Tuesday, October 28, 2014

More to Come

By Spider Rybaak

Ryan of Mayfield with a chromer he took at Ellis Cove.

Sour grapes have been grumbling--loud enough to be heard above the rapids, in fact--that the king and coho runs on the Salmon River ain’t what they used to be. Truth of the matter is the runs are as good-- some say even better--than ever. Problem is, the salmon seem to be evolving, getting smarter.
Fran Verdoliva, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Special Assistant for the Salmon River claims: “By last week, the hatchery has taken 3.9 million chinook eggs. Typically we only get 3 million per season.”

That suggests roughly 25 percent more fish are making it to the hatchery than usual.
“A lot of fish are moving at night,” claims Verdoliva, adding “each morning, the hatchery is loaded with ‘em, and has been all season long, so far.”

They’ve been running in daylight, as well.

“There was a pretty substantial run last month,” says Verdoliva. “We had a major run the second week of October and last week, too,” he continues, “and right now [October 20] the hatchery is overflowing with cohoes.”

And there’s more good news. “Everything was running progressively slower than people are used to,” says Fran, indicating there’s more to come.
As a rule, the major runs are over by now. Still, fresh fish will charge the river in spurts into mid-November, and late-maturing individuals will continue heading for the hatchery for the rest of the month, even into December.

The browns and steelhead are on schedule, too.

“There’s more steelhead here than salmon,” claimed an angler at Ellis Cove last Sunday, just as two kings porpoised at the end of the pool he was fishing. He had two nice chromers on a stringer to back up his words, rising kings notwithstanding.

And that’s the way it was throughout the river. Some kings were on stringers above Pineville, but the vast majority was catching steelies and browns.

Currently, your chances of catching eitherspecies are pretty equal. Football browns are common right now but will peter out by the New Year; Steelies will start dominating soon.

Like life, the only thing certain about this fishery is change.  And while some target a specific species and actually feel disappointed when they catch something else, most guys are more appreciative, feeling king, coho, brown or steelie, doesn’t matter: they’re all worthy opponents.

The egg sucking black stonefly Ryan used to nail his steelie.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Early Surfin’ on Oneida Lake

By Spider Rybaak

South Shore native John with a 26-incher he took last week

At certain times, Oneida Lake spits out walleyes like a conveyer belt at a fish factory. The tough part is figuring out when and where these sweet spots are from season to season. Right now is one of those times, and the sweet spot is the evening surf.

Walleye go on a feeding binge at the first sign of cooler temperatures.  Not a slight variation of a couple degrees, but a serious change, say 10 degrees or so. Most anglers don’t have the imagination to figure out when this happens and simply follow the old formula: surf for walleye from mid-October through November.

And while that schedule is a good one that’s been putting pike on the table for ages, it leaves a lot of prime time unexplored. What’s more, it has everyone fishing at the same time, leading to crowded, combat fishing conditions.

This year the bite has been pushed forward by a month. Indeed, early birds who have tested the water with their fingers have been taking walleye from the surf since early September. Indeed, I’ve caught my limit twice, and nailed at least one walleye, six nights in a row, before the second week of the month.

So why write about it now that it’s over, you ask?

Well, it ain’t over; in fact, it’s just begun.  There are a lot of walleyes where those came from--out in the deep, that is. September’s nights were colder than normal, and so are this month’s. As the trend continues, it’ll stir cooler temperatures deeper into the drink earlier than usual, keeping the bait and walleye close to shore.

In the past, you could expect a walleye or two every other night or so in the first half of October, and every night after that until mid-November, when the trend starts going the other way again.

This year they’re so early we’re getting limits before seeing our breath or having our fingers freeze. In the words of one guy, “It’s like getting eight weeks of vacation when you’re only entitled to six.”

What’s more, this year’s fish are bigger. I’ve seen several in the 22- to 24-inch range landed already, and personally nailed a 26-incher on the 1st of October.

If you’ve been dying to cast a minnowbait into the dark silence blanketing the lake but have waited for the traditional window, get your waders wet tonight.  The fish’ll be waiting for ya.

Good places to try are Phillips Point, at the end of McCloud Road in the Big Bay/Three Mile Bay Wildlife Management Areas (take Toad Harbor Road from NY 49 in West Monroe, then the next left), both of the NYSDEC’s fishing access sites at I-81, and the Cleveland Docks, NY 49, in Cleveland.

A good bait to use in weedy shallows is a Bass Pro Shop XPS Extreme Minnow; in slightly deeper water and over sandy or pebble floors, XPS minnows work, too, but so will  Jr. Thundersticks and Challenger Minnows.

Tom's good friend Kathy with a couple pike of her own.

Tom, an Oneida Lake resident, with a limit of walleyes he took from his dock last week.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Great White North

By:Spider Rybaak

Oneida Lake has a huge impact over Central New York. It’s so big, it creates its own weather; cooling temperatures along its shoreline a skosh during summer, warming them slightly in spring and fall, even creating early lake effect snows up until winter seals it in ice. Its influence is so pronounced, locals consider anything above it as “up north.”

That’s where you’ll find the Great White North Trading Post (315-964-2669), one of the most unique shops in Oswego County.

While it’s billed as a trading post, don’t go expecting to find items like rock candy, bags of salt or jars of pickled pork on its sagging shelves. Those days are gone.

What you’ll find is guns and ammo, fishing and trapping supplies, all set amidst museum-quality mounts of North American game animals.

Located in Williamstown, in the old Masonic Lodge, the shop looks like something straight out of a Civil War-era photograph.  In fact, owner Les Huntley boasts “The place hasn’t seen a phone in over 100 years; until I bought it.”

When you think about this corner of Oswego County, you usually have fishing and hunting in mind, ancient pursuits dating to the dawn of time. You could even say hunters and anglers are natural reenactors; the clothes have changed but the game is the same. As such, many are drawn to all things old.

This unusual shop fits that bill. What’s more, its location on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau exudes history, from the woods and fields surrounding Williamstown, to its priceless collection of old architecture.

A conservationist at heart, Huntley’s deep respect for history spurred him to preserve the building as a window into the area’s proud past. Indeed, as you walk through the entrance’s narrow double doors, you’re greeted with aging wallpaper and antique woodwork leading into a showroom whose very windows have wizened with time, growing capable of softening the brightest sunlight on a clear blue day.

Oh sure, the place has modern frills like electric lights, a computer, even a red, neon OPEN sign hanging in the window. Nothing flashy, just the practical kind of stuff you’d expect to find in a retail shop.

But that’s where the similarities to the franchise stores endlessly springing up out of the commercial landscape ends.  You see, the Great White North Trading Post prides itself in traditional values and common sense, American ideals you just don’t find too much anymore.

Run by Les and his wife Kim, the place doesn’t carry all the latest fads, only outdoor necessities at a fair price. Advice on local conditions is available free on request.

That might sound strange and quaint to some; but that’s just the way things are up north.

Kim Huntley issuing me a new fishing license.
Great White North's resident bear and racoon.
Hunting rifles and walking canes.