The Best Kept Secret in the East

Tired of not getting any fish when you go out? Tired of fighting big crowds of fishing boats? Tired of not having first class accommodations? Well, I have the answers to the questions that you want to hear, plus I'll guarantee that you will catch fish!


No, I am not a professional fisherman or a writer, and I am not completely crazy. The body of water that I am going to tell you about is Lake Chautauqua in New York. It is an easy drive from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo.


Lake Chautauqua is a narrow lake about 20 miles long. It's like fishing two separate lakes, the south end is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 10 to 15 fet; the north end, above Bemus Point, deepens to about 40 feet, holes up to 75 feet. The lake is eutrophic and highly fertile. In the summer there is a deep algae bloom and heavy weed growth along the shallows.


Chautauqua has been known as the premier Musky lake in the east, but in the last ten years Walleye fishing has really dominated. The other prime species include Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Perch, Bullhead, Crappies, Rock-bass, Silver-bass and Bluegill make up the pan fish population.


The average weekend fisherman and his family can fish the weed edges around 10 to 12 feet and they can't miss catching fish.


My partners, Jim Ley, Jim Guererio, Kip Aitken, Eric Feigel, Phil and Dave Mannella and I used a system that even young children can use and have a lot of fun doing it. Tie a 1/8 oz. Plain jig head (green, yellow, white or orange) on your line; tip it with a nightcrawler or leech; flip it into the weedline; let it sink and slowly work it back to the boat. We caught every type of fish that swims in the lake using this method from May all through the summer monts. This system works all summer. Some days you won't catch as many, but even when fronts come through you won't get skunked.


You can also use a plain #6 or #4 hook with a #5 split shot and about 18 inches from the hook and fish in the same manner. Sure, we caught Pan fish but we also caught Walleyes up to 10-1/2 lbs., and Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, up to 4-3/4 lbs., Crappies to 1-1/2 lbs. and many nice Perch. I even had the thrill of getting a Musky strike. I also got the Sports Afield Award in 1984 and 1987 for the biggest Smallmouth Bass (6lb. 4 oz. and 5lb. 70z.) entered in New York State.


We also proved that you can get fish in all areas of the lake, as we fished from Mayville to the Bridge and did not get skunked once. In fact, Jim G. was catching walleye in the evening by casting plugs right off the dock.


Early morning and evening are the best times to fish, leaving the rest of the day to sightsee, water ski, shop or visit Chautauqua Institution.


During the fall we fish the deep holes, using jigs, tipped with chubs and sonars or silver buddies or we fished at 25 to 40 feet deep, using worm harnesses or perch spreader rigs with just enough weight to touch the bottom, and we drift with the wind. Usually we don't catch as many fish as in the summer, but on the average they are a little bigger. The size limit for Walleye in Lake Chautauqua is 15 inches with a limit of 5 fish per day.


Now to the facilities… We always stay at We Wan Chu Cottages which are located one mile south of Chautauqua Institution. They are run by Mr. and Mrs. Wiemer and their son, Peter. They make sure that all their guests are satisfied. The cottages of 1, 2 , 3, 5 or 6 bedrooms, are heated; have equipped kitchens; BBQ grills, color T.V., and picnic tables. Peter maintains a good docking facility, with boat slips for all the cottages; rental boats, and motors if you need them. He also has the latest fishing information. They also have an indoor pool and spa, basketball court, volleyball and horseshoes. It's a great place for the whole family and the Wiemers treat you like family.


So when planning that next vacation or weekend trip, go to where I consider THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN THE EAST, LAKE CHAUTAUQUA. All you need is a light line, a handful of jigs and a reservation at We Wan Chu.


It will be just like the commercial, because you'll be saying, "IT CAN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS!"

DENNIS DONATELLI
Pittsburgh, PA


1/3/41 - 11/29/01
To Dennis going to Chautauqua was a pleasant drive from Pittsburgh to New York that he took twice a year since the mid 1970's.  He enjoyed the changing of the trees in fall and he loved the serenity of being on the lake, away from the city noises that one gets accustomed to.  Going to We Wan Chu with his buddies was a vacation he looked forward to.  Dennis enjoyed sharing all of his fish stories with anyone who would listen, and what a story teller he was.  You would laugh so hard the tears would run.  Dennis introduced many young fishermen to Chautauqua Lake, and many  still continue to vacation there.  We all miss Dennis and his Chautauqua stories... God Rest his Soul...