|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.|