Blogs > Oneida Outdoors

An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Salmon fishing offers fun, excitement

Sunlight filters through the gold and red leaves bordering the river as an angler casts repeatedly to the deep water along the far shore. Suddenly there is an eruption of water as a huge fish leaps clear of the water and starts a powerful run downstream. The reel screams as the salmon peels a hundred yards of line in a single run while the angler desperately tries to slow the mighty fish before it breaks clear.
Welcome to the sport of salmon fishing. Scenes like this will soon be common for another few weeks along the Salmon River, the Oswego River, smaller tributaries, and streams all along the Lake Ontario shoreline. It is world class fishing right in our backyard and once you have experienced it, it is difficult to forget about it.
Veteran anglers are eager for the run to start in earnest but so far only a few salmon are entering the river. Warm temperatures and low water levels have delayed the spawning run so far. Usually a cold rain will trigger the movement of salmon from the areas of the lake in front of the tributaries to head up river.
However, once their biological clock indicates that the time for spawning has come, the fish will head upriver regardless of water levels or temperatures. So the best bet is to have your gear ready and check with reliable sources like Jim Dence’s All Seasons Sports Shop in Pulaski for conditions on the salmon run.
Once the run starts in earnest you can bet that anglers from all over the area will be heading for the Salmon River or other tributaries of Lake Ontario. The bigger holes like the Sportsman’s Hole or Trestle Pool and areas near the bridges will see lots of anglers lining the banks. Be courteous and pull your line or get out of the way when some other angler yells “fish on” and starts running along the bank trying to keep up with the fish on the end of his line.
The best way to avoid crowds is to fish in the middle of the week and fish early or late in the day. The first and last hours of the day are the best time to fish anyway since that is when the salmon are moving upstream. Be prepared to walk a bit to get away from the crowds. Stop at the hatchery in Altmar or at All Seasons Sports Shop on Route 13 in Pulaski to get a map of the river with convenient access points.
Although salmon do not feed when they enter the tributaries to spawn, they can be coaxed into striking out of aggression or instinct. Large flies such as Wooly Buggers, estaz egg patterns, or Comets, single hook lures or egg sacks are all common ways of taking salmon in the river. Salmon tend to hit egg sacks or artificial eggs and flies that imitate eggs. The theory is that they want to remove any competition to their own spawn.
Chinook salmon tend to travel in deep water and stay near the river bottom as they migrate upstream. Thus your bait, fly or lure should pass just off the bottom since the fish do not move up in the water column to strike. Concentrate on the heads or tails of pools, deep runs along the banks or behind the boulders, etc. that break the current. You want your bait or lure to move naturally just over the bottom. Add or subtract split shot to a dropper line to keep your lure at proper depth.
While battling salmon is definitely not a job for ultralight tackle, neither do you want the 50-pound test line and broomstick rods that some bass fishermen tend to use. Long rods help you fight the fish and also aid in keeping line off the water, preventing drag on your bait in the presentation. Most fly fishermen prefer 9-foot rods for 8- or 9-weight line. Spin fishermen commonly use a medium action 8- or 9-foot rod. Both call for quality reels with good drags and lots of capacity. The main line should be 12-pound test with a four-foot leader of six-pound test. Some anglers opt for heavier line but the key is to let the rod do the work and tire the fish.
If you have never fished for salmon in the streams you might want to consider hiring a guide to show you how as well as where. Former local resident Chris Mulpagano (387-2623) is one of the best and uses his driftboat to cover lots of river. His son Nicholas (897-0737) is following in the family footsteps and is also an experienced  guide. Jay Peck (585-233-0436) is also one of the best and is familiar with many streams along the lake.
If you don’t have all the tackle you can check for anything you need, including Korkers for wading the slippery Salmon River bottom, at All Seasons Sports on Route 13 in Pulaski. Owner Jim Dence is a local resident who is familiar with conditions on the river and can outfit you with the proper equipment as well as advice. Call 315-298-6433 for more information.
You do not need to spend $5,000 or more for a fishing trip in Alaska to experience the great excitement and fun of salmon fishing. You can do it right in our own backyard. But beware: once you catch salmon fever it is hard to get rid of it.
