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Published: December 27, 2012

Chautauqua No Longer a Secret

by Craig Robbins

The fishing in Chautauqua County has long been somewhat of a secret. In the last ten years or so, folks from around the country have discovered the outstanding fishing opportunities Chautauqua County has to offer.

Yes, Chautauqua County has played host too many major fishing tournaments over the past ten years, but it hasn’t been until recently that anglers have truly uncovered some of the finest fishing in the country right here on our home lakes.

Lake Erie has long been known has an excellent walleye fishery, but the smallmouth bass fishing has been gaining national attention as of late. Chautauqua Lake has always had good reputation as a muskie fishery but again, in recent years has been elevated to first class. There aren’t many places in the world where anglers can spend a day in the water and have a great opportunity to put a muskie in the boat.

A long standing crown of Chautauqua Lake is the bass fishing. Chautauqua Lake has always been great bass fishery but with tournaments and TV programs coming to Chautauqua Lake to highlight its great bass fishing, it has been the rising star.

That star is about to change. Since earlier this year the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, County Executive Greg Edwards and many local businesses have been able to keep a secret under hat. The Major League Fishing event is surely going to elevate Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake and bass fishing in the fishing world. To keep a long story short, a company approached the county about hosting a different kind of fishing event. Through months of work, countless hours of meeting and miles of shoe leather, an agreement was made to Major League Fishing for an event on Chautauqua Lake.

While Major League Fishing is a fishing tournament, it is not the traditional, and Major League Fishing and Chautauqua County brought in the biggest names in the industry to fish Chautauqua Lake. The major difference from the normal tournament is the lake is divided up in six zones with six to eight anglers being dropped into a different zone each day. The top four anglers from each Elimination day, based on total weight, go on to the Sudden Death rounds. The top three anglers from each Sudden Death round go on to fish for the championship.

In each boat, there’s a pro angler, an official and a cameraman. The angler is allowed to score all black bass within the legal length limit. Each legal catch is weighed on a digital scale by the official and immediately released back into the lake. There are very strict rules each angler must follow, such as, the fish must not touch the carpet of the boat and the fish must be released at gunnel level or below on the boat, to mention a just couple. If a rule is broken, the angler is penalized a time out and depending on rule infraction, he must sit in his boat a period of time.

Major League Fishing is taking the world of bass fishing to another level with their innovative format and event rules. The rules are set up to stress the care of each fish caught, thus minimizing the pressure on each fish. Having spent time with the folks at Major League Fishing, one quickly realizes that protection of the natural resource is paramount in their minds.

During a short break in the action, competitor Greg Hackney said, “Chautauqua County area in a nutshell is the prettiest place in the state of New York.” Greg continues, “I will surely come back with my wife to the area. While I enjoy visiting and fishing other areas of New York, I have found my new favorite spot right here Chautauqua County.”

Competitor Denny Brauer has fished Chautauqua Lake in the past and shares, “from a fishing standpoint, Chautauqua Lake is loaded with docks and lots of vegetation. For anglers, vegetation means a health fishery. Vegetation is the key to a healthy fishery and here in Chautauqua County. Chautauqua Lake is definitely a healthy fishery.”

While the anglers have the opportunity to fish different bodies of water in the country, each has not only raved about Chautauqua Lake and its excellent fishing but has shared that the folks in Chautauqua County have been some of nicest and friendliest they have meet anywhere."

During the week of competition, Chautauqua Lake has seen colorful bass boats, TV production sets on the grounds at Chautauqua Institution and helicopters with cameramen hanging out of them as they cover the action. Like any event or tournament of this magnitude, it takes a large group of folks working together to make it a success.

The Chautauqua County Area Chamber of Commerce, Todd Tranum and his staff have been key to the smoothness of the event. Of course, Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Andrew Nixon and his staff make sure all involved have a good place to lay their heads each night and plenty of food. The beauty of the grounds and the friendliness of the staff is what makes Chautauqua Institution a first class learning center.

Competitor Tim Horton said it best: “Chautauqua County is the learning center of the world and what Major League Fishing is doing is all about teaching folks to be better at catching fish. This is the perfect place to host an event and I am glad and proud to be here and be a part of it.”

Horton’s words pretty much sum up Chautauqua County and Major League Fishing. I might add that it was our pleasure to host one of their events in Chautauqua County.