Posts Tagged Pickerel

Oneida Lake – New York

When traveling with the Bassmaster Weekend Series last year I came upon a couple fisheries that are truly amazing. Today I am going to focus on Oneida Lake in New York. Even though we are a Pittsburgh based website and try to keep the lakes local to Western Pennsylvania, I felt that I had to tell people about this lake. I will be the first to tell you that I am not an expert or even pretend to know a lot about this body of water. However, this is one fishery that you don’t have to know in order to have a great day of fishing. Through the article I will touch on the most abundant species, camping, fishing techniques, and geographic features.

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First, I feel that it is important to know what kind of lake you are going to be fishing before you get there. Oneida lake is twenty-two miles in length from East to West and is anywhere from one to five miles wide North to South. The surface are of the lake is 50,000 acres. This makes it the biggest lake in New York State. Oneida Lake is located just North of Syracuse and was formed by glaciers during the ice age. Because it is a natural lake the water is clear to slightly stained most of the time. However, you could hit it during the algae bloom and see why it was nicknamed the green lake.

The first thing I noticed about the lake was the pure size of the lake. I had been on some large bodies of water, but next to the great lakes it was the biggest. For its size this body of water is relatively shallow. I fished the lake for 4 days and the deepest water I located was 30 feet. What you have to watch for is the islands and shoals that are thrown throughout the lake. These shoals are not always marked on makes and could be completely submerged if the water level is high. It is my recommendation to get a map or rely heavily on your gps unit while travel on Oneida Lake. Another thing that I notice was that because the lake runs east to West the waves can build very fast and can be very dangerous. High winds don’t necessarily have to seem high at this lake. 15 mph winds will cause three to five foot waves. You add in shoals that are all around and you can have a recipe for disaster.

Located at the South Western corner of the lake is Oneida Shores State Park. They have over fifty campsites which most of which have electric and water hook-ups. The bathrooms and shower house are very well kept. There is also a sand beach in the State Park. Launching your boat is free if you are camping in the campground, but there is a small launching fee if you are just using the launch for the day.

Oneida Lake may be one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries by sheer numbers that I have ever came across. There are many local bass tournaments held at Oneida Lake, but there are a surprising amount of professional tournaments held there ever year. Circuits such as the Bassmaster Elites, Bassmaster Weekend Series, Anglers Choice, and the BFL are just a couple of the many professional bass circuits to come to Oneida Lake every year. This species of smallmouth is somewhat shorter but very heavy. I was very surprised that a sixteen inch smallmouth bass was anywhere from 2.25 pounds to 2.75lbs. What I discovered was that when you found one of these guys there was a pack of them there. Once you turn on that school it was absolutely unbelievable. Prior to my trip to Oneida Lake I had probably only broke a spinnerbait about two times in my life. During my 4 days there I broke 8 spinnerbaits. Most of which were because of how vicious the hits are and how strong the fish are.

For anyone that heads up there in search of smallmouth bass I have a few suggestions as to what depth, structure, and lures to use. Knowing that smallmouth bass are predator fish the depth can vary throughout the course of the day. Also, the time of year will play a part in deciding what depth to fish at. As a rule of thumb, shallow points, points on the islands, or tops of shoals should be fished early in the morning or late at evening. The fish in these areas are aggressive can will hit topwater baits or other moving baits. My recommendation is to throw poppers with a rear red feathered hook or to throw a double willow spinnerbait. You may need to cover water until you find them but when you do watch out. The rest of the morning and the middle of the day I would focus on the eight to twenty foot depth range. I realize that this my seem pretty vague but typically eight to nine foot of water is a weed line that extend to the surface and when you back your boat off twenty-five or thirty yards (a minimum in clear water) you will more than likely be sitting in fourteen to sixteen feet of water. Several techniques seem to really work well in this depth range. I would start by covering water with spinnerbaits. Natural shad colors seem to work best and silver blades seem to be better than gold. Other moving baits that I would try are jerkbaits (hard and soft), lipless crankbaits, and in-line spinners. Yes, I said in-line spinners. These work surprising well up there and got bites when the bite would seem to have died. Dragging tubes and beavers were also effective. Drop shoting a wacky hooked 4” green pumpkin senko is also effective. The smallmouth bass in this lake are not hard to find but when you launch at Oneida Shores, drop your trolling motor and go to the right. There are a lot of tournaments that release a lot of fish there and it is well stocked. Just stay in the 8 to 10 foot range.

