Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lake Neahtahwanta: A Great Place to Teach Kids how to Fish.

By Spider Rybaak

Carp enthusiast Mike McGrath, McGrath and Associates Carp Angling Services, shows a syudent how to handle a carp.
Kids take to fishing like minnows to water. Problem is a lot of youngsters don’t have anyone to take them out the first time to teach them the basics. While it’s true the internet has videos giving step by step instructions on everything from tying a cinch knot and bait selection to casting and fighting the fish, nothing beats an adult’s guiding hand during a child’s first hours on the water.

It’s just natural for a kid to need someone to look up to when casting a rod the first time. And it doesn’t take much for an adult to get the swing of things. In fact, you don’t even have to know how to set the rig up because every retailer that handles fishing equipment, from the lowliest bait shop to massive outfits like Bass Pro Shops, sells spin-fishing combos that are already rigged. They’re so simple to use, I’ve had 3-year-olds master long distance casting after only three tries.

In fact, they’ll be so impressed with how far they can reach they’ll spend half the time --initially, anyway--practicing how to cast.

Eventually, they’re gonna have to wet a line, however, and you’re going to have to find a safe place to take them. Oswego County makes that easy: Lake Neahtahwanta.

Located on NY 3, off Fulton’s west side, this 750-acre lake averages 6 feet deep and drops to a maximum of 12 feet deep. Roughly 25 percent of its shoreline is manicured park, and a fishing pier right at the road reaches out about 100 feet. Railings make it safe for kids, and, at the deep end, a covered gazebo with benches keeps the weather at bay and a load off your feet.

Best of all, the place is loaded with fish; mostly panfish like sunfish, white and yellow perch. However, there’s a lot of bass, crappie, northern pike, channel catfish, bowfin and monster carp around, too.

A typical day usually sees realistic fishing accomplished.

For instance, Mike McGrath, owner of McGrath and Associates Carp Angling Services and I have been conducting kids fishing programs at Lake Neahtahwanta for well over 5 years. We keep coming back because it’s one of the only places around where you can expect to catch a fish every time you go out, from shore, no less; and usually, you’ll catch a whole bunch.

Our most recent class was last Saturday, May 16, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. I taught bait fishing techniques, providing fishing outfits for 12 kids. Mike taught trophy carp fishing techniques.

And the fish were biting. McGrath’s students landed a dozen carp ranging from 5 to 15 pounds.

Not only did Mike instruct the kids on how to fight these fresh water giants, a feat requiring skill, as well as endurance, he also showed how to draw the fish by seeding the waters with a mixture of grains. Stirring in a little water to help the ingredients stick together, Mike shapes a clump into a pancake, drops a hook baited with corn into the center and packs it into a ball the size of an orange. Heaving it out, he rests his rod in a holder, sits down, relaxes and waits for the hit.

In the meantime, I’m up on the pier teaching how to tie a hook onto the line, bait it with a worm and cast it out. Before long, my kids are catching fish.

Mike’s kids have to wait a little longer, but their patience is rewarded when the first carp hits with such force, it almost drags the rod into the drink.

Although the worm anglers are catching a lot of white perch, sunfish and yellow perch, the fish only weigh a few ounces. Mike’s carp, on the other hand, can go over 20 pounds.

We’ll be conducting four more FREE fishing classes on Lake Neahtahwanta this summer (June 20, July 11, August 15, and October 10,) and four classes at the NYSDEC Fish Hatchery in Constantia, NY 49, on Oneida Lake (May 30, June 27, Aug. 22, and Sept. 12).  Classes run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. All tackle and bait will be provided for free.

For more information, contact me at Srybaak@yahoo.com, or Mike Mcgrath: mmcgrath2@twcny.rr.com.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

River Walk

By: Spider Rybaak

Trilliums line the paths along the Salmon River in Altmar like runners made from magic carpets.
There’s nothing like balmy May temperatures under azure skies to stir Oswego County’s fish into biting. Problem is the same conditions trigger the bane of the Northcountry: black flies.
They don’t usually bother gung-ho trout purists too much: we’re up to our knees in the drink and they stay onshore where leaves and grass give them cover from the wind.

And that usually settles that.

