Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Chris Legard was the guest speaker at a recent Southtowns Walleye Association monthly meeting held at their club, which is located at 5895 Southwestern Boulevard, Hamburg. Legard, who has a lengthy history involved with marine wild life and activities, spoke on Chautauqua Lake electrofishing surveys and their interpretations.
Legard, who is based out of the DEC's Buffalo office, focused on several species inhabiting Chautauqua Lake, including muskellunge, walleye, bass, yellow and white perch. Chautauqua Lake is a huge tourist attraction with the primary focus on the muskie fishery.
Chautauqua Lake muskies provide the brood stock for the Prendergast fish hatchery, which provides muskie fingerlings for several lakes, including Conewango River, Bear Lake, Findley Lake and Chautauqua Lake.
OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek
DEC Biologist Christopher Legard spoke recently at a Southtowns Walleye Association meeting about fish populations in Chautauqua Lake.
Utilizing charts, Legard used studies to indicate the rise and decline of the musky population from 2003 to 2008 with a noticeable increase in the population in recent years. Legard commented that in the spring of 2013 -14, the DEC was able to capture 350 mature muskies in their trap nets for the purpose of gathering eggs and milt for the fish hatchery.
They also caught a number of bigger-sized fish with multiple fish over 51 inches in length.
The DEC did electroshocking in Chautauqua Lake during the springs of 2012 and 2014, focusing on large mouth bass. The search yielded about 20 per hour, which indicates a moderate density of this species, which in turn is ideal for the lake.
The survey revealed that small mouth bass were averaging about six to eight per hour. The numbers were down, but there was good representation of all age groups throughout the lake.
Just as a side note, I had the opportunity to speak with a veteran angler on Chautauqua Lake, Chip Speisman, at a Chautauqua County Sportsman Federation meeting. Chip showed me a photo packet of some impressive muskies and large mouth bass he and his friend caught and released over the last two weeks, including the one that sent Chip to the emergency room. While trying to revive the docile fish, which Chip has done hundreds of times, the fish suddenly awakened and slashed his hand. Ouch!
Chip also commented on the one that got away, which was a very dark small mouth bass caught on a muskie spinner that he estimated would have gone 10 pounds.
Legard then moved to walleye, which had seen a decline in 2004, but have since been increasing in numbers. Why did walleye numbers decline? Some theories include overfishing, lack of weeds and lack of bait fish.
During the '90s walleye numbers were dependent only on natural reproduction. The spring electroshocking showed that the catch rate was now at 26 walleye per hour, with the average length at 18 inches.
The age distribution for walleye included some fish in the 10 year age class and older. There was no dominant age class showing up and the DEC electroshocks annually at 15 traditional sites.
Anyone who has ever fished Chautauqua Lake knows about the numerous yellow perch and white perch inhabiting the lake. That was until recently. In years past, the DEC was averaging about 700 yellow perch caught per hour. This year the rate dropped to 180.
White perch also were increasing until 2011 when the catch rate also dropped. This drop in white perch numbers could explain the increase in walleye numbers because white perch are known to feed on walleye fry. For now, the walleye population in Chautauqua Lake looks promising.
Just a reminder that the early or nuisance goose season is set to open on Sept. 1.
The Bear Lake Rod & Gun Club will host a 3-D archery shoot on Sept. 14. They will also host a 200-yard gun shoot on Sept. 21. New members are welcome and the club's monthly meetings are on the first Sunday of the month at 4 p.m. They start the meeting off with a hot meal, so come hungry.
The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club will also host the following free courses: Firearms (gun) hunter
course will be held Sept. 24-25 from 5-10 p.m., with two-day attendance mandatory.
A one-day archery course will be held at the Con Club on Saturday, Sept. 20, from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., with a lunch break. Note: To register for all courses, you must register online at the DEC website.
The Westfield Fish & Game Club will offer a trapping Class on Sept. 17-18 from 6-10 p.m. Call Vince Luce at 753-6347 for information.
The Westfield Club will also offer a Hunter Safety Training course Monday, Sept. 22 from 7-10 p.m., returning on Saturday, Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Two-day attendance is mandatory. Call 326-3218 for information.
A Pistol course at the club will be held Oct. 19, starting at 1 p.m. Call Dave Nichols at 581-0739 for information. Note there is a charge of $75 for this course set by Chautauqua County.
The Falconer Rod & Gun Club, located on Buffalo Street Extension, will host a trapping course Sept. 24 and Sept. 26 from 5:30-10 p.m. Two-day attendance is mandatory. Call Tim at 485-3376 for information.
Gene Pauszek is an OBSERVER outdoors columnist. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bear Lake Rod & Gun Club, located at Route 310 Cassadaga/Stockton Road, will offer a trapping course on Oct. 17-18 from 6-10 p.m. Two-day attendance is mandatory. Call 595-3418 for information.
The First Greater Niagara Frontier Fishing & Hunting Show at the Getzville Fire Co., 630 Dodge Road (Corner Campbell Blvd and Dodge Road), Getzville, will be Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sept. 14 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission is $5 and children under 15 years of age is free. Tables are $20 (No guns or ammo) New and used items for fishing and hunting. For information, contact Chuck Booker at 957-3566.
Hunt of a Lifetime Foundation raffle tickets will be on sale soon. Ticket price will be $50 per ticket with $66,000 in cash and prizes. Proceeds from this event enable children with terminal disabilities to partake in a fishing or hunting trip of their choosing.
The Warren, Pa. Gun Show will be Oct. 11-12 at the Warren Mall, located at Route 62 in North Warren, Pa. The event is sponsored by the Kinzua Country Auctions. This event will have tables available for $35. For information, call (814) 723-1446.
If your club is hosting a shooting event or training course (turkey shoot, etc.), drop a line and I will be glad to place an announcement in the calendar. I also am available to take photos and hear your success stories by calling 366-1772 or 467-2079.