Early-Spring Angling Opportunities Abound
The three main “creeks” off Lake Erie in Chautauqua County are the Cattaraugus, Canadaway and Eighteen Mile Creek. The three receive most of the fishing pressure, mostly because they hold the majority of the fish. All three run along Routes 5 and 20 and parking can be found on many spots along the highway.
Canadaway Creek, located near Dunkirk and Fredonia in Chautauqua County, supports an excellent Lake Erie steelhead run from the creek mouth upstream to Laona Falls, a total of more than six miles of stream. Steelhead can be found in the creek from mid-October into early May. There are 0.6 miles of public access on the DEC fishing access site off Route 5 and 0.2 miles of additional public fishing rights easements. The upper section of Canadaway Creek offers inland brown trout fishing opportunities. Near the Hamlet of Griswold, there are 1.6 miles of public fishing access within DEC Canadaway Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The section within the WMA is stocked with brown trout each spring.
The Cattaraugus Creek by name sounds like a small stream running through the village of Cattaraugus and yes, the Cattaraugus does run through the village, but it is no stream. In most places it seems more like a small river, and measures close to 30 miles in length. From the Springville Power Dam, the Cattaraugus makes it way to Lake Erie at Irving. Most of the best fishing is found on the Seneca Nation Reservation, and a special Reservation fishing license must be purchased before fishing this portion of the Cattaraugus Creek. Twelve miles of the Cattaraugus does flow through New York State game lands, and a New York license is required also. Some of the favorite stretches are the section of the Cattaraugus that flows through the village of Gowanda.
On the upper section of the Cattaraugus, the fish are somewhat smaller and can be teased with a night crawler, spinner and egg sacks with the egg sacks working better as the water temperature begins to drop. More than 20,000 yearling steelhead are stocked in Eighteen Mile each spring, and each branch sees plenty of activity. Rainbows and browns are generally found in the upper section of Eighteen Mile and while many of the same techniques and tackle that work in the Cattaraugus will work in Eighteen Mile, traditional fly rods are more commonly found.