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July 14, 2004
National Outdoor Writers Visit Oswego County
By Doug Fuegel
When someone says to you, "even someone from Alabama could come here and catch fish," it could mean that Alabamans are great fishermen, or it could mean that this is an area where fish literally jump into your boat. I think I will not dig too deep into that statement, which was made by Wes Thomas, a successful Bass Master angler from Andover, Indiana. Wes, along with five other Bass Master anglers and five national outdoor writers, recently spent four very successful days fishing in Oswego County waters.
When testing lures and showcasing products, Chris Gulstad looks for an area with plenty of water that boasts of great fishing. Chris is national public relations director of Pradco Fishing in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Also needed are anglers and outdoor writers who know a bit about fishing. All of these ingredients were in place June 26 through 30, for an adventure for writers and anglers who had never visited or wet a line in Oswego County's waters before.
The outdoor writers, who regularly contribute to several national magazines, included Dave Scroppo, Traverse City, Michigan; Keith Jackson, Port Townsend, Washington; Darl Black, Cochranton, PA; John Neporadny, Lake Ozark, MO; and Jeff Samsel, Clarksville, GA.
One tribute to the fishing skills of the anglers was evident by the success of Bass Master angler Frank Scalish, who came to Oswego County immediately after winning the $50,000 Buffalo Bass Master Invitational with a whopping three-day total of 15 fish weighing 55 pounds.
Scalish quizzed me by asking "Does Oneida Lake have muskellunge in it?" Tossing his lure into the swirl made by a big fish in a weedy bay of Oneida Lake, he immediately connected with a rod bending fury he knew was not a smallmouth. Working the big fish -- which he estimated at more than 40 inches -- to the boat, he positively identified it as a musky before releasing it. Scalish ended by saying that Oneida Lake was one of the most productive bass waters he has fished.
Oswego County natives know a bit about the weather here and what the winds can do to Lake Ontario. The first few days of the trip, seven- and eight-foot swells kept the classy bass boats off the big lake. However, the winds proved to be a blessing in disguise. Eager to fish, the bass anglers and their partner writers were forced to launch their boats in quieter waters such as Sandy Pond, Oswego Harbor and Oneida Lake.
There was no disappointment among the group-- Sandy Pond gave up some magnificent smallmouth bass and huge largemouth specimens. Oswego Harbor proved equally lucrative for the anglers who tossed their lures in the protection of the harbor along the barrier breakwall and caught smallmouths at almost every cast. They were delighted at the action. The big lake wind persisted and on day three the group converged on Oneida Lake, which at day's end shattered their wildest dreams of best places to fish.
"It amazes me that the walleye and smallmouth fishing on Lakes Ontario and Oneida haven't garnered more attention," stated Jeff Samsel. "I experienced four fabulous days of fishing, each very different in character."
Samsel suggests these great fishing opportunities have been overshadowed by Oswego County's world-class trout and salmon fishing. Samsel's biggest limitation was time. He regrets not stepping into the Salmon River or experiencing the power of our super jumbo brown trout fishing off a big charter boat. "Next time," he says.
National outdoor writer Darl Black has fished Lake Erie many times for smallmouth bass. He was fully aware going into this trip the possibilities of getting on Ontario with bass boats would be a roll of the dice, and he was overwhelmed at the success of bass fishing in our Oswego Harbor. Concerning Oneida Lake, Black stated, "Tuesday was the best Zara Spook topwater bite I have experienced in ten years. Oneida Lake rates a big '10' in my book; it is a fantastic fishery that will draw a lot of anglers."
You can read what Black has to say of this area by visiting his web site at www.SmallmouthQuest.com.
Outdoor writer Keith Jackson summed it up by saying, "In my travels in the U.S. and Canada, I've fished most of the best smallmouth bass waters -- the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon, the Mississippi, a Snake in Idaho, the Tennessee River in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, a number of very good lakes in Minnesota and Ontario, and the fishing in your area equals or surpasses many of those more famous waters."
"The wind prevented us from fishing much on Lake Ontario, but Oneida Lake sure was great, we had wolf packs of smallmouth chasing our lures," is how John Neoporadny describes our area. "I really like the area because it offers so many fishing opportunities for so many species; it was nice to have the option to fish Oneida when Lake Ontario was too rough."
On day four, our big lake calmed as winds subsided and at least one bass boat ventured out of our harbor to the Main Ducks -- a bit of a ride but the rewards in great fishing made it well worthwhile. Working the rocky shoreline in four to six feet of water the angler-writer team hooked up with more than 50 smallmouth bass.
In the next few months, word will spread far and wide as these writers pen the story of our great fishing, not only in Lake Ontario but our countless other lakes and ponds, all supporting some of the best fishing in the entire nation. The one common comment I received from my interviews with the writers and bass anglers was the tremendous number of diverse opportunities this area offers to anglers.
This four-day event would not have happened but for the commitment to this region by the Oswego County Department of Promotion and Tourism, the City of Oswego Community Development Office, Charles Krupke of the Redwood Motel, Nancy Farrell of the Port Lodge, and Pradco Outdoors.
For up-to-date fishing conditions in Oswego County, visit the Oswego County Web site at www.oswegocounty.com, or call the Fish'n'Fun line at 1-800-248-4FUN.
Doug Fuegel is the weekly outdoor writer for the Oswego County Weeklies, freelances for several outdoor publications and contributor to several area tourism guides. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, past president of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association, and member of the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Promotion Council. He recently retired from several years as a charter captain on eastern Lake Ontario. He resides in West Monroe with his wife Shirley and son Jeff. You can contact Doug at 315-668-9492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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