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Rod, Gun & Game: Cuba Lake offers fishing fun for Western New York anglers

One short ride around the perimeter of Cuba Lake in winter will offer a splendid view of colorful ice-fishing tents, lean-tos and keep-me-warm inventions that shelter anglers from Western New York’s chilly winter wind. The ice fishing huts are occupied with anglers’ willing to spend a day on the hard water surface, hoping to find crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, walleye and some very large northern pike.

The Cuba Lake fishery is monitored by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 9 fisheries staff. Surveys to assess the status of game fish and the health of the lake, while monitoring growth rates and size of populations for largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and the multiple pan-fish species, were completed in 2003 and 2011.

Yellow perch are the most abundant pan-fish in Cuba Lake, indicated by an electrofishing catch rate of 355 fish per hour, during the 2011 survey. In 2003, rock bass were abundant, but very few were caught, in the 2011 survey, although the DEC reported that anglers are also catching lots of rock bass, indicating that those numbers are higher than survey results suggested.

When compared to other large lakes in Western New York, Cuba Lake is generally less productive, in terms of pounds of fish per acre, which means that, for same-aged fish, the fish are generally smaller in Cuba Lake than in other comparative lakes.

But don’t sell Cuba Lake short. Sampling indicated that Cuba Lake should provide quality recreational angling opportunities, throughout the 2013 season and into the coming years.

Winter anglers reported that crappie fishing can be extremely productive, near the eastern end of the lake. Fish are often found, just below the ice, on some days. It is more common to find them closer to the bottom. Live minnows are the preferred crappie bait, although many anglers tip tiny ice jigs with wax worms, to catch this species.

Survey results for walleye and smallmouth bass indicated that these species are still the dominant lake predators. Since the New York state discontinuation of walleye fry stocking in 1999, the walleye population has been supported by natural reproduction. The data showed that the walleye are very abundant. The electrofishing catch rate was 43 walleye, per hour.

Most of the captured fish were yearlings from the 2009 class, although anglers reported that small and big fish are present. The absence of adult fish in the survey was likely the result of those fish being less vulnerable to electrofishing gear, which was more suitable to capturing bass than walleye. Walleye growth rates in Cuba Lake are relatively slow.

There were 77 smallmouth bass collected, resulting in an electrofishing catch rate of 26 fish per hour. This is lower than the 39 per hour, in 2003, but still represents an exceptional fishery, when compared to the state average. The survey showed that it takes approximately 5 years to reach the minimum legal size limit of 12 inches, for a smallmouth bass.

The largemouth bass population has been on a steady decline for the last decade and showed no difference, in 2011. This is may be due to competition with northern pike, which were illegally introduced to the lake, in the early 1990s. Winter anglers using tip-ups and medium-sized chubs can take northern pike up to 20 pounds.

The NYS DEC Region 9 fisheries staff announced that it plans to repeat this fisheries survey in 2016.

Firearms require personal responsibility
Many people are getting tired of hearing about firearms and new gun control rules for New York state and the federal government, while some individuals could not care less, one way or the other.

Rumors said that the new firearms rules will be enforced by Homeland Security, which is usually a helpful organization utilized by people who have experienced a tragedy. Recent records reported by manufacturing facilities show that Homeland Security is purchasing 7,000 fully-automatic firearms and several million rounds of ammunition, armored troop carriers and more. Many questions have been raised, by people who keep track of records that are circulating all around the country.

Firearms manufacturers, retailers and ranges joined forces, to send a letter to the Connecticut Legislative Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, to reinforce a publicly-stated commitment to helping ensure effective answers to the question of the criminal misuse of firearms.

Connecticut is considering a range of gun-control measures. The National Shooting Sports Foundation and the industry are working to ensure that this story is heard by legislators, media and the public. Extensive firearms safety efforts are ongoing, including Project ChildSafe, which has provided more than 35 million firearm safety kits to gun owners nationwide. The Veterans Administration is ensuring that armed service members returning to civilian life are provided with gun locks and safety kits.

The NSSF said that, when a firearm is misused, the central issue is the unauthorized access to that weapon. The NSSF letter was signed by the Colt®, Smith and Wesson®, Stag Arms, Mossberg®, Ruger®, Cabela’s® and Savage Sports Corporation chief executive officers. More than 60 signatories pointed out the history and ongoing economic impact in Connecticut. The NSSF works to help people understand how much needs to be done, to keep America safe from firearms misuse.

