New York’s Chautauqua County a Sportsman Paradise

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Dan Stefanich shows of a Chautauqua County, New York Lake Erie walleye.

Dan Stefanich shows of a Chautauqua County, New York Lake Erie walleye.

New York. Those two little words represent a metropolis. When most folks think of New York, their minds automatically turn to the city. Millions of people, skyscrapers, honking taxis, the Yankees and paper-thin pizza are common correlations to New York City. But what many people fail to realize is just how magnificent the rest of the state is for outdoor enthusiasts. From the Adirondacks to the Catskills, from the Niagara River to the Finger Lakes, New York is immersed with natural beauty. But in my opinion, Chautauqua County, New York is the state’s sportsman’s paradise.

A few years a go, I visited Chautauqua County to turkey hunt with Craig Robbins of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. It only took an hour on the first morning of my three-day hunt to put my gobbler on the ground, so I had plenty of time leftover to explore the surrounding area. What I found was a plethora of fishing and hunting opportunities hidden away in the scenic and culturally magnificent western corner of New York.

As a longtime member, I was pleased when the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers decided to host our 2016 conference in Chautauqua County at Peek n’ Peak Ski, Golf and Spa Resort. This association of outdoor communicators has an annual conference that travels around the Great Lakes Region so members have an opportunity to visit and experience outstanding sporting destinations. I enjoy visiting all of these locations so I can share with all of you reading this column the information you need to know so you may replicate my adventures for yourself.

On the fourth day of the conference, after the business of the meeting was complete, members selected an outdoor activity to participate in. Some people chose to go musky fishing on the beautiful 19-mile long natural Chautauqua Lake. Two members, both women, caught impressive “water wolves.” Some members chose to go early season Canada goose hunting. A few were dropped from the sky. I, along with a number of others, chose to go walleye fishing on Lake Erie.

Trolling for walleye on Lake Erie from a 29’ foot cabin cruiser is something I could get into doing regularly. As it is, I am only able to hit Erie once every few years. So when I do have a chance to go after my favorite fish to eat, I hope to make the most of it. My recent trip to Dunkirk, New York didn’t disappoint.

Captain Lance Ehrhardt, of Sassafras Charters has been guiding walleye fishermen out of Chadwick Bay Marina for over 30 years. He has no idea how many thousands of walleyes his clients have caught over the years, but he still takes pride in making sure everyone aboard his boat has a good time and catches fish. He accomplished his goal with myself, Dan Stefanich of Clam Corporation and Sean Warner of the Salmo Group. In just three hours, we landed eight walleye, a steelhead, two white bass and a couple of accidental drum. We had even more fun just listening to the Captain explain Lake Erie and what it has been like guiding anglers for three decades. One key point he made,was while western Lake Erie is known for numbers of fish, the New York portion of the lake is where anglers can expect to consistently catch the giants. I’d highly recommend booking a trip with Captain Lance and his first mate, Zen, when you visit the area.

Another highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York. Peterson, one of the foremost bird artists to ever live, was born and raised in Chautauqua County. His bird identification field guide set the bar for nature guidebooks. The original art and photography collections found at the Institute today are world-renowned.

Chautauqua is absolutely a special place for sportsmen, and I hope you consider visiting the next time you are looking for a great getaway. Combining a visit to Chautauqua County with a trip to Niagara Falls, which is only an hour further northeast, would make for a great trip. To learn more about all the adventures waiting for you in Chautauqua County, visit

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler


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