Yes, it's true. Anglers can legally fish for small and largemouth bass on Chautauqua Lake before opening day on June 15.
The law is actually very simple. From the third Saturday in June until the last day of November, anglers are allowed to keep any five bass over 12 inches. From Dec. 1 until the day before the traditional opening day, anglers are allowed to pursue bass with the use of artificial baits, and all bass caught during this special season must be immediately released back into the lake.
The special catch-and-release season has been a long time in coming and has proponents on both sides of law.
Some say that with fishing before the regular season opens, anglers will target spawning fish and take females off their beds which can stress the fish out during the catch-and-release process. I am not going to say that all bass caught during this special season are released alive back into the lake; that would be silly and unrealistic. But the law states that all bass caught during the catch-and-release season are supposed to be.
Studies, conducted throughout the nation, including the northeast, have shown little impact on spawning fish.
On the other side of the fence, anglers enjoy the special season and the opportunities that it offers. Some have said that preseason bass are easier to catch. That may be true sometimes, but as with much involved with Mother Nature, it is not a hard, fast rule.
For those of us who have been fishing the Chautauqua Lake so far this season, for the most part the bite has been tough. That's due to inconsistent temperatures, wind and often times nasty conditions. Spring fishing isn't easy, but can be fun.
For early season bass, artificial 6-inch plastic worms in pumpkinseed, black with blue tail and motor oil color seem to be working the best. Targeting the weed edges and other structure is important.
If hitting the banks is your style, then working topwater baits in the early morning and early evening is always productive. Around docks, 3-inch crawfish and tubes are your best bet.
While it may be tempting, but it's not advised to pull fish off their spawning beds. Often folks think that pulling a female off her bed hurts the female, but not so much. What really opens up is predator fish coming in and cleaning out the spawning bed while we fight and catch the fish.
No matter which side of fence that you land on, it's not good to target spawning fish.
Today's bass anglers are better schooled in the practices of catch-and-release. They also pride themselves with not losing bass. I have been on the lake several times over the past couple of weeks and I haven't seen any negative impact on this special artificial catch-and-release season.
While time will be the true test of the new season, the one thing that it has done is successfully help what the tourism folks call the shoulder season. And in today's economy, more visitors coming too Chautauqua County is always a great thing.