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September 20, 2011

Wading a Big River Presents Its Own Challenges

Anglers Ready for Fall Salmon Run -
By Spider Rybaak

An angler enjoys the solitude of the Salmon River in the Lake Ontario Tributary Anglers Council (LOTAC) tournament last fall in Oswego County. (Photo by Jessica Burt, Oswego County Tourism.)

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY - September spurs mature salmon to run upstream to spawn. Likewise, anglers from all over the world will run to their nearest Great Lakes tributaries looking for the fishing adventures of a lifetime. Regardless of whether you're targeting major river systems like the Salmon or Oswego, or skinny streams like Deer, Sandy and Grindstone Creeks, using common sense and paying attention to your surroundings can make the difference between staying stationary and upright in the whitewater or slipping and sliding and falling in.

Now, if you're just a casual angler who doesn't mind fishing from the safety of solid footing, like the fenced, linear parks lining the lower Oswego River in the city of Oswego, the only comforts you need to bring along are raingear in case it rains and a folding chair to take a load off.

However, if you're like most of us, standing on solid ground just ain't gonna cut it. You see, to experience truly close and personal encounters with the fish, the one-on-one contests pitting human intelligence and dexterity against animal instinct and brute strength that dreams are made of, you're gonna have to walk - maybe even run - through the rapids. And that's dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.

Here are some tips on wading safely:

Traction is a fast-water angler's best friend. Everything from the algae-covered floor and wobbly rocks to patches of weeds can trip you up. Avoid slipping and sliding by wearing traction devices like Korkers, and carrying a wading staff.

Even the best grippers can't keep you steady all the time. Wear a flotation device in case you inadvertently step into a deep hole, trip over a rock or get swept away by a rogue current.

The sun's glare on the water can prevent you from seeing where you're stepping. A pair of polarized sunglasses will cut through the glare.

Although sirens followed by announcements warn anglers of rising waters on the Oswego River, and the power company on the Salmon River doesn't generally release water from the lower dam during the day, streams are extremely sensitive to run-off. Always be aware of the water level before stepping in. For instance, find an object on the bank - a tree, for example, or a rock - make a mental note on its position relative to the waterline, and keep an eye on it. If the water seems to be rising on it, get out. The same holds true if you feel the water rising on your boots.

Always test the water with one foot first, and never wade in if the current feels too strong; even if there's someone else already out there. He may be heavier or taller, factors that enhance stability.

Additional suggestions, and a map showing accessible areas of the Oswego River below Varick Dam, are available at visitoswegocounty.com (click on fishing and hunting, then fishing reports, and scroll down to the Brookfield Varick Fish Safely brochure).

Oswego County's streams boast the finest salmon fishing in the country. A little common sense and a whole lot of respect for nature's awesome power will help ensure your fishing adventure is safe and productive...and that we'll see you again next year.

For current water conditions on the Salmon River, call Waterline, a national company that offers FlowCast, "an-online system that dam operators and hydroelectric power producers use to report their flow forecasts for publication," at 1-800-452-1742 and give the stream's six-digit code 365123 at the prompt; or online at www.h20line.com/365123.asp.

To learn more about Oswego County's world-class streams, go to visitoswegocounty.com or call the fishing hotline at 800-248-4386.

Spider Rybaak is an award-winning outdoor writer who has been published in more than 20 periodicals. He is the author of "Fishing Eastern New York" and "Fishing Western New York" guide books that cover 429 streams and lakes in New York State. Contact him at srybaak@yahoo.com. Check out his blog at http://fishingandhuntinginoswego.blogspot.com/

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