Friday, August 28, 2015

Fishing in Fulton

By Spider Rybaak

Fishing lesson below Lock #3.

Oswego means different things to different folks. To most, it’s simply the county hugging Lake Ontario’s southeastern corner. History buffs recognize it as Lake Ontario’s oldest port city. And academics think of its SUNY campus, one of the state’s greatest teachers colleges.

Anglers, on the other hand, appreciate Oswego for its original Indian meaning: mouth of the river. From October through March, they’re drawn to the city with dreams of catching trophy trout and salmon the size of the ones swimming through their imaginations.

Unfortunately, chinooks and browns won’t be in the city’s fast waters until next month.

But that’s OK. You see, the remaining 22 miles of river, stretching from Three Rivers to the top of its last dam, is the haunt of massive quantities of popular warmwater game fish like walleyes, northern pike and black bass, and lesser species like sheepshead, catfish, carp, panfish, bowfin, gar, you name it.

What’s more, much of the river’s most productive water is accessible to the public and easy to reach. You see, the water’s natural course is fairly steep, and it tumbles over some serious drops in places like Phoenix and Fulton.

The rapids were tamed by locks and dams when the Barge Canal was built early in the 20th century. Harnessing the river’s power opened a tsunami of economic opportunity. Hamlets around the dams flourished, becoming cities. Before long, riverside communities built recreational infrastructure like river walks, parks and public launches.

Fulton is especially blessed. Its east bank offers access sites at both of its bridges.

The South First Street access site (at the southeastern corner of the NY 3 Bridge) offers parking for about 20 cars and pedestrian access. You’ll have to climb a long set of stairs to get to the water. You won’t be able to reach the rapids from here, only the deep, slow moving water in the canal, and the channel coming out of the powerhouse.

The northern (Oneida Street) bridge offers similar access on its southeastern corner, also off South First Street.  From this site you can walk north on the canal’s western retaining wall for about a quarter mile, to a spillway, arguably the hottest fishing spot in Fulton.

Before the State stocked salmon and trout into Lake “O,” Fulton was considered the hottest fishing destination on the Oswego River for everything from walleyes to monster catfish.

Still is, in fact, and its wealth of public access makes it one of the most convenient fishing spots in the state for warmwater species.

View from the top of the lock.


Friday, August 14, 2015

School for Bassin’

By Spider Rybaak

Randy Howell
Back in the old days, vacation meant a break from school or work so you could fish to your heart’s content. Nowadays, a lot of guys take vacations to go back to school…to learn how to fish.

Fishing classes have been around since the days of Christ when ancient Romans cast flies made of dyed wool for rainbows in the Tiber River. More recently, mail-order giant Orvis has been offering fly-fishing lessons for years. This author has been conducting free kids fishing classes each summer since 2004, and is up to 25 sessions annually (contact Oswego County Tourism for a schedule).

Now a bass fishing school is coming to Oneida Lake.

On August 2, 2015, Get Hooked Fishing Academy,  billed as “the top Northeast bass fishing school,” held a promotional event in Brewerton, kicking-off a six-month, hands-on course “designed to improve participant’s skills and knowledge in the sport of bass fishing.”

Get Hooked will teach students how to catch bass consistently, in all seasons. You’ll be trained in “different rod and reel set-ups, differences in fishing line, fishing knots, artificial baits and lures, all while learning to think, adapt and react instantly to the fishing environment.”

Mike Pikulinski, one of the founding members, says “the program has been in the works for a number of years now. Our hope is that these classes will be a fun and healthy way to bring the community, youth and families together …”

“Some of the pros scheduled to appear include Randy Howell, 2014 Bass Master Champion [he just won the August 6-8, 2015 Bass Masters Opener], Brent Chapman, Jacob Powroznik and more.”

Picking Oneida Lake for the course is a no-brainer.  Ranked 40th on the list of the country’s top bass lakes, its fish-packed waters have been floating bass tournaments, including major national competitions, for years.
What’s more, its location just north of Syracuse, a major metropolitan area, subjects the water to heavy fishing pressure. Its bass get stuck a lot, quickly becoming seasoned veterans, challenging to catch and perfect teaching models.

