Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Summer Time… and the Fishin’s Easy

By Spider Rybaak  

Father and son posing with a 23-inch walleye taken at Cleveland Docks on Sunday night.

A good ol’ algae bloom blossomed over Oneida Lake the last week of July. Common in the 1950s and 60s, the event spread an undulating carpet of thick green slime over much of the lake’s surface, triggering deep anxiety among worrywarts. When the ultimate die-off occurred in the first week of this month, turning the water a chalky color, and planting a stench riding its waves, the authorities closed popular beaches temporarily.  

Fatalists began gnashing their teeth and pulling the hair out of their heads; convinced global warming had finally reached the breaking point…Oneida Lake was Ground Zero…We were doomed.

But they were disappointed. You see, the bloom and gloom came and went and the water’s as clear and the fishing’s as good--some say even better--as before the event.

Last weekend was the first to be free of the condition, drawing the masses to Oswego County’s territorial waters of Oneida Lake.

Brewerton looked like a roving boat show. A steady stream of watercraft of every size and description ran the river in both directions. Every inch of the municipal dock was occupied and as soon as a space opened up, a vessel was maneuvering into the spot.

Some bank anglers jockeyed for casting positions on the dock. The bite was typical for this time of year; slow but productive, for those that kept pluggin’, anyway. However, even those who weren’t getting communications from the deep telegraphed to their rod tips were happily catching rays and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Oneida River slicing through the countryside.

Still, the majority avoided the congestion and simply fished at the access sites on both sides of the I-81 Bridge.  Most everyone reported catching something, mostly sheepshead, pickerel, bass and panfish.

In the background, guys fishing the river from boats were realizing decent results. Bucketmouths and pickerel were cooperative in the shallow bays on both sides of I-81; smallies and northerns were hitting on the river channel’s drop-offs. 

Most believe walleyes don’t hit in August, reasoning the lake is full of food and the pike suspend, feeding on minnows that are constantly swimming by.

The rest of us keep our mouths shut and jig for them in relatively deep water like the channel below I-81 and Cleveland Docks. Walleyes are naturally drawn to current, and both spots have it. You have to fish early and late, when boat traffic is at its slowest.

Then there’s Caughdenoy. The Oswego side is wide open, offering great access above and below the dam. The plunge pool always has sheepshead, catfish, smallmouth bass and panfish, and walleyes move in at night. The quiet water on top has monster cats, sheepshead, northern pike, bucketmouths and smallies, and panfish.

Summer’s winding down and the fishing is only going to get better from here on in. But if you wait, you’ll blow the last vestiges of long, lazy days fanned by pleasant breezes. You might not see catfish jumping but you should be able to catch a few.

The lake's water was chalky in the beginning of August.

Caughdenoy on Sunday afternoon.

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