Maybe you are older enough to remember the signs proclaiming Chautauqua Lake as the world's greatest muskie lake. Several classic books were written about muskie fishing at Chautauqua Lake, and there were far more legends than books.
My favorite Chautauqua muskie fishing legend, or is it true, was about an old gentleman who had spend must of his life fishing for muskie at Chautauqua Lake. He caught numerous muskie and his skills were well known. But one thing in his muskie fishing career was missing, one truly huge trophy muskie. He wanted it so badly.
One day the old man was late in returning from his fishing. After a long wait someone was sent out to search for him. His boat was soon found right where he was expected to be fishing. There in the boat they found the old muskie fisherman dead, a contented smile on his face, with the muskie of his dreams in his arms.
It is a classic story of the reward for a life well lived, a life to be envied. We need more stories like that today.
There was very good reason for the reputation of Chautauqua Lake. One of the three primary muskie strains, once considered to be subspecies, was named for the lake, Esox masquinongy chautauquanensis.
Maybe we will get more great muskie fishing stories. Chautauqua Lake is again living up to its billing as the greatest muskie lake in the world. Actually muskie fishing has been improving for the past several years, ever since changes were made in the ways muskie were raised and stocked at Chautauqua Lake.
Several years ago muskie culture was pulled indoors. The large ponds at the Prendergast Hatchery sat empty. Part of that new plan was feeding the young muskie with pellets. A combination of factors, feeding them pellets, raising them indoors, and other factors were blamed for the decline of the Chautauqua Lake muskie fishery.
Since then, other changes were made to muskie culture and the fishery began to rebound. The difference this year, what makes it so special, has been the large number of huge muskie that have been caught, fish longer than 50 inches. Barely a week has gone by this summer when I did not hear about a muskie in that class, or at least very close to it, being caught.
Muskie fishing tends to get slow during the dog days of summer, and this summer has had more than its share of dog days starting sooner than usual. Oldtime anglers blamed louse summertime muskie fishing on the supposition that these fish lose their teeth during summer, or that their teeth became soft and loose.
In fact, if you do catch a muskie now there is a good chance that some teeth will be missing, and several that remain will be loose. But the reason is not the season. The reason is that all through the battle with that muskie a taut wire leader has been scraping back and forth through the jaws of the muskie, in the process doing considerable damage to its teeth.
I seldom hear those silly stories about muskie losing teeth during summer anymore. It is just entertaining. Old wives' tales have nothing on old fishermen's tales.
Most anglers have never seen a 50-inch muskie. Then once you get away from this area, almost no anglers have seen one with the exception o ft he area around a few Upper Midwest lakes.
Catching big muskie is not easy. But it is not as hard as the title of one of the classic old muskie books claimed, that muskie are the 'Fish of 10,000 Casts'. It need not be that way at lease. There are two factors that can greatly improve your odds. One, fish in the right place, and no place is better than Chautauqua Lake. Second is doing the right thing, which is something that has almost as many answers as there are muskie anglers..
There is no great trick or secret to catching big muskie. Get a few lures that are 6 inches to 13 inches in length, approximately, in a variety of colors that includes basic black, a perch pattern, a sucker pattern, and fire tiger. This summer some of the bigger muskie have been caught on relatively small lures, lures shorter than 10 inches.
Use fitting muskie tackle consisting of a rod built to cast or troll those big lures, a matching reel, and spool the reel with line testing from 20 pounds to 50 pounds. Most muskie anglers add a wire leader.
Troll your lures right along the outside edges of weed beds. Water depth probably will be roughly 12 feet. If there are a few scattered weed clumps where you troll all the better. Muskie attack prey from hidden positions. Note how their coloration blends with aquatic vegetation.
Yes, you will get a lot of tangles with weeds, sometimes by getting too close to rooted weeds, sometimes by hitting floating weeds. This can get very annoying at Chautauqua Lake, but it is a necessary part of the game. Learn to live with it.