Get Hooked’s mission statement reads: “To improve all anglers’ skill level as it relates to fishing, environment, conservation, but most of all to enjoy the sport of fishing. Let’s all strive to become better people that will contribute to nature and society in a positive way.”

For more information, visit GetHooked.us., call (315) 634-9493, or email info@gethooked.us.

Brent Chapman
David Dudley


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Time and the Fishin’s Easy

By Spider Rybaak
Easy fishin  below the dam at Caughedenoy.
An old timer I know loves to drift and troll. He’s easy to find because he loves to sing. Unfortunately, he has a terrible voice and it's powerful enough to cut through everything from Oneida Lake’s heavy boat traffic and high winds to the water noisily squirting through the sides of the flood gates at Caughdenoy and the gentle roar of the rapids below.

But a voice terrible enough to force flies off a sun-ripened carp cadaver ain’t his only claim to notoriety. He adds further insult to the natural world by endlessly singing the same refrain over and over…hundreds of times in one fishing trip.

I heard him in Caughdenoy a couple days ago. He was sitting on the bank, drinking a bear, bottom-fishing in the plunge pool below the floodgates and singing: "Summertime... and the fishin's easy."

“How they hittin’?” I ask.

“A rockie and sheepshead,  he replies, and resumes singing.

I start casting a Bass Pro Extreme minnow about 10 feet below him. Fifteen excruciating minutes, and a sheepshead later I inquire: “Is that the only tune you know?”

My question sends him into deep thought, almost trance-like. It was the longest quiet spell I’ve ever experienced in his presence.

Just as I'm getting up to check his pulse, his lips flap to life.
“I’m just singing about what we’re doin’” he replies. “Look at us, we’re just sitting here pot-luck fishing, hoping for a catfish, sheepshead, sunny, sucker, whatever. It’s late summer and the fishin’s, easy."

Several folks around us were taking it easy, too. Some fished the deep, slow water above the dam, others the pool and rapids below.

One guy was standing out in the middle, in the mild rapids just below the pool. Sticking his rod into his hip boots so his hands were free for a beer and a smoke, the rod tip poked out of his head like an antenna, and the cigarettes smoke wafting around him made him look like he was short-circuiting.

The sun was high and the wind was refreshing. And in the long spells between hits, talk and laughter filled the air.

But there were a lot of silent spots, too, where folks just sat, forgetting about life for a little while and watching the river run by.

Bottom-fishing above the dam at Caughedenoy
The rapids below the dam offer easy fishin', too

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ladies Rule the Range

By Spider Rybaak

Ladies preparing to rule the range at Fulton's Pathfinder Fish and Game Club: (left to right) Rose Bentley, Trinity, FL; LouAnn Daniels, Oswego, NY; and Joy Lower, Mexico, NY.

LouAnn Daniels loves to shoot.

The Oswego native is so good at it she participates in shooting events like the Ladies Charity Classic, a National Skeet Shooting Association affair which raises money for worthy causes ranging from Ronald McDonald House and Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital to the Wounded Warrior Project and Fisher House Foundation.

But her activism doesn’t stop there. Indeed, her love of shooting, and the freedom and empowerment it provides, has led her to teach countless women how to handle firearms, skillfully and safely.

In July 2013, she wanted to reach more women and started Ladies Rule the Range, a day-long shooting event designed to teach beginners the thrill of shooting sports.

Events are held each summer at Fulton’s Pathfinder Fish and Game Club. Club members serve as instructors.

“The first year 51 ladies, ranging in age from 14 to 80 years old, entered the competition. The second year 81 entered. This year we hope to break 100,” claims Daniels.

This isn’t simply a fund raiser.

“It’s a social event,” says Daniels, “with a lot of camaraderie and laughing.  Ladies pack everything from pistols and shotguns to lever action rifles,” she adds, “and they shoot skeet, five stand, archery…”

Daniels considers recreational shooting a family affair. She tells how one man brought two daughters and his wife to an event and they all took to it like a spark to gun powder.