IFHCNY: The Independent Fur harvesters of Central New York are selling tickets on a bear hunt for the club’s biggest fundraiser. Call 750-5227 to reserve yours. The Club will be attending the Carpenter’s Brook Sportsmans Days on September 26 and 27. They will also have a Trapper Training Class on October 3 at the Pompey Rod & Gun Club.
Turkey Season: Because of declining numbers of turkeys the past few years, the DEC has shortened the fall turkey season to two weeks in both zones. Northern Zone season is October 1–14 and the Southern Zone season is October 17–30. Bag limit has been reduced to one bird. One note of encouragement is that many people have been seeing decent sized groups or flocks of young birds despite the cold wet weather last spring. Perhaps the turkeys in this part of the state are hardier and tougher, just like the people who live here.
Deer Management Permits: The DEC reminded hunters to apply for deer management permits (DMPs) this week, ahead of the October 1 deadline. Unfortunately many of the licensing agencies cannot handle the changes to a new computerized system and have given up selling licenses or other transactions.
DEC’s computerized licensing system allows hunters to immediately learn the outcome of their permit application. The likelihood that a hunter will be selected for a permit is largely based on the number of deer management permits to be issued in a Wildlife Management Area and the number of hunters that historically apply.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Be a stand-up marksman

Hunting season really isn’t that far away. It will be here before we know it and many sportsmen will be thinking that they should have practiced their shooting more. Ideally we should shoot a lot and practice our marksmanship most of the year. Realistically most of us do not. A few others go out for a day or two just before the season, fire a few rounds, and say “close enough.” Probably the majority of hunters do a little plinking during the summer and then get serious about practicing during September and October.
The first thing you have to do is sight in your gun. Have a bench rest or other steady area to eliminate gun movement. Fire enough rounds of the ammunition you will be hunting with to make sure that the gun will hit where you aim it. Make any adjustments to the telescopic or open sights that you need to.
Next you face the reality that you won’t be having a bench rest out in the woods while you are hunting. Practice shooting from different positions, especially the ones that you will be using most while hunting. Shooting from a prone position is the steadiest but the one we are less likely to use unless we are stalking game at long distances out west.
Sitting and resting the gun on your knee is much steadier but we are not likely to use that except while sitting on watch for deer or possibly calling in predators. Today most of us still shoot offhand from a standing position, while sitting on a stump or from a tree stand.
The least steady, but most commonly used shot is the standing or offhand shot. The reason for this is that we are often standing while waiting for deer, walking, still-hunting or stalking. Deer, coyote or squirrels are not going to stand there and watch us while we sit down, get comfortable and draw a bead on them.
Pat Salerno, the noted Adirondack deer hunter, stresses that he usually carries his gun at “port arms” or held in front of his chest to be ready for a quick but steady shot when he sees a deer. He may only have a few seconds and having the gun ready will give him time to properly mount the gun and take a careful aim.
Many of us may think that because we have the gun sighted in, it will be alright. There is, however, a lot more to it. Our form, getting the proper sight picture and steadying the gun all are important factors. Holding the gun steady is an overlooked factor, especially as we “add a few years” our muscles aren’t what they used to be and our aim is not as steady.
If you have any doubt, give yourself this test. Crank up the power on your rifle scope, use your telephoto lens on the camera at high power or just use a high power binocular and try to hold it steady on some distant object. A lot of people will see the object bounce around in their lens or even disappear from view. Imagine that you are now firing your gun during this small movement and you will see how your bullet can miss completely.
Some time ago David Petzal of Field & Stream had an article that said shooting while standing is by far the most difficult of all the positions. It requires exponentially more practice than any other simply to be competent, never mind good. He emphasized that it is still absolutely necessary to master unless you enjoy papering the walls of your home with unpunched licenses.
According to Petzal, the secret to shooting offhand is to accept that no one can hold a rifle steady while standing. So don’t try to eliminate muzzle movement; instead, control it. Develop the finesse to make the end of the barrel move in a circle and to make that circle smaller and smaller as you aim. Then, the instant the crosshairs are on any part of the bull’s-eye, pull the trigger. Crude as this approach may seem, a great many of your shots will land in the center of the bull anyway.
