July 17, 2009
Open Water Fishing in Oswego County
By Spider Rybaak
New York has so much water, from space it looks like it’s covered in a mad spider’s web: dark blotches (lakes) connected by a series of black strands (streams). Oswego County is blessed with a lion’s share of this valuable resource, and every gallon of it offers world-class fishing.
Indeed, Oswego’s waters are notorious for rewarding anglers with trophies the size of the ones swimming through their heads. Exceptional fish that trace their roots to this part of the state include the world record coho salmon, and the state record brown trout and chinook salmon.
Still, all habitats have periods that are more productive than others. Come the dog days of summer, the place to go to fulfill your fishy dreams is one of the area’s pair of world-renown lakes: Ontario and Oneida.
America’s Best Spot for Brown Trout
Oswego County’s corner of Lake Ontario, the smallest Great Lake and the second deepest after Lake Superior, is notorious for huge brown trout all summer long.
“Mexico Bay is my primary work site,” claims Capt. Robin Sheltra. “It’s without a doubt one of the top brown trout fisheries in the entire country.”
Capt. Sheltra likes to run Michigan Stingers and Smithwick Rogues behind downriggers, just off bottom, in 40 to 75 feet of water in summer. He suggests setting a line shallow, or attaching a cheater for steelhead.
Launch at the state’s Mexico Bay access site, located at the end of Pond Drive, off CR 40 and NYS 104B, in the hamlet of Texas. Salmon Magnet
Lake Ontario is very good to salmon. In fact, it’s better suited for growing gargantuan coho than the species’ home waters, the Pacific Ocean.
For most of the year, cohos and their larger, more popular West Coast cousins, chinooks, scatter around the lake. As the days grow shorter, the most mature get stung by the urge to spawn and start keying in on the Salmon River, site of the state’s largest salmonid hatchery. By late July, a disproportionate number of the biggest, meanest, toughest of the lot cruises the deep waters of the lake’s southeastern corner, feasting on massive schools of alewives in preparation for their final act: running the Salmon River to spawn.
Early arrivals stage over 100 to 300 feet of water and hit Michigan Stingers and “sticks” (minnow imitating crankbaits). As they ripen and move closer to the mouth, they become extremely territorial, violently attacking large lures like J-plugs, magnum Rapalas and NK spoons flatlined around and through the river’s plume.
Launch at the Lighthouse Marina, on Lake Road extension, off NY 3.
Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, the Oswego River, is a big presence on the lake’s south side.
In mid-summer mature kings stage in the area before their spawning runs. “Generally, they’re suspended over 100 to 500 feet of water,” says Captain Tom Burke. “We look for pods of bait and run A-Tom-Mik flies behind attractors like Echips and Spin Doctors.
Launch at Wright’s Landing, on Lake Street (west side of the river) in the city of Oswego or from the Oswego marina off East First Street. Lake of the Eyes
Oneida Lake, one of the world’s most popular walleye spots, is also a panfish and bass factory. Your best bet in Central New York for frying pan-sized walleye, and site of several national bass tournaments over the past few years, the lake gets pounded heavily by meat and recreational anglers.
This time of year walleyes hangout in cool temperatures found in water 20-something feet deep, and are partial to vertically jigged blade baits, and bucktail jigs, fished plain or tipped with a worm.
If deep water is a little too far out for your liking, fish the outside openings and edges of weeds beds; the later in the day, the better. At dusk, the fish often come up onto shoals and respond well to “sticks.”
School-size smallmouth bass often share habitat with walleyes. Larger specimens can be found along drop-offs, deep weed edges, and off the “pancakes” in the eastern half of the lake. A juicy crayfish is their favorite dish.
Fisherman-friendly Oswego County boasts some of the most productive angling opportunities in the entire country. In addition, it offers more free fishing access sites than some Western States. So c’mon up and try your luck.
For more information go to www.visitoswegocounty.com or call 800-248-4386 and request an Oswego County Fishing and Hunting guide.
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