There is also a decent amount of largemouth bass in Oneida Lake. The largemouth bass tend to win bass tournaments but they are harder to find. I feel that the reason that they are harder to find is that most of the shoreline is covered in mat weeds and it looks very similar. Plus, the population of largemouth isn’t as high as smallmouth. Unlike the smallmouth I would stay fishing in the mat weeds. I would start by working frogs and buzzbaits overtop of the mat. Once I found an area that I felt would hold fish I would punch the weeds with a minimum of ¾ ounce weight with your soft plastic of choice. Personally, when I flip mat weeds I am using a one-ounce weight with a beaver or tube. I find the sender profile help get it through the mat. Other options are heavy jigs. Something that I noticed was when I can across a log that was in the weeds I typically got bit there. Big Bay and the channel have been known to produce big bags of largemouth bass. If you want to go off the beaten path check out 3 Mile Bay. I had some success there.

Walleye and perch are also abundant. I was able to catch multiple walleye while dropping my senko. I think if I had targeted walleye a little more we could have had a nice bag of walleye at the end of the day. Even more so than normal you are going to need light line because the water is so clear. May is supposed to be the best month for walleye fishing at Oneida Lake.

I found myself catching an unbelievable amount of Pickerel during my time at Oneida Lake. The pickerel were not always big, but they were a lot of fun. White buzzbaits in the shallow water over the weeds really seemed to get them going. Each day I was there I would say that I caught at least ten pickerel. If you like catching these guys this is the lake for you. I know I truly have a blast a throwing topwater and spinnerbaits for them. The first day of my tournament I managed to only land 3 bass, but caught about 30 pickerel. Not something I am proud of because I feel that I am a quality bass fishermen, but that just shows you how many pickerel are in the lake.

If you are heading up I recommend throwing a few other lures. For all of the mentioned species I would try some swimbaits. It is a misconception that northern fish won’t attack these big lures. Give them a try and you might be surprised. Another lure I would try are jigging spoons. I feel that the smallies would eat a lure falling down and hoping across the bottom just was well as a lure being cranked passed them. Don’t be afraid to experiment as well. Burning a spinnerbait over twenty feet of water sounds crazy, but it works and works very well.

The next time you are looking at taking a fishing trip, I highly recommend visiting Oneida Lake. It is close to wine country and offers something for everyone. Not to mention that fishing is some of the best that I have ever experienced. If you have any questions about the lake or information that you would like to share with me or everyone else feel free to add a comment at the bottom of the article or shot me an email.

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Canandaigua Lake

This past weekend I participated in the fourth divisional event for the bassmaster weekend series, New York West Division.  As I have stated before these tournaments are the best run tournaments that I have everCanandaigua 007 taken part in.   Canandaigua Lake was the fishery where the tournament was being held.  I have truly fallen in love with the finger lakes because of the beauty and how healthy the fish are.

I arrived at Canandaigua Lake around 8:00 AM Thursday morning.  Since I have never been to the lake I decided to take a drive around and get a feel for the lake.  This is what I discovered.  The lake had shallow flats infront of the docks which did or didn’t have weeds.  In this finger lake the weeds were more sparse and hard to find.  I also found that some of the docks were in 20-30 feet of water.  That condition I had yet to find in New York.  But like seneca lake once you got into the 20 to 30 feet range then the water dropped off to 100 feet.  The lake is about 16 miles long with a creek in the South end of the lake.

