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Mike Sperry caught his first fish on Chautauqua Lake when he was just 9 years old: a big, beautiful musky. Since that moment, he has been hooked – literally and figuratively – on the sport of fishing.
Decades later, Sperry has found a way to transform his lifelong passion into a career. He is the owner of Chautauqua Reel Outdoors, a sporting goods store and fishing guide service located at 165 W. Fairmount Ave. in Lakewood. He spends his days doing what he loves: trolling around the lake wish a fishing pole in hand when the weather is agreeable, and crafting lures in his shop when it’s not.
“I’ve been fishing the lake my whole life,” Sperry said. “I grew up in Lakewood and lived near the water, so fishing was a big part of my experience growing up. I always knew I wanted to own my own business.”
While owning a fishing shop may have been Sperry’s childhood dream, it was not one that was immediately realized. For years, Sperry worked in engineering and manufacturing sectors across New York State and Virginia, while building his fishing résumé on the side. He served as the founder and president of the Chautauqua Lake Musky Hunters from 2002 to 2007, and in 2006, he even appeared in an episode of the T.V. show “The Next Bite” where he fished for lunge with professional angler Pete Mania. Then, in 2007, he picked up some part-time work as a fishing guide. Seven years later, in 2013, he decided to take the ultimate plunge and open his own fishing business. By that time, he was armed with over 30 years’ experience of fishing lakes, streams and reservoirs in Chautauqua County.
“I like to be outside, and fishing is a good way to get out on the lake and be in nature,” Sperry said. “It’s something anybody can do, from a child to an elderly person. It’s something you can do your whole life.”
It is with this mentality that Sperry created his guided fishing tours, which are open to all ages and ability levels. He offers half-day and full-day charters on his 18-foot Tracker Targa boat, which makes short work of navigating all the premium fishing locations on Chautauqua Lake. Sperry provides his guide clients with all the necessary equipment for a day of fishing: poles, bait, tackle, life vests, ship to shore radios, and GPS fishfinders. All they need to bring, he says, is proper attire and something to eat or drink.
“My specialty is musky, but I do everything,” Sperry said. “We fish for crappie, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and other panfish.”
Besides keeping busy on the water, Sperry also has his hands full running the business back at his shop, which is open year-round. What started as a simple bait and tackle shop has grown into both a hunting and fishing store, and Sperry says he plans to expand it even further into an all-around sporting goods store. Currently, the store is open six days a week and offers live bait, tackle, an archery shop, and equipment and licenses for year-round hunting and fishing. The store also exclusively features Sperry’s own line of hand-made jerk baits for musky, which he calls Smiling Jack Lures.
“Each one is a nine-inch jerk bait made out of wood, and it’s a casting lure,” Sperry said. “Each one takes about a few hours to make and paint.”
With spring finally arriving and walleye season just around the corner, now is the time to stock up on fishing gear or plan a fishing tour. Sperry makes it easy to do so, offering senior and military discounts, gift cards, and a spring crappie charter special that is only available for the month of May. For more information on Chautauqua Reel Outdoors or fishing guides, visit the store’s website at www.ChautauquaReelOutdoors.com or call Sperry at 716-763-2947.
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