Instantaneous retail point-of-sale criminal and mental health background checks were the invention of the industry in the late 1980s, years before they became mandatory, under federal law. More than 147 million background checks have taken place, since 1998. More than 300 million firearms are owned, by nearly half of the households in America. Firearm ownership among law-abiding citizens has increased, during the past 30 years. Despite that growth, the homicide rate has declined, by 50 percent.

While TV networks have recently avoided publicizing the news about firearm ownership, violent crime has decreased to record lows not seen since the early 1960s.

The NSSF has distributed more than 35 million free gun locks to cities and towns all across the United States, as part of the Project Childsafe program, since 1999. This program also provides safety brochures that urge gun owners to store firearms away from children and unauthorized adults.

A New York City politician has proposed even more restrictions for anyone that wants to own a gun. Brooklyn State Assembly Member Felix Ortiz wrote a new piece of legislation that would require gun owners to hold a $1 million liability insurance policy. Current gun owners would have 30 days to purchase the insurance. Police would have to be notified if a gun is stolen or lost. There restrictions for insurance would not apply to law enforcement personnel.

When I visited Alaska, last summer, I was surprised that no permit was required, to buy a firearm or handgun. No permit was required to carry a concealed handgun. The only thing that was required was a national instant criminal background check. New York Gov. Cuomo passed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, during a recent midnight session, adding many new firearm ownership rules to already-complicated firearm laws.

The bottom line is personal responsibility. If you own a firearm, only you can assure the safe storage and use of that firearm. Every gun owner must be responsible for the use or misuse of his or her firearm.

Use a gun lock or place a firearm in a safe or gun vault, when you are away. Hide the key or the combination, to guarantee that someone with ill intentions will not be using your weapon without your knowledge.

SAFE Act gun rally
A public rally for more effective discussion regarding the NY SAFE Act will be held in the legislative office building in Albany on Feb. 28, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Thousands of people are planning to attend.

The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen group is offering transportation to this event, departing from the Eastern Hills Mall at 4:30 a.m. To make reservations, visit, call 510-7952 or email

The New York State Shooters Committee on Political Education will meet at the Southgate Plaza for a 4:30 a.m. departure on Feb. 28. Visit, to learn more about SCOPE trip details.

Safari Club birdhouse project
The WNY Safari Club is inviting the community to attend a youth duck and bluebird house project on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 8 a.m. at the Winter’s Rigging Headquarters, located at 2110 Route 249 in North Collins. Adults can bring their children or grandchildren to help build a duck or bluebird house, during this free event geared toward helping conservation efforts in Western New York.

The Safari Club’s stated goal is to bring young people and adults together, to build and assist in constructing pre-cut bluebird and wood duck houses for distribution at events and schools. Lunch will be provided.

Bring a power drill, if you have one. For more information, call Marvin Winter at 984-2773.

Outdoor calendar
– Feb. 23: Gun raffle, Southtowns Walleye Association, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, noon – 5 p.m. There is a $220 fee. To purchase tickets, call Franklin Thompson at 553-7630.

– Feb. 23: Southtowns Ducks Unlimited banquet, Creekside Banquet Facility, 2589 Union Road, 6 p.m. For more information, call George Rockey at 674-3075.

– Feb. 24: WNY winter 3D league archery shoot. Open to the public from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Glen Coe Conservation Society, located at 9869 Foote Road in Glenwood. For more information, call Dave Procknal at 337-0733.

– Feb. 27: Trap shooting, West Falls Conservation Club, 55 Bridge St., West Falls. Open to the public, beginning at 7 p.m. For more information, call Dave at 652-8509.

– Feb. 28: Squirrel and cottontail rabbit seasons close in Western New York’s southern zones.

– March 1 – 3: Rochester Sportsmen’s Show, Monroe County Fairgrounds, Henrietta. For more information, visit

– March 2: Erie County Federation of Sportsmen banquet and awards dinner, Father Justin Knights of Columbus Hall, Cheektowaga. Call 655-0975, to purchase tickets.

Send outdoor information for the Forrest Fisher column, 10 days in advance, to

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