Now lets get to some fishing talk. Thursday I devoted my first 6 hours to looking for smallmouth bass. Talked to some of the locals they told me that it was going to take 18lbs to win this tournament and that it would be smallies. I was drop shotting, dragging tubes and beavers, and powerfishing. I even gave jerkbaits a decent amount of time. I had no luck for bass, but the rock bass and perch were all over my drop shot rig in about 25 feet of water. Around 2:00 Thursday I decided that I was going to find some back upCanandaigua 003 largemouth bass. I went to the first set of docks that had weeds on them and started flipping. It didn’t take long and I had caught 2 keepers and stopped sticking fish on this stretch. I started heading back up the lake trying points and good looking docks. Still convinced that smallmouth bass would win this event I spent most of my time trying to find them. I did hit a set of docks that looked perfect and my first flip I caught a 3lb largemouth. I spent some time throwing a homemade chatterbait in the weeds and all I managed to get were pickerel. They are a very pretty fish. The last bass I caught for the day was my lunker. I found 1 laydown on the lake that had good water under it and I flipped in and bam. 4+lb largemouth. I stopped fishing around 6:00 PM Thursday night. After that day I realized that I could get a limit of largemouth that was decent, but not going to win the tournament.

Friday, Jon and I head to the lake early to see if we could get an early bite. I had a couple points that I had marked to try and we ran right to the first one. 10 minutes into the day I caught a 2lb largemouth on a popper. Off of that point was a nice weed line and we worked it down shore about a 1/4 mile to the next point. Jon had a nice smallmouth bass follow his swimbait to the boat twice but couldn’t get it to commit. We decided to keep looking for smallmouth. After alot of looking around we came back to the point where Jon had the smallmouth follow his lure in. The sun had came out at this point and all of the sudden there were smallmouth everywhere and they were big. We fished for these 4 and 5 pound fish for about 1 hour and the only bite I managed to get was a 2lb smallmouth. After that bit of frustration I decided I need to find more largemouth spots. Around 4:00 PM we called it quits for the night and went to eat and charge the batteries.

Now it is tournament day and we arrived at the launch at 5:30. The tournament was set to launch at 6:30 so we had plenty of time. Or I thought I did. I started pulling rods out and testing the equipment. I quickly realized that my front light wasn’t working. After messing with it until 6:10 I gave up. I couldn’t find anything wrong with the wiring and couldn’t get it apart to check the bulb. The next crisis was that my rider for the day didn’t get there until 6:15 and was getting a traffic violation. It doesn’t stop there. Because the light didn’t work we had to wait until 6:47 when safe light happens to leave the canal. We were the last one to leave and we were boat 12. If you think that is the end of my bad luck you are sadly mistaken. When I was finally able to run I went to pull my trolling motor up and I a couple strainds of my rope broke. I was lucky though and it made it through the day. Finally, we got to go fishing, but running full speed is out of the question because there is a 45 mph speed limit on the lake.

The first spot I wanted to start at was where I say all of the smallmouth. There were 5 boats sitting on that point so I decided to run to a largemouth spot. I didn’t catch a bass until 9:00 AM. It was worth the weight though. A nice 3lber. 5 minutes later I put a 2lber in the livewell. We decided to go try the smallmouth spot, but once again there were 5 guys there. I then ran to another set of docks and caught a 14″ and 12 1/2″ keeper. Not big ones but I was glad to have them. Then the bad luck hit again. A nice 2lber hit in a dock and I ripped his lips off, and left him in the dock. I tried a couple other spots and decide at 1:15 to try to get some smallies. No luck because my head took me to the docks in from them. I am glad it did because my first flip I caught a 4 lb largemouth. Now I have my limit and decided to fly through the docks until the tournament was over. I lost 2 more fish that would have called my 12 1/2 by at least 1 lb. I finished the tournament with 5 bass that weighed 11.65lbs. It was good enough to finish 8th place.

Currently I am sitting in 4th place in the standings and the last tournament is the divisional championship at Oneida Lake. I will be looking to hold that spot, so that I can head to the Potomac River for the regional qualifier.

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