New York more than just the Big Apple

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.

A few years ago, I visited Chautauqua County to hunt turkey 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 left over 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 the state.

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.

Such outings give members an opportunity to 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 go and replicate my adventures for yourself.

After the business of the meeting is complete, members select an outdoor activity to participate in on the fourth day of the conference.

Some people chose to go musky fishing on the beautiful, 19-mile long Chautauqua Lake. Two members, both women, caught impressive “water wolves.”

Others 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.

Captain Lance Ehrhardt of Sassafras Charters has been guiding walleye fishermen out of Chadwick Bay Marina in Dunkirk 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. I’d highly recommend booking a trip with Captain Lance and his first mate, Zen, when you visit the area.

Another highlight 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 field guide to birds set the bar for nature guidebooks. The original art and photography collections found at the Institute today are world renowned.

When most folks think of New York, their mind automatically goes to the big city. Manhattan, skyscrapers, honking taxis, the Yankees and a poor excuse for pizza are common correlations to New York (Sorry, but as a Chicago guy, I just can’t get into paper-thin pizza.)

But what many fail to realize is just how magnificent the rest of the state is for outdoor enthusiasts. From the Adirondacks to the Niagara River Region and especially down into Chautauqua County, New York is an amazing state.

Chautauqua is absolutely one of those special places, 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.

Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.