Most folks think surf fishing is only productive off the beaches of big waters like the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. However, big lakes will do when oceans are few; and Oneida Lake ranks right up there with the best of 'em.
But there's a catch: beach fishing on New York's biggest lake is only productive in spring and fall when in-shore water temperatures range from the upper 50s to the lower 70s, drawing massive schools of minnows, with walleyes hot on their tails.
If you're like most guys, carrying a thermometer to check water temperatures isn't up your alley; you go by intuition instead. Die-hards wade for pike as early as late August and continue through November. Your average Oneida Lake surfer, on the other hand, hits the waves during their most productive time: mid-October through mid-November.
Don't confuse bank fishing with surf fishing. When you fish from shore, you're firmly on solid ground; whereas surf fishing leaves you standing in water up to your thighs or even higher with nothing but determination supporting you in the wind and waves.
But the rewards are great. Walleyes love the surf. That's because minnows in water that's only 2 to 5 feet deep have less room to escape than those in deeper water.
Best of all, fishing for walleyes in the shallows is very sensual. They often break the surface while chasing their prey, and while fighting to get off the hook.
The best way to fish the surf is with minnow-imitating crankbaits like Rapalas and Storm Thundersticks. While many believe rattling baits generally draw more strikes when the fish are aggressive, others say silent bait works all the time, even on moon-lit nights when the walleyes are skittish.
Toad Harbor Wildlife Management Area's Phillips Point (from NY49 in West Monroe, take Toad Harbor Road to McCloud Road) is the most popular spot to wade because it's remote and easily accessible from a public road.
There are other good spots, too; the shelf along the metal breakwater on the northeastern corner of the I-81 Bridge, for instance; and the rocky point reaching south from the Cleveland Docks Public Fishing Access Site off NY 49 in Cleveland.
|Sunset: Best Time for Walleyes|
|Mixed Bag of Anglers in the Surf|