Some of the best advice I ever received about parenting came courtesy of a slightly older fellow whose own kids had recently finished college and fled the family nest.
“Enjoy them while they’re young,” he said.
Then he propped his spinning rod against a tree trunk and helped me untangle the monofilament puzzle my young son had woven around a tree branch beside a campground pond.
Let’s face it, folks, anyone serious about being both angler and parent will have to make some personal sacrifices, especially during summer fishing vacations. We may spend all winter dreaming about taking epic journeys around the globe, but until the kids have grown up, much of the average angler’s rod and reel “me time” is going to turn into “we time,” spent very close to home.
That’s just the way it is, but I don’t regret time spent on re-doing or un-doing knots for awkward children. When we look back on our family getaways, my wife and I see countless happy memories.
Family fishing trips should always be fun, and there’s no reason why they can’t be productive, as well. The trick is identifying vacation spots with good fishing potential for adults and kids alike. And if the lake or river you select is close to theme parks, sandy beaches or other tourist diversions, so much the better.
New York has hundreds of locations that fit this mold, including the following family-oriented fishing destinations.
Justly famous for its abundant, hard-fighting muskellunge, Chautauqua also churns out monster smallmouth bass, better than average walleyes and plentiful black crappies, bullheads and sunfish. Which species should you and your kids target? Most fishermen would go for the little stuff, but I’d give the bass a thorough try, first. They’re common throughout the 13,100-acre lake, and not all that hard to catch if you happen to tolerate live bait. Crayfish, shiners and nightcrawlers will trigger enough strikes and fierce battles to keep any pre-teen angler happy. They will, that is, provided you have a small boat and either a lake map or a GPS unit to locate known smallmouth hangouts. If you aren’t much of a navigator, stick to the weed lines and settle for lots of scrappy panfish.
Keep in mind that Chautauqua Lake, which is in Chautauqua County at Jamestown, is essentially two lakes in one, with a north basin and south basin separated by the Route 86 (former Route 17) bridge. In general, the north end is rocky and deep (bottoming out at 77 feet), while the south portion has a maximum depth of 19 feet and is weedy throughout. Hotspots for smallmouth in the north basin include the west shore at Whitney Bay, Prendergast Point and Chautauqua Institution; and the east side in DeWittville Bay and off the point at Midway Park. As for the south basin, suffice to say that it lays to rest the old clichés about smallmouths preferring rocks and largemouths haunting weedbeds. In Chautauqua, the species co-exist along weedlines.
The Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, (716) 753-4304, will provide readers with detailed information on the lake area’s motels, campgrounds and other lodging alternatives.
Beloved by regional bass tournament competitors and mentioned in hushed tones by seekers of voracious northern pike, Sodus Bay is also a prime breeding ground for panfish, particularly bluegills, yellow perch, bullhead and rock bass.
It’s a great spot for youngsters who have yet to develop the quick reflexes and patience that are prime assets for more experienced anglers. By casting near moored boats, unoccupied docks, weed bed edges and other likely hideouts, kids learn to watch a bobber and set a hook when it disappears. Most fish in this 3,000-acre cut in the Wayne County shore of Lake Ontario are on the small side, but they are plentiful, scrappy and without guile. That’s just what beginners are looking for, but Dad should keep his rod ready on Sodus Bay, too, as lunker largemouths and sharp-toothed pike are seldom more than a long cast away from tasty, nutritious panfish.
Vacationers can take Route 14 north from the Lyons exit off the state Thruway all the way to the village of Sodus Bay. It’s about a half-hour drive from the East-West toll road. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s boat ramp on the north side of the bay is a convenient access point. At the opposite end, the Bay Bridge is a productive shore-fishing platform, and the Bay Bridge Sports Shop, at (315) 587-9508, sells an assortment of live bait as well as a Sodus Bay map.
For a brochure on Sodus-area lodging possibilities, contact Wayne County Tourism, at (800) 527-6510.