Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oneida Lake's Hot Weather Bass

Monster rock bass like this one punctuate the catch along the Long Shore.
Anglers worth their weight in rubber worms know Oneida Lake is one of the hottest bass spots in the Northeast. What many don't realize (including me, up until a couple days ago, anyway) is how shallow you can find smallmouths in the dog days of summer.

Wesley Coy, a colorful local who describes himself as "a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other," showed me.

Not your average jerk, Coy makes extra income as a bass pro on the U.S. Angler's Choice Tournament Trail, a national circuit that holds seven competitions annually on Oneida Lake.

I told him I wanted to catch some largemouths and he took me to his favorite spot, "the Long Shore," stretching roughly from Shackleton Point east to the Oswego County line.

We drifted over a patchwork of weed beds, rock piles and boulders clinging to a wavy floor ranging from three to eight feet deep. The water temperature was 78 degrees.

Convinced bass preferred cooler water on hot, muggy days (air temperature was in the 90s), I braced myself for getting skunked.

Big mistake.

On my second cast, I nailed a smallmouth weighing well over two pounds on a spinnerbait.

Almost simultaneously, Wes got one about three pounds on a black/blue flake JDC Bass Bone hooked wacky style. Then he got another and another.

I switched to a YUM Dinger hooked wacky style on a 5/0 Eagle Claw Lazer, Wide Gap Worm Hook and started catching fish again.

Toward the end of the drift, bucketmouths finally made an appearance. We boated several ranging from one (mine) to three (Wes's) pounds.

In about three hours, we caught 15 keeper bass--including two 3 ½-pound bronzebacks--several smaller ones and some rock bass

At the end of the Long Shore we headed for the north side of Dutchman's Island. We caught several more, including the best of the day, a four-pound smallie that struck Coy's bait.

Next time I hear the usual: "Oneida Lake's smallmouths move to deeper water in the heat of summer," I'll politely agree and head for Oswego County's weedy and rocky shallows instead.

Wes Coy holding a typical Long Shore bucketmouth.

Wes Coy with a four-pound Long Shore bronzeback.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

City Bass and Panfish

Sean Rae, an old Army buddy of mine from Texas, came up to visit family on Saturday and called me Sunday afternoon to go fishin'.

"What ya wanna go for?" I asked.

"Bass for the fun of it; crappie and perch for dinner."

"I know just the place," I replied.

It was hot and sticky and I thought about all we'd catch was some rays.

We launched at Wright's Landing on downtown Oswego's north shore.

Motoring out just far enough to get out of the launch area, we started drifting. He cast a spinnerbait and I ripped a buzzbait.

On his third toss he caught a largemouth of about two pounds. The next cast he took another, and another after that. By the time I switched over to a spinnerbait he had landed and released four largemouths and a 2 ½ pound smallmouth; one after the other; all of 'em over the submerged weeds between the yacht club and boat slips.

I couldn't buy a bass, but I got a 27-inch northern ½-hour later on the spinnerbait just below Breitbeck Park.

We continued working the south shore up to the smokestacks but the fish had lockjaw. We returned to the marina to try our luck at catching dinner.

I worked a 2” Mister Twister Exude Curly Tail on a jighead rigged to a spinner form; and Sean used a Berkley Gulp 2.5" Power Trout Worm weightless, hooked whacky style.

In about an hour we caught a couple keeper crappies, ½-dozen perch ranging from 7 to 10 inches and some sunfish and rock bass the size of small frying pans.

"You didn't tell me the fishin was this good up here in July," Sean protested.

"Yeah I did," I retorted, "but nah, you wouldn't believe me. Now ya know."

Larry Murowski, owner of the Oswego Salmon Shop

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Steel and Landlocked Salmon

Spey casting to a pod of salmonids in the Salmon River's Trestle Hole.

Last Tuesday I called Salmon River Program Coordinator Fran Verdoliva to find out if significant numbers of Skamania or landlocked Atlantic salmon rode upstream in the wake of this year’s first whitewater release on June 21-22. (Water is released five times each summer for whitewater kayaking and tubing.)

“A few fish came in,” he replied. “A nice steelhead was caught in the Schoolhouse Pool, and anglers reported seeing a few fish in other spots. But it’s still a bit too early for meaningful numbers.”

So I went up Saturday to try my luck. Using my Cabela’s Spey Combo, I worked one of my own creations (a white, cone-headed, rabbit strip streamer tied on a 1/0 hook) through a hole in the upper fly-fishing only, catch and release section of the river, about 200 yards downstream of the end of the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir tailrace.

A Skamania of about 10 pounds came out of the depths, nailed it, jumped clear out of the water when it felt the hook, looked at me with murder in its eye, and spit the fly back at me like it was bad meat. Shaken, I kept casting but my efforts were fruitless.

So I switched to an all purpose white nymph, on a #8 hook and caught a 12 inch brown and a couple fingerling landlocks—but didn’t see any more trophies.

Verdoliva says “the next three releases (July 5-6, July 19-20, and August 2-3) should draw good numbers of large Skamania and Landlocked salmon into the river.”

(An additional release will occur on August 30-31, but by then some kings will be running and the landlocked salmon normally beat fins back to the lake.)

“The Salmon River in July offers fly-fishing at its best,” claims Verdoliva. “The stream isn’t crowded, the fish aren’t spooked, and trophy steelhead and landlocked salmon will actually chase your fly.”

Summer is also your best bet for catching one of these bruisers on a dry fly.

After a rain, especially if the water gets a little murky, both species will hit worms.