An old buddy of mine called late last week. "The walleyes are finally hitting at Phillips Point," he said. "Wanna give it a try tonight?"
"Sure," I replied.
I was supposed to meet him on site, on the north shore of Oneida Lake. But his car broke down on the way and he never made it. I suppose I could've gotten the heads-up if I had my cell phone. But I never take it into the outdoors. So I fished all by myself, which is what I would've done even if I'd gotten word he couldn't make it.
I know. You should never leave home without it. But my main reason for going fishing is to get away from it all, and carrying a cell phone kind of defeats the purpose -- the ring, vibration, music, whatever signal I choose to let me know a telemarketer, my boss, or sweetheart want to talk to me, breaks the spell induced by a combination forces like whitecaps slamming into shore, bird songs, and mixing the present with memories of outings past.
I arrived about 4:30 p.m. A string of guys was already in the surf. I waded out and started tossing a silver-sided/black-backed Bomber.
Wind was tearing out of the south, creating caressing whitecaps. Cool autumn nights had stirred the inshore waters to optimum temperatures. The weeds had lain down for winter, making casting clean and easy.
The wind propelled the 30-something degree temperatures into gusts that tore into my cheeks, ears and fingers like volleys of pain. The unruly, downright inhospitable elements brought to mind a comment Central Square resident Tim Oliver made the night before: "This is extreme walleye fishing."
And it is -- if you're not prepared for it. But like my old pal Mr. Wilson said a few weeks ago while we fished Lake Neahtahwanta in the rain (see posting of 9/22/08): "Ain't no such thing as bad weather, only bad attitude and bad clothes."
Luckily, I didn't have either. Comfortable in my waterproof parka and neoprene waders, I enjoyed myself immensely, thinking ‘boy it's miserable out here, but I'm warm and dry.’ It's a good feeling taking on the elements like that without suffering miserably.
Around 5 a walleye slammed my Bomber. He was an 18-incher, big enough to hit the lure hard, yet too young to be lazy. He fought like he was twice his size.
Looking around me, everyone had a fish on that evening--I got two, the second one was a hair under 20 inches.
The window for autumn's surf walleyes on Oneida Lake is a narrow one. Most guys only fish from about a half hour before sundown—you’ve got to get there early to claim a spot -- to about an hour after lights out. Oh, the fish still hit after that--throughout the night, in fact--but standing for long periods in the dark, out in the open, in rough water, saps your emotional strength.
The bite will last for the rest of the month and some diehards will keep at it until the ice stops their lure cold.
Get to Phillips Point by taking NY 49 east for about three miles from Central Square (I-81 exit 32). Turn right onto Toad Harbor Road, then left onto McCloud Drive three miles later, and drive about a mile to the end.