You must be able to shoot fast because bucks won’t stand around waiting for you. An aimed offhand shot should take you no more than five seconds, and three is better. The longer you wait, the more things will go wrong.
Start practicing by using a .22 rimfire that is as close to your centerfire rifle as possible. Get a package of 100 NRA A-17 paper targets, each of which has 11 black bull’s-eyes about the size of a silver dollar.
Set your scope at 4X and start from 20 feet. Shoot strings of five rounds per bull; a hit anywhere in the black counts. Your initial efforts are likely to be very bad
As you improve, move back to 25 yards. Once you are shooting mostly fours and fives, switch to your centerfire rifle and shoot from 100 yards at a 50-yard pistol target with an 8-inch bull’s-eye. Shoot no more than 20 rounds per session, and try to get all of them in the black. Very few shooters can do this; if you can get 18 or 19 into the 10-ring, you’ve done very well.
Practicing offhand is logistically easier, cheaper, and more valuable to real hunters than practicing at long range will ever be. Second, shooting is a sport of muscle memory, repetition and concentration, so shoot lots.
Of course, if the opportunity presents you should also use a handy tree or something similar, to brace your forward hand against. Just remember not to rest the barrel of the rifle on the tree or post, etc. You can also drop to a kneeling position, if possible, which takes but a moment and steadies the shot considerably.
Ladies & Youth Day VNSP: Ladies of all ages and boys and girls ages 12–16 are invited to a day of adventure, fun and learning skills provided free thanks to grants by the local Friends of NRA. The day will be Saturday, Sept. 19, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Vernon National Shooting Preserve on Burns Road, Vernon Center. Activities include a pheasant hunt with guides, personal instruction in shotgun skills with certified instructors, and shooting trap and sporting clays.
Meals include a light breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages throughout the day. Participants need to bring a shotgun. Ammunition (12 and 20 gauge) will be provided. A Hunter Safety Course certificate is required for all youths shooting and for ladies to hunt pheasants. The event is limited to 50 participants. Reserve your spot early by calling Ralph Meyer (264-1087) or Lynne Pletl (527-4016).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Striking facts about lightning

Many years ago, Tom Van Pelt and I were fishing for bullheads after dark in the remote southeast bay of Big Moose Lake. Bullheads were biting and we ignored the distant rumble of thunder and flashes of lightning on the northern horizon. A few minutes later the rain came down in buckets and the sky lit up like a July 4 fireworks display. Thunder echoed off the nearby mountains and it seemed like one continuous explosion.
Sitting in that aluminum boat with only a 2 ½ hp motor and the lightning cracking all around us, I was sure that we were going to be “toast” at any minute. But miraculously we escaped and the storm rapidly moved on. We escaped being a statistic that day but we have had a healthy respect for thunderstorms ever since.
Actuaries and statisticians will tell you that an average of 51 people per year are killed by lightning in the United States. They point out that many other common occurrences are more likely to kill you. That may be true but why tempt fate and become one of the unlucky ones?
Millions of lightning strikes bombard the USA every year. Although cloud to ground strikes are only about 25 percent of the total strikes, a typical lightning storm produces three or more strikes to earth per minute.
An average of 20,000 people in the world are hit by lightning each year. The amazing thing is that 90 percent of the people hit by lightning survive. They were evidently not in the main path of the electrical charge. Survivors often suffer severe injury to their internal organs and central nervous system.
Fishermen or boaters are the group in the USA that is far more likely to be hit by lightning than any other. Not only are they vulnerable by being a boat with fishing rods, antennae, etc. out in the middle of a body of water, they are often caught in a storm. Many fishermen will venture too far out on a large lake in search of fish and be unable to safely return to land before the fast moving storm hits. We also know some fishermen who stubbornly refuse to quit fishing and hope that the storm will pass around them.
Lightning is caused by an electrical build up of negative charges, usually on the bottom of a fast moving cloud. This negative charge travels to another positively charged area in another cloud or the ground. This huge spark of electricity follows the path of least resistance so tall buildings, trees, or the highest object in any area are likely to provide that route.
We all know that standing under a tall tree or being in a boat out in the middle of the lake are things that you want to avoid. You should also avoid unsafe buildings, carports, pavilions, tents or golf shelters. The electrical charge can also pass near or even through you in those areas.
