Friday, May 25, 2012

Late Season Turkeys

By Spider Rybaak

Wounded warrior Chris Jones and the two things that got him into the woods: his white-haired companion and an Action Track Chair.
As with all game, bagging a turkey is easiest—relatively speaking—early in the season. By now, most gobbler hunters have put away their camo and guns and picked up fishing or lawn equipment. Bad mistake: late bloomers are just getting revved up.

Stanley Ouellette, owner of Deer Creek Motel and Pheasant Shooting Preserve, (315) 298-3730, showed me last Tuesday.

“Spider,” he whispered, “we just got a nice jake. Want to take some pictures?”

“Sure,” I responded. “When and where”

“At the hotel, 1 p.m.”

“How come you’re whispering?” I asked.

“Because I’m working a bird right now and don’t want to spook him,” he responded.
“I’ll be there,” I promised.

Wow, I thought as I hung up. The guy can make a phone call while he’s talking turkey.

When I caught up with his group of seven, I was introduced to all of them, but two stood out: Chris Jones and Pat Donnelly; Stan is so modest and low key you hardly know he’s there.

Donnelly, President of Team E Outdoors, a hunting and fishing show which runs  September through February on Time Warner Sports, and is currently available on the Pursuit Channel, 6 p.m., on Thursday nights,  has access to an Action Track Chair, an all-terrain wheelchair. Deciding to devote several segments of his show to Wounded Warriors shooting the bird, he made a deal with Ouellette.

“Stanley provides us with accommodations, time, place to hunt and does all the calling,” admits Donnelly.

Jones is the Wounded Warrior. On August 27, 2011, while stationed in Iraq as a member of the 10th Mountain Division, an IED went off near him, compressing and twisting his spine, causing heavy loss of hearing in both ears and major nerve damage, among other things.

“I love to hunt,” admits the Watertown resident, “and this chair lets me get out there,” he says, sweeping his arm over the fields and forests behind the motel. “I couldn’t have gotten out there without it.”

I asked Stan what technique he used in drawing turkeys close, especially so late in the season.

“Runnin and gunnin,” he replied quickly, with a grin.

“Say what?” I retorted.

Kyle Ott, a member of the field staff for Lights Out Custom Calls, responded “Cover as much ground as possible, call to close the distance, giving him a shorter distance to cover when you call, then sit down and shut up.”

““How do you know when to stop calling?” I asked.

“Once I know he’s closing ground, responding closer, I stop calling,” he answered.

Rick Miick, a local fishing guide and the only one to bag the bird, butted in “Hens came in first today, talking right back to me, mirroring what I was saying. They stayed at the edge of the hedgerow. Not the jakes that were with them, though. As soon as they hit the field and saw my decoy, they broke with the live hens and came running for it. Dead jake.”

Unfortunately, Jones didn’t get a shot.

He recounts his experience: “Stan called three hens that actually pecked at our decoy before returning to the woods. A couple hours later, a couple more came out. But the one tom Stan attracted never came around the open side of our blind. His voice was deep, raspy…a real mature bird. Stan saw it and estimated it at three years old.”

Hunting turkeys is a good way to welcome spring. The weather’s warm, everything’s green and the turkeys are talking their hearts out.

Highly popular Salmon River guide Rick Miick, showing he can shoot turkey, too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kids Fishing Classes

By Spider Rybaak

Baldwinsville's Ethan Pruner with the first fish he's ever caught on a lure, and first smallmouth.
Mike Riordan’s dad planted countless memories by taking his boy fishing every chance he got. After his father died, Mike figured the best way to honor him was to pass on the many memorable lessons his dad blessed him with, and started day-long fishing seminars each spring at the Calvary Baptist Church in Brewerton. Over the years, his program has grown to attract thousands of kids and their parents, hooking them on this fabulous pastime.

I was honored to do a presentation on fishing from shore in Oswego County at the last event held on March 29. The enthusiasm shown by the children and their parents was unbelievable. Everyone had questions…so many questions; enough, in fact to make me walk away deeply troubled. After all, how can a parent teach a kid to fish if he doesn’t know how to tie a knot, bait a hook, the difference between a fly and crankbait...?

After giving the situation some thought, I contacted Mike McGrath, of McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services (315)-882-1549);  and invited him to join me in setting up a series of kids fishing clinics designed to help students from 5 to 75 to learn the ropes. 

We held our first class last weekend at the Clyde River fishing access site at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. To no one’s surprise, it was a resounding success. You see, Mike is the Pied Piper of carp. Instead of using a musical instrument, he hooks them with an astonishing menu of goodies, chumming an area with grains and vegetables soaked in juice and syrup, drawing them from miles around to his feasts.

And they come…by the hundreds. Everyone within eye shot--on both banks and in boats--had encounters with the beasts; our students, most of all.

Mike ended up drawing fish ranging from 10 to a whopping 25 pounds. Needless to say, the kids and their parents were hopelessly hooked. 

I conducted classes on lure fishing.  While everyone was mesmerized by McGrath’s magic, I went off by myself and started working a Berkley PowerBait Atomic Teaser tipped with a Chartreuse Power Wiggler. In about an hour, I landed everything from smallmouths and crappies to bluegills and rock bass. 

