Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oneida Lake: Winter Playground

Lesson on perch fishing

Pouring into four counties, Oneida Lake is a big drink of water. Famed worldwide as one of the best walleye and perch lakes on the planet, it gets a lot of fishing pressure year-round. Indeed, last weekend, ice fishers, some in shelters like “Clams” and “Traps,” others exposed to the elements, looked like pioneers erecting settlements on a vast winter wasteland.

But there’s a lot more to do on this massive expanse of hard water than just drill for tasty fish.

One of the state’s first bodies of water to freeze over each year, its massive size (20 miles long, five miles wide) makes it ideal habitat for sports that require large, slippery surfaces…and wind.

One of the most colorful is snow-kiting. Huge kites over 12 feet long catch the wind, propelling guys flying them at incredible speeds. Unlike kite-surfing on open water, ice and snow present little friction, allowing kite-skiers and kite-boarders to achieve speeds over 40 miles per hour.

Ice sailing is another route to speedy thrills. The boats are expensive, highly specialized machines; seeing one in action is a rare treat. Still, Oneida Lake offers the largest icefields in the Northeast and an ice boat can blow by ya’ at any time.

Oswego County boasts the best snowmobiling in Central New York, and Oneida Lake is one of its premier venues. Snowmobilers use the ice for everything from group runs and sight-seeing tours to raising money for charities through poker runs involving the numerous lakeside restaurants.

In fact, the eastern section of the Oswego County Recreational Trail, formerly the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad, runs for 16 miles along the lake’s north shore, through the villages of West Monroe, Constantia and Cleveland, through woods and swamps and a variety of natural winter wonderlands.

And there’s a wide variety of more traditional pursuits to indulge in. Cross-country skiing, for instance, snowshoeing, even ice-skating.

If the past is any guide, we still have about three weeks of ice time left. So, whatever your inclination, from flying with the wind to walking on water, Oswego County’s largest pond offers something to fire up your cold winter’s day.

Kiteskiing on Oneida Lake

It can get windy

RVing on ice with Rover