RAY SWANSON | Keystoner Fishing trip to Chautauqua will be memorable
There isn't a lazy bone in what Lake Chautauqua veteran anglers refer to as "smallies."
Inch for inch, the smallmouth bass ranks right at the top for its ability to give fishermen the thrill of a lifetime.
They are fighters in every sense of the word and when tying into one, you better have strong line, a good net and plenty of patience.
The "smallie" has a mind of its own and battles with a strength that places it right at the zenith of Pennsylvania's freshwater fish.
The Swanson boys, four of us, made our annual trek to the New York lake in late June, and it turned out to be one of our most successful trips. My sons were satisfied.
Arriving in Chautauqua on a Friday evening, we discovered that the out-of-state license fee was not in effect.
In fact, it was a free tithing weekend (June 23-24) and a license was not required on those days.
Staying only for the weekend, we had only one night's fee ($11) to pay for the entire weekend. That made us all happy and our wallets bigger.
Hit the lake: Friday evening, we hit the lake. It was a cool evening but we managed to do well.
Jeff tied into a 31/2-pound catch that night which turned out to be the prize fish for the evening.
He's the most learned of the group, having fished the lake for numerous years while landing a number of muskies in the 40-to-45 inch range.
We all were successful that evening, catching white bass, several walleyes and plenty of rock bass and perch.
We hit the lake again early Saturday; however, the weather had turned sour and we awoke to rain and a rougher lake.
Gary stepped into the limelight on Saturday and had a big muskie flip off his rig at boat-side.
We hit the golf course (the rain had stopped) for our outing during the afternoon hours, before winding things up in the evening back on the lake. Doug took top honors on Saturday with a beautiful smallmouth in the 16-inch range.
Beautiful day: Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day. The sun came out as did the boaters. We fished the morning hours, returned to our favorite breakfast nook and then headed out again to finish up the fishing end.
Things were unusually quiet for the first several hours until Jeff decided to move the boat to the edge of a weed bed, located in about 10-13 feet of water.
It wasn't long until Gary nailed a three-pound prize, measuring close to 20 inches. What a beauty and what a fighter. He broke water three or four times before he was netted. After a picture was taken, the monster was released.
A short time later, Gary's pole again bent almost in half. It was another three-pound customer or better that had the "baby of the family" smiling from ear to ear. Of course, he had his picture taken again.
This was becoming a habit, I thought, and a little embarrassing as not once did I have my picture taken and time was running out.
On the board: But my time did come. Thanks to a stretchy leech and a hungry smallmouth, I was on the board.
This smallmouth measured in around 18 inches and weighed a little over three pounds. What a beautiful fish.
I thought to myself, as Jeff hauled the fish aboard. After congratulations from the gang, I had my picture taken, too.
All I can say to Jerry Smith, golf pro at Tam O'Shanter, is "eat your heart out." Jerry is quite a fisherman, as well as a golfer, and inquires often as to the fishing at Lake Chautauqua. I have pictures.
As for our gang, the fishing weekend honors went to Gary. Rightly so. His big smile and good nature brought out the best in the rest of his jealous family.
It was a weekend that one won't forget. Aside from the great fishing, it was the fellowship that will burn brightly and remain cemented in our hearts forever. Can't wait until next year.