Cars or enclosed shelters are the safest place to be during an electrical storm. Stay away from electrical wires, phone lines, water pipes and open doors or windows. If you are caught out in the open you should crouch low but do not kneel, sit or lie on the ground.
Despite the old saying, lightning does strike twice in the same place. Contrary to popular opinion you can be struck by lightning miles ahead of the storm. Lightning can strike 10 miles outward so if you can see it or hear the thunder you are already in danger.
This doesn’t mean that you should spend all season in your house with the windows shut and the air conditioning on! It does mean that you should be aware of conditions and storm warnings and not venture out too far from shore in your boat on those days. Wherever you are you can keep an eye and an ear tuned for storms approaching and seek safe shelter in a timely manner. With precautions and common sense (and luck) you can avoid being a statistic.
IFHCNY: The Independent Fur harvesters of Central New York held its August meeting with lengthy discussion of the club’s future. Members are urged to sell tickets on the bear hunt because this is the club’s biggest fundraiser. They will be attending the Carpenter’s Brook Sportsmans Days on Sept. 26 and 27. They will also have a Trapper Training Class on Oct. 3 at the Pompey Rod and Gun Club. The next meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 10 with food served at 5:30 p.m. and meeting at 6.
Youth Goose Hunt: The Oneida County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and ECOs are again teaming up to offer a special youth goose hunt to youngsters who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go goose hunting. Youngsters must have completed their hunter safety course beforehand.
There will be a meeting with parents, ECOs and hunter mentors; target practice and other preparation for the next day’s hunt. This year’s hunt will take place on the weekend of Sept. 19 and 20. Youngsters will have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for goose hunting and then actually experience it with the guidance of an ECO or hunter mentor in the field.
The program is open to youths ages 12–17. A small game license and an HIP number is necessary for all youngsters. Youths ages 16-17 will also need a federal wildfowl stamp. Interested participants should contact Scott Faulkner (225-0192), ECO Steve Lakeman (734-0648) or ECO Ric Grisolini (240-6966) for an application for this program. Space in the program is limited so be sure to register early.
Ladies and Youth Day VNSP: Ladies of all ages and youths ages 12–16 (boys and girls) are invited to a day of adventure, fun and learning skills provided free thanks to grants by the local Friends of NRA. The day will be Saturday, Sept. 19, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Vernon National Shooting Preserve on Burns Road, Vernon Center. Activities include a pheasant hunt with guides, personal instruction in shotgun skills with certified instructors and shooting trap and sporting clays.
Meals include a light breakfast, lunch and snacks and beverages throughout the day. Participants need to bring a shotgun. Ammunition (12 and 20 gauge) will be provided. A Hunter Safety Course certificate is required for all youth shooting and for ladies to hunt pheasants. The event is limited to 50 participants. Reserve your spot early by calling Ralph Meyer (264-1087) or Lynne Pletl (527-4016).
DEC Pilot Project To Improve Public Input On Deer Populations: There will be an increased opportunity for public input in deer management decision-making under a pilot project launched by the state DEC. This new project will incorporate modern technology and gather input directly from a broader cross-section of New Yorkers.
DEC is initiating this pilot effort in Central New York and has selected a 1,325-square-mile group of three WMUs (7H, 8J and 8S). The pilot project will include embarking on a broad-scale education effort this fall to develop public understanding of the process, share results of the survey and convey information to the public regarding deer impacts, management issues and challenges in general.
Solicitation of input will be more far-reaching and representative than collecting opinions on a limited one-on-one basis. DEC biologists will base final objectives for deer population change on whether the public recommendation is compatible with existing levels of deer impacts on forests. Results of the process will be shared with the public, serving as an audit on the pilot system, and providing feedback for improving the process before expanding it to other WMU aggregates in the future.
The original process involved the selection of a relatively small group of citizens, usually 8 to 12 individuals, each representing a particular stake in the deer population level in a WMU. Members included farmers, hunters, motorists, foresters, landowners and others having an interest in the size of a unit’s deer herd. The group, as a whole then debated the merits of the various positions and settled on one collective recommendation to the DEC on which direction the local deer population should go and by how much.