Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Early Spring on the Oswego River

Fulton's John Guzelak with a couple nice browns he took off the east bank, aka Hotel Row, in Oswego.

You can’t blame ice fishermen for feeling they got stiffed this winter. Oneida Lake didn’t even see a skim of ice until the first week of January and it took until the middle of the month for it to grow thick enough to walk on. And while the fishing was hot for a few weeks, the weather quickly  turned against the ice with warm spells and heavy winds, weakening it to the point where most guys wouldn’t go on it. Those who did walked slow, carefully; and even then some went through and had to be rescued…In mid-February!

But an ice fishermen’s lament is an Oswego River bank angler’s song.  And last weekend there was a lot of silent singing going on up and down the river.

In Phoenix, guys fishing minnows on bottom in the canal below the locks landed bucket loads of yellow perch for their efforts. Ranging from 6 to 10 inches, the fish weren’t as big as their Oneida Lake kin, but the smiles they produced were every bit as bright.

Upriver, in the city of Oswego, the east bank coughed up mixed bags of rainbows, steelies and browns. Most were taken on lures worked slowly a couple feet below the surface.  Blue and silver spoons,  silver in-line spinners and minnow-imitating crankbaits like Challengers all produced.

The shallow rapids above the power plant proved disappointing to most who waded up there. Those in the know say there isn’t enough snow in the hills to generate the run-off needed to swell the river to levels needed to entice steelies into the pockets and plunge pools just below the dam.

However, the deeper rapids along the middle wall and in the Power Plant’s tailrace contain enough chromers to make a trip worthwhile. You gotta work for ‘em, but they’re there.

About the best way to fish the whitewater right now is from a motorized drift boat. You see, the only place to put in is at the launch below the east side of the Bridge Street bridge. Then you run the fast water to the middle wall. You could always row your way over, I guess, but you’ll be limiting your options to the east side and north end of the wall.

With a motorized drift boat, you’ll be able to run the deep rapids and fish at the end of the power company’s retaining wall, as well as some of the deeper pockets in the whitewater.

The Oswego is a massive river, Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary. If you’re unfamiliar with big rapids, please consider hiring a seasoned  professional to show you the ropes. Local legends, captains Andy Bliss (Chasin Tail Adventures, 315-591-4578; www.chasintailadventures.com) and Kevin Davis (315-342-4861; www.catchthedrift.com), are intimately familiar with this mighty stream, and can lead you to the pockets preferred by its largest visiting steelies.
Guys perchin' below the lock in Phoenix.

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