lakes offer boats and equipment for beginners who want to give fishing a try before they buy.
Fly fishermen have hundreds of feeder streams and rivers from which to pull trout and salmon.
Here is a list of the 10 best fishing spots -- to fit all tastes -- for novices and old hands. Veteran anglers at each site willingly share insights for ways to find and catch fish.
1. CHAUTAUQUA LAKE -- Once known nationally for its muskellunge fishing, this Southern Tier lake now attracts boaters and shore anglers in search of walleye, bass and crappie (calico bass). Thruway drivers can exit either at Dunkirk and take route 60 south to Jamestown or exit at Westfield drive south to Mayville.
Each spring, crappie move into shore and can be caught from docks, piers and canal banks, but access is limited. One wide docking area open for spring crappie fishing is at Ashville Bay Marina (763-1178). Once walleye and bass seasons open, boaters can cast or troll the 16-mile length of the lake and find both species. Boats can be rented from We Wa Chu Cottages at the north end (789-3383), Spike Kelderhouse (386-2583), or Carlson's Boat Livery in the south basin (664-6060).
2. DUNKIRK HARBOR -- The harbor has a breakwater-protected area, nearby feeder streams, abundant chartering vessels docked in its slips (Chadwick Bay Marina has the largest number), a fishing platform at the power plant outflow and a public pier that allows easy access for physically impaired anglers. Warm water from the power plant keeps ice off the harbor through the winter. For the most current conditions, check with Bill Begier at Bill's Hooks (366-0268). Canadaway Creek enters Lake Erie just west of the City of Dunkirk.
3. CATTARAUGUS CREEK -- The largest feeder stream to enter Lake Erie in New York attracts trout, salmon, walleye, bass and the occasional northern pike and musky. Anglers, afoot or afloat, should have a New York and a Seneca Nation of Indians fishing license when working this massive creek (technically, it's a river) from Springville and Gowanda downstream through reservation lands to its mouth at Irving.
Rick Miller, a second-generation bait and tackle specialist at Irving, monitors fish movements upstream and out on Lake Erie. His shop is a source for tackle and the latest information (934-2477).
4. STURGEON POINT -- The point's history matches that of the Towpath on the Niagara River. Boaters once brought in blue pike under white gas lanterns at all hours of the night. Today, boaters and shore casters can bring in smallmouth bass at all hours of the day.
Perch schools have diminished and walleye can be caught during the early summer, but Sturgeon Point is structured for bass. A boat is necessary but simple hand-held rods and bait-tipped jigs take smallies in sizes that sometimes beat five pounds.
Weather should be a concern. Before heading out, check with Sturgeon Point Marina (947-4452). Sturgeon Point Road runs off of Route 5 just west of Derby.
5. BUFFALO HARBOR -- The Smallboat Harbor and South End Marina both provide good launching access. Worms 'N Things (824-8239), at the entrance to the Small Boat Harbor Marina, has the bait, tackle and information for all fishing seasons.
Shore casters find good schools of bass and panfish; small-craft boaters can stay inside the harbor breakwaters and find good fish at and near the openings in the breakwater where current flows attract feeding game fish.
At the head of the Niagara River, boaters can find walleye and musky. Shore casters, mainly at the foot of Ferry or Ontario streets, can catch anything from runt perch to colossal carp. For good shore information, call Russ' Bait & Tackle (883-7667).
6. POWER VISTA PLATFORM -- Boaters have access to the lower Niagara River at Lewiston and Fort Niagara State Park. Shore anglers have many places from which to cast at Lewiston, Art Park and Devil's Hole, but the premier spot for safe, comfortable casting is the new casting platform below the Power Vista. All public access sites above Lewiston call for a long walk down and up the banks, but Power Plant anglers can safely work lines while watching the powerful river rise and fall. Devil's Hole Tackle stays current on all the lower river activities (284-9616). Route 18 follows the river and the shoreline.
7. YOUNGSTOWN -- This port, along with Wilson and Olcott Harbors, give access to the popular Niagara Bar waters off Fort Niagara in Lake Ontario. Youngstown also provides access to the lower Niagara River trout and salmon fishing virtually year-round. Both Wilson and Olcott Harbors have piers and shoreline access areas that draw nice panfish and big game fish. Olcott Harbor is fed by Eighteen Mile Creek, with upstream navigation ending at Burt Dam, a major casting site during the fall salmon run.
8. OAK ORCHARD -- This area includes a double pier off Route 18 at the mouth of Oak Orchard Creek, the largest waterway entering Lake Ontario in Western New York, and Lake Alice, formed by Waterport Dam at the creek's headwaters. Cruiser-sized charter boats head out onto Lake Ontario for trout and salmon; stream waders head up Oak Orchard Creek to cast small flies at big trout and salmon.
As waters become warmer, bass, perch and other panfish can make for an interesting day along the breakwaters for anglers of all ages. For Lake Alice pier and open-water information, call Sharon Narburgh at Narby's (682-46245). For trout fishing updates, call the Oak Orchard Fly Shop (682-4546).
9. GENESEE RIVER -- This stream flows north from the Pennsylvania state line to Lake Ontario in downtown Rochester. Waders at Belmont/Shongo send out small, dry flies while casters near Mount Morris try to reach walleye. New York State maintains several public access sites along this river above and below Mount Morris Dam, which is on Route 36 south of Route 20A in the village. Look for the many state access markers along this waterway.
10. SILVER LAKE -- This lake and Conesus and Honeoye Lakes represent the western "pinkies" of the Finger Lakes chain. Silver Lake, which is on Silver Lake Road off of Route 20A about two miles east of Warway, saw a stocking program 10 years ago that rid the lake of runt perch. It now offers anglers good sizes and numbers of walleye, perch, sunfish, bluegill and the occasional northern pike. Three liveries supply rental boats: Mack's, Koziel's and Tucker's. For an update on this lake, call Ted Newman (237-5983).