Friday, April 3, 2009

Oswego River Perch

Off the wall in Phoenix, New York

Draining the Finger Lakes, Oneida Lake, and numerous creeks and brooks in between, the Oswego River pours down a gentle slope, dropping over 100 feet on its 20-something-mile run to Lake Ontario. And while its last mile or so is famed worldwide for exceptional autumn salmonid runs, the rapids along this mighty stream's entire length draw some fantastic runs of perch each spring.

Spawned by the marriage of the Seneca and Oneida Rivers in the hamlet of Three Rivers, the Oswego flows leisurely for its first few miles. In the village of Phoenix, it comes to its first drop and dives about 10 feet, creating heavy current; a siren's song for ice-out perch.

Oh, they're in the canal below the village's northernmost lock all winter long and locals drill through the ice to get at ‘em. But when the river swells with snowmelt, the heavy current sets them into high gear, drawing them to Phoenix from as far away as the upper dam in Fulton. When they arrive, they roam around looking for a way further upstream and sweep in and out of the slow moving water in the lock's channel.

Anglers have been getting their daily limits of 50 for over a week now, and the action is expected to last for another two to three weeks. This year the game is noticeably larger than in the past, typically ranging from seven to 10 inches long.

Minnows, spikes and mousies work best right now. By the middle of the month, worms will be effective, too. Fish on bottom, or suspend your bait below a bobber and set it three to six inches off the floor.

Perch will be drawn to the rapids in Fulton and Minetto, too. Unfortunately, access isn't as easy as in Phoenix where there's several hundred yards of shore access with parking. Still, dedicated anglers hike trails down to the bottom of the locks in Fulton; while gung-ho perchers have been known to fish the Minetto area in hand-launched boats.

Gallon for gallon, the city of Oswego offers more easy access than all the other spots combined. However, the action usually starts a little later than upstream. But that's cool, since most anglers are still fishing for steelies right now.

When the perch start hitting in a few days they'll be active all over town, from the pockets and eddies in the rapids to the canal, harbor and Wrights Landing. What's more, they'll be joined by crappies and sunfish in Wright's Landing; and rock bass the size of small frying-pans will move into the marina area in May.

Oswego Salmon Shop's Larry Muroski says "bullheads are being taken at night below Breitbeck Park on leeches, nightcrawlers and redworms."

Spring delicacy from the bottom of Phoenix, New York

Another one for the bucket...

April Steelheading in the city of Oswego.

Kyle Wright to Speak
Onondaga Audubon, the group that brought you Derby Hill Bird Observatory (see post "Raptor Row," March 24, 2009), announces Kyle Wright, official hawk watcher at DHBO, will give a presentation at the April, 15, 2009 monthly meeting, to be held at Beaver Lake Nature Center, 8477 Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville; 315-638-2519. Mr. Wright's program will focus on work he's done in the past in places stretching from Newfoundland to Hawaii. For more info, contact Gerry Smith, Onondaga Audubon President, 315-771-6902.

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