A nice perch taken out of Peter Scott Swamp at the County Route 12 bridge.
Back in the early 19th century, when the only way to propel boats was by sail or oar, most of the shipping on Oneida Lake skirted the north shore, taking advantage of the protection the woods around Big Bay offered against the prevailing northwest winds. Ships used to anchor in Toad Harbor, alongside small commercial barges that tied-off on the huge metal drums that poked out of the middle of the lower cut for that purpose.
Today, Toad Harbor’s shoreline is almost completely undeveloped (there’s a small camp at the tip of the point at the entrance to the lower harbor) and the huge, rusting metal structures are all that remains of this colorful past. But safe harbor isn’t on people’s minds much in an age when bass boats can skim across the lake at 50 mph.
Crappie and sunnies sure are though.
And Toad Harbor is one of the best spots on Oneida Lake to bank-fish for both of these tasty critters. Like olden-day boats, they use the barrels for cover and anglers use them as targets for their bobbers.
Toad Harbor draws panfish from autumn through late spring. Icers get crappie and sunnies through the hard water. But the spot is most popular with the legions of cabin weary anglers who form a colorful ring around the place as soon as ice out.
The real action comes when the water warms to about 50 degrees. That’s when the panfish invade the place in massive numbers.
This year the weird weather put a damper on the action. You see, anglers have grown to expect the place to fill up with calicoes and bluegills sometime between late March and early May, and when they’re in, the action stays “hoppin’” for a couple weeks. This year the fish haven’t charged in all at once. Instead, they’re running in schools. And if you’re there when they are, you’ll load up on a limit in an hour or less.
I watched a guy get 15 keeper crappies running up to 11 inches on Sunday, April 25. He was walking along the shore and casting a tiny jighead baited with a small, scented plastic maggot.
That week, I stopped by the place a couple times and sunnies and crappies were in and out like a tide.
In addition, loads of pickerel and a few northerns were in.
Crappie are also hitting small minnows and the sunnies are taking worms and maggots. The toothy guys are hitting lures and minnows targeting crappie.
As the water warms up a few more degrees, calicoes’ll be hitting lures, primarily spinner baits like Beatle Spins. The sunnies will be taking Berkley Power wigglers and tiny jigs. Northerns and pickerel, having just finished spawning, will be famished and’ll hit just about anything that moves.
Forming the border between Onondaga and Oswego Counties, the Oneida River attests to our county being the most fisherman friendly in Central New York. Just drive along the roads bordering it and you’ll see 90% of the anglers fishing from our side.
A good place to try your luck for northerns and panfish right now is the County Route 12 bridge over the outlet of Peter Scott Swamp, about a mile east of Phoenix. The crappie will be available on and off for the first couple weeks of the month, while the sunnies and perch will be there all summer long. And the northerns will hang around to pick off the little guys.
The action at Caughdenoy Dam is starting to heat up. Word has it the catfish are biting above the floodgates. If the past is any guide, the walleyes will be down below. I’ll shoot for ‘em both this week and let you know how I do.
Shipping used to tie-off on the big metal drum poking out of the water on the left side of this photo.
Toad Harbor fishing scene.
Toad Harbor fishing scene.
Toad Harbor crappie.