Bear Lake had its origins several thousand years ago when huge blocks of melting glacial ice dotted the landscape, and is known geologically as a kettle lake. The 114 acre lake is located north of the Village of Stockton, in northern Chautauqua County. The lake provides angling for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, muskellunge and several species of panfish. Public access for hand launching of boats and canoes is provided at a DEC operated site located on Bear Lake Road. Unique among western New York's public lakes, over 70% of the Bear Lake's shoreline is wetland, providing excellent habitat for bass and other predator and prey fish. Anglers should note that the lake experiences oxygen depletion below depths of 12 feet - 15 feet from June-September.
Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass
Bass in Bear Lake are fairly abundant and exhibit good growth rates, with good numbers of bass in the 12 inch - 15 inch size group. The lake's extensive, natural wetland shoreline offers excellent cover for largemouth bass and anglers shouldn't pass up these brushy areas. When trying for smallmouth bass, concentrate on areas with gravel bottoms and drop-offs. Bass anglers have success with spinner baits, surface plugs, plastic worms, crank baits and live bait, such as crayfish and shiners.
Muskellunge, Northern Pike and Walleye
Northern pike, which reproduce naturally, and muskellunge, which are stocked as fingerlings by DEC, provide anglers with the opportunity for a true trophy. Muskellunge in Bear Lake can exceed 40 inches in length, while northern pike over 30 inches can be caught. Large, live minnows and 8 inch - 12 inch imitation baitfish lures will take some nice fish. Walleye fingerlings are being stocked experimentally to determine if a reproducing population can be established. This program began in 1997. DEC is evaluating how these fish survive to determine if the lake is suitable for walleye.
Panfish provide plenty of action for the angler on Bear Lake. The most common species are bluegill, pumpkinseed, black crappie, yellow perch and brown bullhead. Panfish are caught year-round and ice fishing is a popular winter activity. Live baits such as minnows or worms usually produce the best catches, but small jigs and lures also work well. When sunfish are on their spawning beds in the spring, try using an 8 foot, 3-4 weight fly rod with surface poppers or wet flies. They can provide some fast and fun action. Bullheads are most active after sunset and can be taken using nightcrawlers or scented baits.