Things get a little complicated when the Mrs. wants to tag along; to fill her lungs with fresh air, I suppose, rub some sun on her skin, maybe just to  see why I smile so much after getting off the stream.

When that happens, three things decide our destination: low density of bugs, a lot to see on shore, and nearby natural wonders for when the fishing’s done.
Almar, NY fits the bill.

You see, the Salmon River runs through it. And although the major salmon and steelhead runs are still 4 months away, there’s a lot of natural stuff going on in this sleepy little town to keep you and fellow travelers occupied, particularly over the next week or so, before summer’s thick green carpet covers the forest floor.

For instance, the trail for the first 100 yards or so downstream of the CR 52 bridge is loaded with exciting features for everyone: nice trout runs for you, a fabulous wild garden for your non-fishing buddy.

Beds of trilliums cling to the trail’s edge like snowbanks. As you get closer, they begin to sway alongside the path like runners made from magic carpet. Stand right over them, and they’ll hook your eyes with delicate beauty, drawing you into their intricate design.

Covered in a forested knave, shrouded in the sound of rushing water, carpeted in a colorful explosion of foliage, this wonderland casts a spell on everyone who comes here, bringing them back year after year.

While more famous natural wonders punctuate America’s landscape, none is easier to reach than the Salmon River. The New York State Thruway brings you an hour south of it and I-81 crosses it.
So, next time you’re dreaming about spellbinding, natural settings, don’t settle for mind games. Instead, c’mon up to Altmar and feast your senses on this patchwork of natural beauty.

Fungus staircase.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Oneida Lake: still NY’s Walleye Hot Spot

By Spider Rybaak

A few of the winners line up.
Walleye season’s opening weekend proved once again what every pike enthusiast in Central New York knew all along: Oneida Lake is still your best bet when it comes to these toothy beasts.
From one end of the lake to the other, anglers netted pike, mostly walleyes, but a few northerns, too, including an 38-inch monster allegedly taken west of Frenchman Island.

Both sides of the Erie Canal at Sylvan Beach were lined with colorful anglers all weekend, from the opening minute straight through Sunday night.

Caughedenoy hosted loads of bank anglers throwing all the usual suspects, from Thundersticks and Rapalas to bucktail jigs and worms.

As expected, the crankbaits took the lions share in the plunge pool below the gates, primarily because they cover a lot of water and, most important, swim over most of the spot’s notorious snags.

Still, a couple old timers took their limits on bucktails. Not only by jigging them rapidly  to keep them above the rocks, but also by steadily swimming them, a technique locals claim was developed exclusively for the fast water on the Oneida River’s biggest oxbow.

Brewerton contributed some walleyes, too. The NYSDEC’s Fishing access sites on both ends of the I-81 Bridge coughed up a few for anglers jigging  Sonars in the deep water below the bridge, or running minnowbaits parallel to the canal’s drop-offs.

Out on the open lake, walleyes were hitting worms drifted on harnesses (spinner-rigged and plain), bucktail jigs, and Sonars.

The Cicero- Mattydale Lions Club held its 2015 Walleye Derby on Oneida Lake over the weekend, drawing 1,877 anglers to compete for more than $10,000.00 in cash and prizes.

Top honors went to Georgia native Jack Barber for a 27 3/8 inch walleye he took on a bucktail jig.
Herkimer native Mike Zucker won the drawing for a highly coveted  12-foot Low powered by an 8 horse. Merc.

Not surprisingly, jigs manufactured by Five-O Lure Co. and Voodoo Custom Tackle, a couple local firms, landed their users in the money.

The awards ceremony was held at Bartel Road Bait and Tackle, 5501 Bartel Road, Brewerton (315-676-2144). Bartel Road Bait and Tackle, a company specializing in all the popular Oneida Lake baits, announces its upcoming Pickerel Derby, May 26, 2015, from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m..

"The best 4-fish weight wins top prize,” says co-owner Kim Goffredo.

Tickets cost $10.00 and go on sale May 9.

“This derby is 100% payback,” says Goffredo, adding “ $8.00 goes into the general pot and $2.00 goes into the lunker pot.

“Last year we made 50 tickets and 151 anglers showed up,” claims Kim, suggesting anglers should sign up early.

For more info, call Bartel Road Bait and Tackle: (315) 676-2144.

At the weigh-in.