By Jeff Martin

Most of the fish Iíve caught in my life Iíve caught in my mind.

Thereís the 12-inch largemouth bass I caught one early spring morning following a grueling fight along the banks of the Smithville Lake in Missouri. I fought long and hard, disregarding the rivers of sweat pouring down my face and, eventually, the inconsistent drops of rains that first struck the canopy of leaves above me and finally onto my body.

Truth be told, I didnít catch the 12-inch bass that morning. In that way, then, I am like all fishermen in this world: the imagined outcomes are far different from actual reality.

Iím hoping for better fishing experiences here in Western New York, and from what Iím hearing there is a Christmas morning selection of fishing spots scattered throughout the area. If not rivers and creeks, then lakes and ponds ó some of which offer a bounty of species that are sure to keep adults and children occupied for hours.

A friend of mine, John McKinney, thinks of himself as a kind of amateur fishing guide. A resident of Leon, a more or less hop-skip-jump from Ellicottville, he swears by New Albion Lake as being the place for rainbow trout.

ìI came back to the area in 2007 and I remember that was the year I caught a mother lode,î he said. ìI heard they put in about 300 trout, some as long as 30 inches. But go early.î

A more serene location is Holcombís Pond located just outside of Gowanda. Itís part of the Zoar Valley system. I stumbled on this pond last summer when I first moved to the area, and McKinney said he has heard good things about it. I donít know about bass or trout, but there are your kid-friendly sunfish, which are good fish for getting kids interested in the sport; they give a good fight.

Cattaraugus Creek, which cuts a massive trench known as Zoar Valley, has some of the most challenging fishing in the area. McKinney knows the various tributaries and small eddies well, specifically one spot near the confluence. It was there, two summers ago, when he bagged his salmon limit. Surrounded by autumn leaves and buffeting winds, he pulled Chinook salmon by the handfuls from the rushing waters.

ìIíve fished some of the bigger northern rivers and Cattaraugus Creek gives them a run for their money,î he said. ìYou just gotta know where to look.î

Upstream at Scoby Dam, just outside Springville, the salmon and trout fishing is supreme, he said, a claim supported by my brother-in-law.

Iíve heard good things about Red House Lake at Allegany State Park. Trout, largemouth bass and pan fish are abundant, and thereís a large community of ice fishermen who descend on the lake during the freeziní season.

Here are two other suggested fishing sites I have yet to visit, some of which you may know and others perhaps not:

ïLake Flavia, a 225-acre manmade lake located off Route 62 in South Dayton, is rumored to be good fishing, especially for brook trout. Itís owned by Country Side Gravel and only a portion of the lake is accessible for fishing, so please respect the laws.

ïIíve heard a little about Case Lake, located just outside Franklinville, known for its largemouth bass. Iíve never had much luck with crawfish as a bait source, but friends of mine swear that such bait works wonders at this lake.

It doesnít matter where you fish, as long as you fish. But if you must follow the rumors, consider my suggestions as a good jumping off point or visit for a more detailed list.

(You can contact Jeff Martin at