After catching his fill of huge carp, Ethan Pruner, like any youngster, started looking for other spots. I caught his eye and he came over to see what I was throwing. I showed him, gave him a pack of each to keep, tied the combination on his line, instructed him for a moment on the art of jigging and before you know it he’s battling his first smallmouth…and the first fish he’s ever caught on a lure.

Mike and I plan on doing several more clinics in Oswego County this summer. The first will be on June 2, at the municipal dock just off the northeastern corner of the US 11 bridge in Brewerton, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bait and instructions will be provided free, and loaner Shakespeare rod and reel combos—spin-casting and fly-fishing--will be available for the duration of the class. Anglers 16 and older must have a NYS fishing license. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information, call me at (315) 633-1245 or Mike at the above number.

See ya there.

Mike McGrath holding Ethan Pruner's first carp.

The Ultimate Fishing Town Contest: Vote for your Town!


World Fishing, the only 24/7 TV network dedicated to all segments of fishing, recently announced its Ultimate Fishing Town Contest, and invites everyone to help in determining the location. Oswego, home to two of the most famous rivers in the Northeast, the Oswego and Salmon, has two communities vying for the honor: Oswego and Pulaski. The town that wins the title will receive a $25,000 community donation, and will be featured in a segment on WFN as the Ultimate Fishing Town.

“It’s clear to those who live here that Oswego County has the ultimate fishing spots and the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts,” says David Turner, Director, Community Development, Tourism and Planning. “It’s time to tell everyone outside the state: Oswego has the top two Ultimate Fishing Towns in the Country!”

Voting is allowed every 6 hours and closes on May 31, 2012.
Cast your vote:

For more information on Oswego County and fishing destinations in Oswego and Pulaski, visit

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rain Soaked Walleyes

By Spider Rybaak

Don Hendrickson of Panther Lake holding a 24 inch pickerel he took at Cleveland Docks just after the rain.

Last Saturday morning, opening day of walleye season, a flotilla of about 30 boats was out in front of the house. Most were manned by participants of the Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club’s Walleye Derby. The field numbered close to 2,000 and nearly everyone caught something, even if it was just a perch. 

Writing for, Dave Figura reports the $1,000.00 prize went to Daniel Van Meter of North Syracuse for a 24 ¾ inch walleye he took on a jig.

That’s a big one for Oneida Lake. You see, while larger fish have been wrenched from these productive waters often enough, the average size for an Oneida Lake walleye is about 18 inches.  

My neighbor, Reed, nailed his limit, all ranging between 16 and 18 inches. Unfortunately, his girlfriend and her father, who went with him, didn’t catch any. At least the father got a sunfish; his girlfriend got skunked.
Ironically, one of the pike he caught came on her rod. She asked him to hold it for a second while she checked the eye or something at the tip and right when she handed it to him the fish hit. A proud, ethical woman, she wouldn’t take credit for a fish she didn’t catch. Still, she probably feels a little ticked—but all that should go away when she’s eating it.

Both days of the tournament were blessed with decent weather. The sun shined a lot and there was just enough wind to keep the walleyes active without making it uncomfortable for the competitors.

On Monday it turned nasty—into great walleye weather. When I headed out to go surf fishing that evening, I planned on hitting Lakeport’s Lake Oneida Beach Association. But it was too calm. The wind was blowing out of the south so I headed for Cleveland.

Good move. My lure encountered stiff resistance on the first cast. So stiff, in fact, I couldn’t stop it. 
 Whatever it was, it just took off, slowly, deliberately, like an elephant trying to shake a mosquito off its butt.

...And that’s all she wrote. I listened to my line sizzling through the waves. Before I knew it, I could see my spool in the moonlight. A couple seconds later it’s empty, and in a heartbreaking snap, I’m without line, lure or fish. Believe me, that’s enough to grab your attention on a soggy night.

Fortunately, I had 150 yards of Berkley’s new Nanofil in the trunk. By the time I returned to the bank, the rain started. I tied on a black/silver Challenger and cast into the blinding deluge. It was blowing so hard I couldn’t get out more than 20 feet, and even then, only if I put every ounce of strength I had into it. And forget about straight…I had to cast to the left just to have it go out in front of me.

Five minutes of that, and I’m getting wet. The rain is crawling up my sleeves and through my sneakers. Nose running, glasses streaked, hair pasted to my cheeks, I figure I might as well call it quits. And then a beautiful, golden-sided “eye” nails it. 

After landing him I actually thought about casting out again. But the elements presented a convincing argument against that.

On the way home the sky cleared up momentarily and I saw guys fishing in the surf in Cleveland, Sylvan Beach and Lakeport. I stopped to watch the one standing off the decaying breakwall south of Cleveland docks and actually saw his rod bent, straining against a fish. But before he could land it, the clouds blew into the face of the moon and darkness stole my sight again.

The rain over the past few days is sure to raise water levels. Culverts will spew a stained flow, turning the water near shore cloudy. The wind will pitch in by driving warm temperatures--and the bait--into shore; it’s the perfect storm for walleyes in the surf.

Rich Bolster, Constantia, with a keeper walleye taken from the bank.

"Surfin'" Oneida Lake Style.
Don Hendrickson with a walleye this time.