Friday, August 28, 2015

Fishing in Fulton

By Spider Rybaak

Fishing lesson below Lock #3.

Oswego means different things to different folks. To most, it’s simply the county hugging Lake Ontario’s southeastern corner. History buffs recognize it as Lake Ontario’s oldest port city. And academics think of its SUNY campus, one of the state’s greatest teachers colleges.

Anglers, on the other hand, appreciate Oswego for its original Indian meaning: mouth of the river. From October through March, they’re drawn to the city with dreams of catching trophy trout and salmon the size of the ones swimming through their imaginations.

Unfortunately, chinooks and browns won’t be in the city’s fast waters until next month.

But that’s OK. You see, the remaining 22 miles of river, stretching from Three Rivers to the top of its last dam, is the haunt of massive quantities of popular warmwater game fish like walleyes, northern pike and black bass, and lesser species like sheepshead, catfish, carp, panfish, bowfin, gar, you name it.

What’s more, much of the river’s most productive water is accessible to the public and easy to reach. You see, the water’s natural course is fairly steep, and it tumbles over some serious drops in places like Phoenix and Fulton.

The rapids were tamed by locks and dams when the Barge Canal was built early in the 20th century. Harnessing the river’s power opened a tsunami of economic opportunity. Hamlets around the dams flourished, becoming cities. Before long, riverside communities built recreational infrastructure like river walks, parks and public launches.

Fulton is especially blessed. Its east bank offers access sites at both of its bridges.

The South First Street access site (at the southeastern corner of the NY 3 Bridge) offers parking for about 20 cars and pedestrian access. You’ll have to climb a long set of stairs to get to the water. You won’t be able to reach the rapids from here, only the deep, slow moving water in the canal, and the channel coming out of the powerhouse.

The northern (Oneida Street) bridge offers similar access on its southeastern corner, also off South First Street.  From this site you can walk north on the canal’s western retaining wall for about a quarter mile, to a spillway, arguably the hottest fishing spot in Fulton.

Before the State stocked salmon and trout into Lake “O,” Fulton was considered the hottest fishing destination on the Oswego River for everything from walleyes to monster catfish.

Still is, in fact, and its wealth of public access makes it one of the most convenient fishing spots in the state for warmwater species.

View from the top of the lock.

Friday, August 14, 2015

School for Bassin’

By Spider Rybaak

Randy Howell
Back in the old days, vacation meant a break from school or work so you could fish to your heart’s content. Nowadays, a lot of guys take vacations to go back to school…to learn how to fish.

Fishing classes have been around since the days of Christ when ancient Romans cast flies made of dyed wool for rainbows in the Tiber River. More recently, mail-order giant Orvis has been offering fly-fishing lessons for years. This author has been conducting free kids fishing classes each summer since 2004, and is up to 25 sessions annually (contact Oswego County Tourism for a schedule).

Now a bass fishing school is coming to Oneida Lake.

On August 2, 2015, Get Hooked Fishing Academy,  billed as “the top Northeast bass fishing school,” held a promotional event in Brewerton, kicking-off a six-month, hands-on course “designed to improve participant’s skills and knowledge in the sport of bass fishing.”

Get Hooked will teach students how to catch bass consistently, in all seasons. You’ll be trained in “different rod and reel set-ups, differences in fishing line, fishing knots, artificial baits and lures, all while learning to think, adapt and react instantly to the fishing environment.”

Mike Pikulinski, one of the founding members, says “the program has been in the works for a number of years now. Our hope is that these classes will be a fun and healthy way to bring the community, youth and families together …”

“Some of the pros scheduled to appear include Randy Howell, 2014 Bass Master Champion [he just won the August 6-8, 2015 Bass Masters Opener], Brent Chapman, Jacob Powroznik and more.”

Picking Oneida Lake for the course is a no-brainer.  Ranked 40th on the list of the country’s top bass lakes, its fish-packed waters have been floating bass tournaments, including major national competitions, for years.
What’s more, its location just north of Syracuse, a major metropolitan area, subjects the water to heavy fishing pressure. Its bass get stuck a lot, quickly becoming seasoned veterans, challenging to catch and perfect teaching models.

Get Hooked’s mission statement reads: “To improve all anglers’ skill level as it relates to fishing, environment, conservation, but most of all to enjoy the sport of fishing. Let’s all strive to become better people that will contribute to nature and society in a positive way.”

For more information, visit, call (315) 634-9493, or email

Brent Chapman
David Dudley

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Time and the Fishin’s Easy

By Spider Rybaak
Easy fishin  below the dam at Caughedenoy.
An old timer I know loves to drift and troll. He’s easy to find because he loves to sing. Unfortunately, he has a terrible voice and it's powerful enough to cut through everything from Oneida Lake’s heavy boat traffic and high winds to the water noisily squirting through the sides of the flood gates at Caughdenoy and the gentle roar of the rapids below.

But a voice terrible enough to force flies off a sun-ripened carp cadaver ain’t his only claim to notoriety. He adds further insult to the natural world by endlessly singing the same refrain over and over…hundreds of times in one fishing trip.

I heard him in Caughdenoy a couple days ago. He was sitting on the bank, drinking a bear, bottom-fishing in the plunge pool below the floodgates and singing: "Summertime... and the fishin's easy."

“How they hittin’?” I ask.

“A rockie and sheepshead,  he replies, and resumes singing.

I start casting a Bass Pro Extreme minnow about 10 feet below him. Fifteen excruciating minutes, and a sheepshead later I inquire: “Is that the only tune you know?”

My question sends him into deep thought, almost trance-like. It was the longest quiet spell I’ve ever experienced in his presence.

Just as I'm getting up to check his pulse, his lips flap to life.
“I’m just singing about what we’re doin’” he replies. “Look at us, we’re just sitting here pot-luck fishing, hoping for a catfish, sheepshead, sunny, sucker, whatever. It’s late summer and the fishin’s, easy."

Several folks around us were taking it easy, too. Some fished the deep, slow water above the dam, others the pool and rapids below.

One guy was standing out in the middle, in the mild rapids just below the pool. Sticking his rod into his hip boots so his hands were free for a beer and a smoke, the rod tip poked out of his head like an antenna, and the cigarettes smoke wafting around him made him look like he was short-circuiting.

The sun was high and the wind was refreshing. And in the long spells between hits, talk and laughter filled the air.

But there were a lot of silent spots, too, where folks just sat, forgetting about life for a little while and watching the river run by.

Bottom-fishing above the dam at Caughedenoy
The rapids below the dam offer easy fishin', too