“One actually loves it,” she boasts.

Daniels even taught her 27-year-old son how to shoot.

He loved her gun, so she made a deal with him. If he beat her at skeet 3 times in a row, she’d give him the gun. Two months later it was his.

She didn’t mind, however, because it gave her the incentive to buy the pump gun she always wanted a year later.

This year’s Ladies Rule the Range event takes place at the Pathfinder Fish and Game Club on Saturday, July 25th.  Doors open at 8: a.m.; “shooting starts promptly” at 8:30.

A $25.00 fee entitles participants to the use of a gun (bring your own if you got it), ammunition, targets and lunch which will include pulled pork from a wild boar.

Cowgirl and cowboy action shooters will give demonstrations on a set depicting the Old West.

For more information, contact Daniels by calling (315) 409-6566; or email her at tdaniels002@twcny.rr.com.

LouAnn Daniels spotting for Rose Bentley
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Seven year-old Sonya Benhassen of East Syracuse struggling with a huge largemouth bass she caught at the June 27 Kids Fishing Class Spider conducted at the Oneida Lake Fish Hatchery.

Another fishing class is scheduled at the hatchery, located on NY49 (right at the bridge) in Constantia, on August 22. Class runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and all equipment is provided FREE for the day; or bring your own.

Thank you.
Spider

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Christian and Polish Woven Nymphs

By Spider Rybaak

Christian Snyder releasing a brown he caught on a Polish woven nymph.
Christian Snyder knows his way around Oswego County’s trophy trout streams. Hailing from Phoenix, he knows the Oswego and Salmon Rivers intimately.   And while he catches his fair share of nice Skamania on these world-famous streams, there are times when he wants to pull big trout out of small places. When he gets the itch, he heads for one of the county’s famed skinny creeks.

Places like Sandy Creek, for instance, a stream so narrow and low this time of year, your average angler only looks at it fleetingly, decides it’s too small and continues down the road.

Snyder, however, is anything but average. He knows from experience that Skamania, summer-run steelhead, spawn in “skinny cricks” during hot weather.  And that they’re in there right now.

Don’t expect the number of fish you see autumn through spring, however. Just one here and there, separated by long stretches of shallow, squeaky-clean water running through pristine summer pastures and woods.
While just about any nymph or streamer will do, Christian prefers Polish woven nymphs. Also called European nymphs, they’ve been catching skittish European trout for years. And they work here, too, but most Americans just haven’t heard about ‘em.

Constructed with a bead head and a small strip of lead wire wrapped around the hook to give it weight, it’s finished by being wrapped in thread to give it a soft, caterpillar-like look and feel.

They’re most effective when dead-drifted through runs and pockets. You’ll catch a lot of small trout, but that’s OK because you’ll be giving them valuable lessons in life like the importance of exercising extreme caution around hooks bearing food.

Every now and then you’ll experience a hit so powerful, it’ll startle you. That’s because the human mind is naturally skeptical about seeing huge fish swimming in water barely deep enough to cover their backs, especially this time of year.

But a small number is there, offering fishing experiences bordering on miraculous.

While the state’s most productive Skamania stream is the Salmon River, its feeders, as well as just about any Lake Ontario tributary that flows through Oswego County, also draw lake-run fish.

Steelhead are typically thought of as cold weather fare.  And the majority fit that mold. But a sizeable number runs summer streams, giving pleasant weather anglers trophy opportunities under balmy, sun-drenched skies. Good spots to try are Sandy and Grindstone Creeks.

Chris sells his flies, and guides for skaminia professionally. Call him at: (315)  748-2393

The last three rows contain a selection of Polish woven nymphs.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Scriba Creek: Bass and Panfish

By Spider Rybaak

Family Effort
Scriba Creek runs through Constantia New York. A dam on the north side of town, about a quarter-mile above the lake, blocks fish from migrating further upstream. Wild brown trout occupy the cool waters above the barrier, warm water species like bass and walleyes spawn down below.

