Ranking The Top 5 Game Fish in WNY

Western New York boasts some of the best fishing opportunities in the State.  Anglers have the opportunity to fish the depths of one of the greatest freshwater fisheries in the world in Lake Erie as well as the serene and less populated glacier lakes that hold some prestigious catches.  We gathered information from our local anglers to see which fish species is the most sought after in Western New York.  Here are the results and some of the reasons why:

We will start off with our honorable mentions.  These fish did not make the top 5, but were worthy competitors:

#8 Salmon

#7 Crappie

#6 Channel Catfish

#5.  Black Bass


Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass came in at #5 on our list for many reasons.  Whether you are fishing a neighbor’s backyard pond or one of the beastly Great Lakes, there is a good chance that the body of water in front of you holds a good population of large or small mouth bass.  Black Bass are one of the most widespread game fish in WNY, let alone the entire country.

Lake Erie is known as one of the top smallmouth bass fisheries in the world which attracts anglers from all over the United States.  They can also be found in favorable size and numbers in Chautauqua Lake and many of lesser known lakes in the region.  If you’ve ever hooked into one of these bronzebacks, you know what the hype is all about.  Pound for pound, smallmouth bass provide some of the best fights available to WNY anglers.


Many WNY anglers are also addicted to the surprise attacks from the lunker largemouth bass that lurk in these same bodies of water.  Largemouth Bass are probably the most sought after freshwater game fish in all of North America.  I would bet my money that 90% of anglers in the area have hooked into a bucketmouth at least once in their lifetime.  Largemouth bass have a way of tightening up the mono-filament that keeps us coming back for more.

#4. Yellow Perch


After gathering the results from our polls, we were not shocked at all to see these tasty critters reach #4 on the list.  In our opinion, yellow perch may be the best tasting game fish out there and I am sure many of you would agree.  If you have jiggfriend perched for perch on Lake Erie, you know that these are not the ordinary perch that are found in our inland lakes; these are Jacks.  Yellow perch are a great target species because of the table fare they provide as well as the ease of angling methods.  Anglers of all ages can join in on the fun of catching them and there are plenty of them to be caught all around WNY.  You can pay a good buck for some fresh perch and tartar sauce or you can get out and catch them yourself!

#3 The Esox Fishes


Yes folks, we’re talking about the Northern Pike and the Muskellunge.  We paired these two together because they both tied for #3 on our Top 5 list.  The attributes that make them such prized fish are very similar.  First off, the size alone is one great reason to target these species.  You can catch the absolute “fish of a lifetime” by targeting them.  They both produce energetic strikes that really get the blood pumping.  Western New York is a major hot spot in the State to target these fish, specifically Chautauqua Lake, Cassadaga Lake, and the Niagara River.  There are several other waters in the area that hold these giants as well.  If you are an angler that prefers quality over quantity, then you are probably one of the diehard Pike or Muskie hunters that put in countless amounts of hours pursuing these beasts.



#2 Steelhead


The steelhead run occurs every fall in Western New York and attracts anglers of many varieties.  During this amazing time of year in this region, an angler can walk any of the Great Lakes tributaries and gain an education on the countless methods that are being used to entice the fresh chrome that inhibits our waters.  Steelhead give anglers a full-on adrenaline rush by the way they peel line off the reel and flash their stuff in the clear water.  Lake Erie and Lake Ontario tributaries provide access to miles upon miles of streams that receive an annual steelhead run.  Steelhead fishing is a major industry in our area.  It provides our communities with annual economic boosts through bait shops, restaurants, and lodging for out of town anglers from all around the world.  Steelhead came in at #2 on our list and we do not expect this to change for a long, long time as steelhead fishing is becoming more popular by the day with the assistance of social media and the uniqueness of the sport itself.

#1  Walleye


There’s no surprise about this one…Walleye are the most sought after game fish in Western New York, according to our voters.  We believe it is because of the perfect balance between adrenaline rush and taste.  Lake Erie provides an amazing walleye fishery that passes the test of quality and quantity.  There is nothing quite like the excitement of hearing the words “FISH ON” while trolling over the depths of the Eastern Basin.  Anglers can find walleye in the Great Lakes as well as Chautauqua Lake and the Allegheny River/Reservoir.  Walleye fishing can be expensive, time consuming, and difficult at times; however, the reward is a feast full of tasty walleye fillets that keep us coming back for more.


I think all of us can agree that it doesn’t really matter what we are fishing for as long as we are out there with friends and family enjoying the outdoors.  We are very lucky to live in Western New York where there are so many opportunities for the avid angler.  This list was a compilation of data gathered by local anglers via social media outlets.  If you have anything to add about this topic, start the conversation and let us know!

Written by Chris Postle of Postletown Woods and Water.






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