Salmon and trout ain’t the only fish spurred into action by early autumn’s meteorological changes. The higher water levels and lower temperatures of October jump-start bottom feeders, too; particularly channel catfish, Oswego County’s favorite, fast lane lowlife.
Bearing a face only a mother could love, able to eat just about anything organic--dead or alive--it ain’t exactly the classiest critter in the drink. But its inclination for heavy current, Herculean hardiness and stamina, make it a perennial winner in any fishy popularity contest.
Channel cats are named for their bias for moving water; the faster, the better. And, mile for mile, the Oswego River offers more public bank-fishing access for this marvelous beast than Lake Ontario tributaries 10 times its length. And the village that offers the largest stretch--relatively speaking--is Minetto.
Less than five miles upstream of the city of Oswego, the river runs right down the middle of this sleepy hamlet. And the catfish are there, in massive quantities. Mostly small guys ranging from 12 to 18 inches, the kind that’ll eagerly take a worm, piece of shrimp, minnow or Berkley Gulp’s Catfish Dough or Catfish Chunks fished on bottom.
The size pictured above is the most popular among most anglers because it tastes best. Once a cat reaches 20-something inches, it tends to taste too gamy for your average palate.
What the big guys lack in flavor, they make up for as competitors, though. And the place has a good population of larger than average cats, some up to 20 pounds. These fish like a large meal and one of the best right now is a strip of salmon, a gob of raw skein or even a strip of milt (you can generally get some at the fish cleaning stations in Oswego). Don’t wait too long, however -- The catfish bite starts seriously slowing down when water temp gets below 50.
Minetto is about as fisherman-friendly a place as you’ll find anywhere. The River View Park on the west bank above the dam is one of the best fishing spots. It boasts a hard surface boat launch, riverside picnic tables, rest rooms, ample shoulder parking, even a convenience store/gas station right across the street.
Autumn decorations along the canal at Minetto.
Fighting a big one that got away.