Most walleyes complete their business before opening morning and beat fins back to the lake. Still, opening day always finds a few late bloomers in the plunge-pool and rapids. Savvy locals usually catch them all before sunup.

While most fish are good at keeping on schedule, there’s always a few that aren’t. So I conducted a kids fishing class at the hatchery last Saturday hoping someone would get a late-blooming walleye.
About a dozen kids showed up for class. Before the second line was even out, the boy who made the first cast was into a fish: a 2-lb. largemouth.

It conducted itself in noble fashion: jumping twice, tearing off for the other side (drag screaming for mercy) and stubbornly circling below our feet for over a minute. Finally, fish and boy exhausted, the hawg reluctantly came to the bank. A couple hero shots and high-5s later, it was released.

A two-year-old girl was next. Watching her bobber circle, she grabbed the pole and was about to set the hook with the force of a lumber jack. Her dad told her to be patient. And when the bobber dove, she pulled back and the fight was on.

The bass was a bully, however, and a couple seconds later dad had to take over. Out came a two-pound bucketmouth. The little girl hid behind her father initially, but came out with a little coxing, and even petted the fish.

The day’s tally was three bass of about 2-pounds each, 18 sunfish and 10 rock bass ranging from 3 to 6 inches, and a few finger-sized fall fish.

The next free fishing class at the Oneida Lake Hatchery will be held on June 27, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Free bait and tackle will be available, compliments of yours truly and Oswego County Tourism. Or bring your own.

The Oneida Lake Hatchery is on NY 49 in the heart of Constantia.

Taking Cover


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cabins in the Park

By Spider Rybaak

Newly renovated cabins at Selkirk Shores

New Yorkers love the outdoors. Mostly that’s because we’ve got loads of natural spaces to explore. Many of the most popular are right here in Oswego County’s big back yard.

Our county boasts a disproportionate share of the state’s natural wonders. The squeaky-clean beaches of Sandy Island Beach State Park, the towering sand dunes of Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area, the bluffs towering over Lake Ontario off Sage Creek Drive, the cobblestone beach at Selkirk Shores State Park, to mention a few.

And all of these are just in our corner of Lake Ontario. We haven’t even touched inland spots like Kasoag and Oneida Lakes, the Salmon River falls and reservoirs, the Oswego and Oneida Rivers, our fantastic web of streams, and sprawling state forests and Wildlife Management Areas.

Indeed, Oswego County is graced with more than its fair share of natural wonders. So many, in fact, folks from all over the world come up to our neck of the woods to indulge their senses and build memories in the spectacularly scenic places we call home.

And while we have all kinds of spots in which to rough it, there comes a time when tent camping just doesn’t cut it; when we don’t want to leave behind comforts like light switches, showers, and flush toilets. Or times when we want to introduce family and friends to our good fortune without dragging them away from the comforts of home.

For moments like these we have Selkirk Shores State Park; 1,000 acres of mixed forest, marsh, river front and cobblestone beaches so beautiful you’ll wanna write home to mom about ‘em.

The cabins are perfect for contemporary campers. The park offers 24 cabins and 3 cottages for those who like the security of solid walls. Two of the cabins are newly renovated and are fully ADA compliant. Each cabin comes with an open fireplace, toilet and kitchen.

If you want to sleep under the stars, the park offers 148 campsites (88 electric), including several on a bluff offering more lakefront than you can fit into your range of vision; and sunsets you’ll be dreaming about forever.

There’s plenty to do, too. A web of fabulous hiking trails slices through the grounds. The marsh is loaded with waterfowl raising families in summer, and flocks taking breaks during spring and fall migrations. A fishing pier is within casting distance of the mouth of Grindstone Creek, a productive spawning site for lake-run trout and salmon.

Selkirk Shores State Park is located on NY 3, about 1.5 miles south of Port Ontario. For more information, go to www.nysparks.com/parks/84/details.aspx , or call (315) 298-5737. All advance reservations for cabins and sites can be made by using www.reserveamerica.com or dialing 1 (800) 456-CAMP.

Fishing from the Pier, Selkirk Shores State Park