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Lake Information for Chautauqua Lake


Chautauqua Lake is located entirely within Chautauqua County, New York, USA. The lake is approximately 17 miles (28 km) long and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide at its greatest width. The surface area is approximately 13,000 acres (53 kmĀ²). The maximum depth is about 78 feet (23 m). The shoreline is about 41.1 miles (66 km) of which all but 2.6 mi (4 km) are privately owned.

The lake's name has various meanings, based on a variety of translations of the original native words. One translation means Bag tied in the middle, referring to the narrow portion between shore lines half-way down the lake. Other translations include: Place Where Fish are Taken as well as Place of Easy Death.

The water from the lake drains to the south, emptying first into the Chadakoin River in Jamestown, New York before traveling east into the Conewango Creek. The creek goes south, entering the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania and the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, instead of flowing north into the Great Lakes. The drainage area is about 180 square miles.

At the southern end is the City of Jamestown. The Village of Mayville is at the northern end. Other villages located on the Lake are Bemus Point, Lakewood, Celoron, and Chautauqua, the site of the Chautauqua Institution founded in 1874. There are many other settlements located on the Lake, including: Fluvanna, Greenhurst, Maple Springs, Dewittville, Stow, Cheney's Point, and Ashville Bay.

There is one bridge that connects the opposite sides of the lake. The Veterans Memorial Bridge (aka the Chautauqua Lake Bridge) was completed on October 30, 1982 and joins Bemus Point, New York to Stow, NY on I-86 (at the time known as Route 17). Prior to the construction of the bridge the only means for cars to cross the lake was facilitated by a ferry, which still occasionally operates and traverses the lake in the shadow of the bridge.

Facilities and Parks: 

Public boating access and shoreline fishing are available at the Prendergast Point boat launch, and Long Point State Park where a marina and day-use area exist. Public boating access is provided at the Bemus Point boat launch. Additional shoreline fishing access is available at Tom's Point Multiple Use Area, the recently acquired Cheney Farm (providing 1,100 feet of shoreline access) and the Stow Property (providing 1,100 feet of shoreline access).

Public access during the winter months is available at the Prendergast Point, Bemus Point, Long Point State Park, the City of Mayville Park and the Village of Lakewood Park.

Fishing Description: 

Yellow perch, white perch, pumpkinseed, bluegill, crappie and bullhead can be caught year-round in Chautauqua Lake. These tasty fish are fun to catch for both the novice and expert angler alike. Weed lines are often good spots to locate panfish-they provide security from predators and are an abundant food source for insects and other invertebrates. During the summer and fall, live baits such as minnows or worms produce the best catches. Preferred gear is an ultralight rod and reel with 4-6 pound test line. Live minnows fished with a bobber are a popular technique, but anglers fishing small jigs tipped with bait are also successful.

Fishing for bullheads is a popular activity during the spring and early summer. Since bullheads are most active after sunset, fishing during the evening hours with the aid of a lantern is usually the most effective way to catch these fish. Try still-fishing, using nightcrawlers, crayfish or scent-attractant baits. During the spring spawning period, bullheads concentrate over areas of soft bottom.

Recent DEC surveys indicate healthy numbers of bullhead, yellow perch, sunfish and white perch and fishing predictions are favorable for these species. Action has been variable for crappie which continue to experience cyclical changes in abundance. The best fishing for crappie continues to be in spring and fall in the shallow windward embayments where warm surface water attracts baitfish. Today, statewide regulations apply to these species.

Chautauqua Lake ranks among the better bass lakes in New York State. Shallow,weedy areas and under docks offer exceptional cover for largemouth bass, while deep drop-offs and gravel bars often contain good numbers of smallmouth bass. Casting from shore or boat is are effective for Chautauqua Lake bass; it allows the angler to place a lure directly into structure where bass wait to ambush prey. Early morning and evening are the prime times for surface-type plugs. Anglers also have good luck using spinner baits, plastic worms, jig-and-pigs, crank baits and live bait, such as crayfish and shiners.

DEC fisheries staff consider the fall, smallmouth fishing to be exceptional and underutilized. Recent fishing tournaments held in October regularly have winning weights exceeding 20 lbs for the 5 fish creel entries. Surprisingly, rocky shoals at creek mouths and islands in the south basin prove to be the most productive areas in fall for smallmouth bass. Although surveys indicate moderate numbers of "trophy" bass, fishing can only improve if more bass are released by anglers.

