Wednesday, April 22, 2015


By Spider Rybaak

Entrance to Toad Harbor last Sunday morning

Ice time was more stubborn this year than most, making a lot of folks worry we’d go from winter to summer without stopping at spring.

Trout anglers didn’t mind too much because the extended chill left local streams very fishable. Opening Day saw creek levels only slightly high, at levels you’d expect after a light rain, not during the thaw.

Unfortunately, what was good for trout anglers was terrible for Oneida Lake panfish fans. You see, panfish anglers saw NY’s biggest pond still crowned in hard water on April Fool’s Day. Worst thing was, the ice was thin and porous, solid enough to prevent bank-fishing, too weak for ice-fishing.
Friday night, April 17, warm winds finally took their toll on the ice. Come morning, a creepy fog shrouded the lake. When it finally burned off, the lake was iceless. Some backwoods bays still had sickly floes and small pockets of fragmented ice beating themselves against the banks, but nothing serious. By sunrise on Sunday, ice was as rare on the lake as fur on a catfish

Panfish anglers stormed their favorite spots looking for fish dinners. While the east end, especially Oneida Creek’s mouth, hosted the majority of activity, Oswego County spots saw their share of anglers, too.

On Big Bay, anglers swarmed the cuts at the Toad Harbor Fishing Access Site at the end of Shaw Drive. They came by boat and by land. And while the fish weren’t in as thick as they would have liked, crappie were coming in slow and steady, rewarding patience with fresh strawberry bass dinners.

Guys were also trying their luck on catching panfish in Toad Harbor Swamp’s outlet on McCloud Road. The Three Mile Bay/Big Bay Wildlife Management Area skirts the west side of the outlet, and most of the openings were occupied.

The water’s still a little cool but it’s warming fast and runs of crappies and sunnies can take place this weekend, next weekend for sure.

Oneida Lake shrouded in fog.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Ice

Scriba Creek on opening day of trout season, 2015
By Spider Rybaak

If you like ice and snow, this past winter (It’s spring, right?) fulfilled your wildest fantasies. In fact, it’s still giving us a chill.

April 1st, opening day of trout season, saw anglers struggling through knee-deep snow just to get to the water. Once they made it to the edge, their trouble was worth it.

“The mild thaw has Scriba Creek running perfectly, almost at summer levels” said one angler while putting his gear away at the side of the road. “Normally I have to bounce worms on bottom with lots of weight this time of year because the water’s too high and cold to use anything else,” he added.

“Not today. I landed two 12-inchers, and had a nice brown of about 15 inches break free. They all hit a gold ribbed hare’s ear nymph,” added the Cleveland resident who declined to give his name.

“What a thrill. I was actually fly-fishing--this time of year, no less-- a sinking line, no additional weight at all. The big one came out from under the bank, and hit right in front of me. It was like slow motion in the clear water, man. After jumping a couple of times, he spit the fly back at me like it was old gum,” he chuckled.

Oneida Lake is still solidly in winter’s grip, handing icers some dynamite late season opportunities.

What’s good for the anglers isn’t ideal for the birds. Canada geese and other migratory waterfowl are having trouble finding liquid water. Most are concentrated in the Oneida River on the east side of Brewerton.

A few others are treading shallow water at the mouths of small streams trickling down from the Tug Hill Plateau. Works of natural art, these rivulets slowly, deliberately tear into Oneida Lake’s icy crown, reaching further and further into the drink by the hour, giving cabin weary soft water anglers something reassuring to look at while waiting for ice-out.

Oneida Lake resident Susan Douglass
admiring a rivulet busting through the ice.