Friday, July 19, 2013

Kings are back in Town

By Spider Rybaak

First mate Kevin holding Chad's brown.

            Good buddy Dick Stanton called Sunday night.

            “Hey Spider…The kings are back in town. I’m heading out tomorrow with some close friends.  You’re welcome to come along.”

            “Is Kevin first mating?” I asked.

            “Are you kiddin’??? “ he asked rhetorically with such emotion I could hear his eyebrows rising in disbelief.

            “He’s the best,” claimed Dick. “I don’t even think about other first mates when he’s around.”

            Well, I’m not one to refuse a seat on a charter boat, especially when Big Dick’s in charge and Kevin Rodrigues (the Portuguese spelling, I’m informed) is playing second fiddle.

            “I’ll see ya at the dock at 6 a.m.,” I promised.

            Dead calm sat on the lake, squeezing its surface into a mirror finish. A light fog frosted its edges.

            Kevin starts setting lines after we clear the breakwalls at the mouth of the river.  Less than a half-mile out, he’s busy letting out the third rig when a 4-pound brown devours the Sigg’s Rigs fly. Ron Marlett , a retired NYS Trooper, tells his grandson to grab the line.

            Moving with speed I can only dream about, 16-year-old Chad Tyson is reeling the brute in. A few minutes later, we’re all high-fiving the youngster.

            Kevin no sooner gets the line down again when another fish hits, prompting the good captain to suggest, with the calm of a seasoned pro, “Someone ought’a grab that rod.”

            In a blur, Chad’s up there again. Heck, I didn’t even have time to turn my neck to see which rod it was.

            This is a much bigger fish. After battling for about 10 minutes, a 16-pound king is in the boat.

            “When do these fish start converging on the waters off Oswego,” I ask Capt. Dick after everything settles down.

            They start showing up in June and their numbers grow steadily through September, when the biggest show up. Still, even now you can easily get kings weighing 20 to 30 pounds,” he says.

            As if on cue, another rod trips with such ferocity I swear the boat went backwards for a split second. The fish hit the copper line which was out over 100 yards. I knew it would be tough bringing this one in, so I decided to go to the head.

            George Panarites, another old friend of Dick's, passes too.

            Fortunately, we had Chad aboard to do the heavy work. What a sport, I thought, as he took the rod.

            Fifteen minutes later, Kevin lands the 23-pound king. Everyone but Chad is panting after the battle. The youngster just wants another one.

            A short time later, George notices one of the outside rods acting funny and decides to bring it in. A keeper lake trout is on the other end. “Ah, a nice griller,” he remarks, contentedly.

            This kind of action is average from now until the leaves start turning. If Capt. Dick (315-246-4767; is booked when you wanna go out, he’ll be able to refer you to someone almost as competent. If you’d rather do it yourself, check out the list of charter captains on Oswego County’s website;

Chad battling a big king while grandpa Ron offers encouragement.

Kevin netting the prize.

Chad with his biggest king.

George with a griller.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Whitewater Summer

By  Spider Rybaak

Photos by Susan Rybaak

A family of tubers floating through the Trestle Pool.

A web of exciting whitewater slices through Central New York. Unfortunately, much of it is too dangerous (Black River), shallow (Scriba Creek) or short (the rapids at Caughdenoy) for most of us to play in. The Salmon River, on the other hand, is just right.

Running for roughly 13 miles, from the spillway at Lighthouse Hill Reservoir to its mouth, this world-famous trout and salmon stream’s base flow is kept at 185 cubic feet per second year-round. That’s the minimum required to keep its rapids at the right speed and level to maintain the sensitive habitats that mature salmon and trout need to spawn; and their offspring require to carry them through their first few months of life and their trek to Lake Ontario.

Serious whitewater enthusiasts rank the Salmon River as a pitiful Class II, about as exciting as spit in the bucket.  But for average folks, its pleasant, safe pace allows for leisurely floats in tubes, kayaks and canoes, down playful rapids lined in riverbanks teeming with colorful plants and wildlife, all under the graceful flight of bald eagles to ospreys.

Still, even the meekest among us harbor fantasies of risky adventures some of the time. Several years ago the authorities, after gentle coaxing by whitewater interests, decided it wouldn’t hurt to shift the  Salmon River ‘s thrill level higher periodically and decreed that the power company release additional water five weekends each summer for recreational purposes.

The second of this season’s flow increases took place 4th of July weekend and legions of folks took to the rapids in everything from tubes to over-sized rubber duckies to indulge in some bubbly. About the only complaint competing with the laughter wafting over the whitewater was that the water didn’t stay up a little longer.

Good news. This year ain’t typical, and when the screws were tightened on the water gates, the rapids didn’t slow down a bit. The above average rainfall pouring over the region since the beginning of summer hasn’t drained off the countryside yet; and at this writing the level is at 650 cfs, well above the normal for this time of the year. Considering the size of the river’s drainage, it’ll take all of a week, maybe longer, for the flow to resume its typical summer level.

While the thought of a stream flowing so high above average is enough to send the fear of rapids coursing through your veins, it’s really not that bad in a shallow stream like the Salmon River.

That doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind and jump in carelessly.

 What it does mean is you can enjoy a long, comfortable, relatively safe float down whitewater averaging 70 degrees. But you gotta play smart. Here’s some tips to keep you safe:

- Always wear a life jacket.
- If you go by tube or air mattress, make sure it’s big enough to float your body weight.
- If you get thrown into the fast water out in the middle, don’t try to stand; you might get your feet wedged between rocks and the force of the rapids can submerge you. Float on your back, feet first, until you come to a slow moving shallow area before trying to walk out.

If you go by canoe or kayak, bring along a fishing outfit. Atlantic salmon and Skamania—summer-running steelhead--are drawn into the stream by high water. They’re in top shape this time of year, guaranteeing you a run for the money.

If the water goes down before you can make it, no sweat: additional whitewater releases are scheduled for the weekends of July 20-21, August 4-5 and August 31-September 1.

Launches and take-outs with parking areas line the river. Some of the most popular include:

- CR 52 Bridge in Altmar
- Sheepskin Road, about 100 yards east of its intersection with CR 48, Pineville.
- Northeastern corner of the CR 2A Bridge, about a mile east of Pulaski.

Enjoy…and stay safe.

Spider casting  a streamer for Atlantic salmon as kayakers watch.

The river's at the perfect height, the weather's just right,
for a float trip.

Fishy encounter: Kayak angler and Spey-caster at the Trestle pool.