Chautauqua Lake is recognized as a premiere, world-class muskellunge fishery. Many fish in the 40-50 inch class are caught each year. Although not known for producing New York's largest muskellunge (the St. Lawrence River or Buffalo Harbor hold this honor) the action can be fast and furious and the lake is almost always fishable. While anglers use a variety of methods to catch musky, two proven techniques are trolling and casting in the shallow weedy bays. Trolling is generally more effective, but requires specialized techniques and experience. Speed trolling, or trolling in the "prop wash" has become in popular in recent years but specialized gear is needed to handle the strikes of trophy muskellunge on such short line. If you are interested in only the largest musky, a radio tracking study in the late 1990s showed the largest fish spent their time suspended over deep water rather than associated with structure. Smaller to moderate sized musky were normally associated with weed lines and drop offs. DEC surveys indicate a healthy musky population that has rebounded from declines in the early 1990s. More than 75% of the musky handled in the trap nets result from fingerlings stocked by the NYS-DEC Prendergast Hatchery. In 2006, the stocking rate will be increased from 10,000 to 13,000 pond-finished fingerlings averaging 8.5 to 9 inches in length with an even larger length achieved for ponds that receive minnows donated by the Chautauqua Musky Hunters, a local chapter of Muskies Inc. The minimum size limit for musky in Chautauqua is 40 inches and the creel is limited to one fish per person, per day. To maintain quality muskellunge fishing, anglers are encouraged to release their catch without even bringing the fish into the boat. Studies show that if muskellunge are handled carefully the odds of surviving to be caught again are excellent.

Walleye, a non-native but highly popular sportfish in Chautauqua Lake, was introduced in the early 1900s but did not show a visible presence until the 1960s when several strong "natural"; hatches greatly increased their abundance and popularity. On average, over 30% of the angling days on Chautauqua Lake are in pursuit of walleye. Supported primarily by the strong 1993 hatch, Chautauqua Lake provided quality walleye fishing through the 1990s. Gradual declines in this age group and the lack of additional hatches has lead to a decline in walleye abundance. Declines in the mid to late 1990s resulted in the initiation of a stocking program in 2003. Since then fingerling walleye have been stocked annually with numbers varying dependent upon hatchery production. To provide protection to the remaining walleye stock, NYS-DEC increased the minimum length limit to 18 inches and reduced the daily creel to 3 on October 1, 2004.

Early season anglers catch walleye along Chautauqua Lake's gravel shoals by casting or trolling minnow-imitating lures. The best fishing occurs during the evening, at night and during early morning hours. During the summer months, fish in deeper areas of the lake where the water temperatures preferred by walleye exist. Anglers should concentrate their efforts in deeper water during the day, moving to shallower areas at dusk when the walleye move inshore to feed. During fall, try trolling a minnow-imitation lure along the bottom, or jig along sharp drop-offs. Good areas to fish include Mission Meadows, the Bell Tower, Prendergast Point, Long Point, Warner Bar, Greenhurst, Cheney's Farm, Bemus Bay and Tom's Point.

Chautauqua Lake offers "hardwater" angling opportunities for walleye and panfish. Ice fishing can be an enjoyable outing for the whole family and only requires a minimum of equipment. Clothing is key to an enjoyable ice-fishing experience-dress in layers and use a good pair of insulated pack boots.

Anglers will also need an ice auger, or spud, to cut a hole through the ice and an ice skimmer to clean the ice chips out of the hole. Ice fishing tackle should be geared toward the size fish you want to catch. Generally, lighter is better to catch sensitive-biting fish like bluegill and crappie. Use a short, lightweight fishing pole outfitted with 4-6 pound test line and smaller bait. When fishing for panfish, small jigs work well. Many anglers bait the jigs with "mousies", "oak leaf" grubs, or mayfly larvae (Michigan wigglers). For best results, fish the bait just off the bottom. Some ice anglers use a small bobber placed on the line just below the eater surface, to prevent icing up and to detect the slightest nibble.

Popular areas for yellow perch and other panfish include Mayville, Prendergast, Long Point, Dewittville, Ashville Bay and the Celoron area. For walleye, fish Chautauqua's north basin. Good areas include the Warner Bar, Bell Tower, Dewittville, Prendergast Point, Mission Meadows, Long Point, Victoria and Magnolia. Since walleye in the 5-8 pound range are occasionally caught, anglers use heavier fishing tackle. Short, stout spinning rods with a reel that has a good drag system work the best. Minnow-imitating lures and "sonars" are a traditional favorite of Chautauqua Lake anglers. Lures are often baited with a minnow to make them more enticing. Tip-ups also work well, and anglers often set out their legal number of tip-ups and continue to use jigs with another rod.

Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Optional Information
Maximum depth: 
Surface area: 
Chautauqua Lake
Lake type: 
New York

Businesses Located Nearby

Boat Rental

    Shore Acres Boat Yard
  • 3979 Route 430 - Bemus Point, NY
  • (716) 386-4092
    Chautauqua Marina
  • 14 Roberts Ave - Chautauqua, NY
  • (716) 357-2628

Vacation Rental

Bar and Restaurant

    Tito's Sports Bar & Restaurant
  • 201 Central Ave - Dunkirk, NY
  • (716) 366-8284
    Szymanski Bar & Restaurant
  • 129 Fraley St - Kane, PA
  • (814) 837-1038
    Bar & Restaurant Service
  • 240 W 11th St - Erie, PA
  • (814) 453-2062

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