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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Local anglers eagerly await walleye opener

This Saturday, May 2, will be the second big opener of the fishing season and one that many local anglers eagerly await. The season for walleye, northern pike and pickerel will open this weekend but for the overwhelming majority of local fishermen the most popular fish by a large margin is the walleye. And the consensus of most of the walleye fishermen and women is that Oneida Lake is the place that you want to be.
Generations of local anglers have grown up fishing for walleye on Oneida Lake and its tributaries. Despite some changes and periods of tough fishing, fishing on Oneida Lake is a strong local tradition. When you add the fact that walleye are one of the best tasting fish you can see why it is so popular.
Oneida Lake has a reputation as being one of the best fishing holes in New York State. But as we all know that does not mean that you can just throw any old lure in anyplace and haul in lots of fish. The sheer size, the uncertainty of weather and other variables make fishing success anything but a certainty.
To help eager anglers put the odds in their favor, we turned to Ted Dobs for advice for this weekend’s season opener. Ted is a local resident who has logged countless hours on Oneida Lake fishing for walleye and bass. In the past he has guided extensively on the lake and still puts in a lot of time figuring out the fishery.
When I asked Ted for his predictions and advice earlier this week, he said that it was the coldest spring that he can remember, even with the trend of colder spring weather in recent years. He said that it really makes things easier since it delays the spawning period and the males feed like crazy right after spawning. Catching lunkers may be more of a challenge since the larger females have probably just finished spawning and are probably resting.
The creeks and canals were loaded with walleye last week and they should still be there this weekend. Ted Dobs suggests using stickbaits like Rapala or similar lures and fishing the tributaries at night or at periods of low light like daybreak. He also says that bucktail jigs, sonars and three inch twister tail grubs work well all day long.
Ted’s personal favorites for the east end of the lake and areas like the canal or Fish Creek are a white twister tail rigged on a 3/8 ounce jig head or a ½ ounce sandpike colored (brown and white pattern) jig tipped with a chartreuse colored twister tail grub. He believes the fish should be concentrated and hungry at this time so there is no need to get fancy with lures. You just need to keep moving until you find active fish.
For those fishing the lake, Ted feels that it is always a safe bet to fish sonars. His personal favorites are silver and chartreuse in clear water. He switches to gold color on overcast days or periods of low light, and uses a firetiger pattern if the water is a bit discolored. Bucktails with live nightcrawler also work very well on the lake. When tipping your jigs with worms, anglers should always use a stinger hook and do not use more than half a worm on the jig.
The most popular color jigs have always been the black and purple but Ted reminds anglers not to discount brown, black or even the old school yellow jig that was so popular in the 1980s. He believes that color plays a factor but said that size and keeping the jig in contact with the bottom is often the deciding factor in enticing a walleye into biting.
Ted is optimistic that it should be one of the best springs ever for walleye fishing and the bite should last well into the summer. There will obviously be a lot of anglers out there this weekend so if the action does slow down when fish are pressured, try moving away from the traffic. Fish will be hungry but enough pressure will shut them down. Often you are better off by fishing in some areas that have less fish but are more willing to bite than a large school that has been harassed by anglers and reluctant to bite.
Deer Harvest Figures: The deer harvest press release is due out shortly but earlier this week a friend gave me a sneak peak at the lengthy report. We will have a more detailed report when the full report is available but in the meantime there are a few figures worth considering.
The total number of bucks taken in 2014 was 108,604 compared to 114,716 killed in 2013. This was a decrease of 5.3 percent. The total number of deer for the state was down only 2 percent but that figure reflects the fact that a lot more DMPs were issued.
In the northern zone, there were 16,727 bucks taken compared to 90,702 in the southern zone. In region 7M there was a total of antlerless 3,631 deer taken from 19,878 permits issued, for a success rate of about 18 percent. This percentage is slightly less that previous year’s success rate.
Cicero Lions Club Walleye Derby: The Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club will hold its 37th annual walleye derby on opening weekend of the season on Oneida Lake and the lower tributaries. Dates are May 2 and 3 with fishing from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. There will be over $10,000 in cash and merchandise prizes for the top 25 fish based on length. There will also be daily bonus draw tickets and tagged fish prizes.
All entries must be weighed in between the hours listed above and fish must be live. For complete rules and details, as well as weigh stations, check the website Entry fee is $10. You can register online at website or at various weigh stations around the lake until midnight on Friday.
Spider Rybaak’s book: Spider Rybaak is a well-known outdoor writer, author and fisherman who has just published his latest book – Fishing Oneida Lake. Spider has always believed in a hands-on approach whether it is fishing, teaching or writing and this newest book is no exception. Spider lives in Canastota and spent considerable time fishing his way around the entire lake and talking to local experts at various spots.
His book gives a brief overview of the lake and its fishery and then literally takes you around the lake to all of the fishing spots from bays, buoys and bridges. At each spot he gives a description, fishing species found there and his advice for being successful.
The book is organized by seasons as it covers the trips around and on the lake. Thus you know what you are likely to find at a certain pier or cove at a specific time of year and how to go about fishing there. In addition to his own personal advice, Spider is quick to bring in anecdotes or suggestions from local characters. Not only is the advice helpful, it makes for much more enjoyable reading than some of the “cookie cutter” publications that too often litter book shelves today.
Pick up Spider’s book and you will quickly see that one size does not fit all when it comes to fishing different areas or species on Oneida Lake. For a complete guide to the 67 specific locations that he has chosen, get your copy of Fishing Oneida Lake. It is available at local bookstores, tackle shops or from the publisher, Burford Books, at


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