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Oswego: The Fishing’s Hot Even When it’s Slow

By Spider Rybaak
Janet gets her brown.

The past few days have seen some awfully bright sunlight steeped in hot temperatures. Not exactly ideal fishing weather, especially if you’re getting a late-morning start. But there’s nothing average about the open waters off Oswego and when temperatures are sticky and the fishin’s lazy, you’ll still hear a lot of sizzling lines and screaming drags.
This was brought home to me for the hundredth time on Tuesday. A few days earlier, Capt. Richard Stanton (Stanton Charter Service, www.stantoncharters.com; 315-685-0651) dangled an offer to take me and Oswego County Tourism’s Janet Clerkin fishing so I could get photos and quotes for an upcoming book.  We bit. Little did we know it would turn out to be the best fishing day of the year…so far.
I ran into some construction and bad traffic getting to Wright’s Landing so we started late, 8:45 a.m., to be exact. On the way out of the harbor, boats were already coming in with their limits of kings, punctuated with browns, lakers, cohos and steelhead. One guy allegedly even nailed a trophy landlocked Atlantic salmon.
We trolled for a couple hours trying to figure out what the fish were hungering for. The sun was beating down on us like the upper heat element in a toaster oven. The lake was flat. I was having some serious doubts. Having run charters for 38 years, Capt. Dick has great intuition, for finding fish…and reading clients. “The fat lady ain’t sung, yet, Spider,” he says, “and we ain’t done until we’re done.” (Or something like that).
Suddenly, one of the rods goes off. “There’s a hit,” shouts Ron Marlett, one of the captain’s buddies who came along for the ride.
As he handed Janet the rod, Capt. Dick observes: “Look at that little guy jump!”
Bright as a mirror reflecting sunlight, it comes clear out of the water like a curved, silver rocket at least four times. A couple minutes later, it’s in the boat, getting unhooked and released.
Fifteen minutes later, another rod goes off. The fish is much bigger. Janet makes short work of it, though, and after a few minutes of battle, she brings a five-pound brown trout to the net.
We no sooner set the line again and another rod trips. A powerful fish, it tormented the drag—and Janet’s tiring arms—for a couple seconds before spitting the hook back at us with no respect at all.
But there’s no rest for the weary.
Before Janet could get comfortable, another rod tip pops up then dives for the drink. Janet beats everyone to the rod again and the fight is on. The fish tears off at least 20 yards of line before stopping. The poor lady on the other end is reeling for all it’s worth trying to catch up. But the beast isn’t in a playful mood and takes off for Toronto. Janet struggles for another 10 minutes, brings the beast to the side of the boat and just as the captain’s getting the net ready, the lure comes flying back at us.
Janet sits down, Capt. Dick sets the rod again, Ron’s in the cabin feeling bad for Janet…and I’m yapping my head off; nothing important, just talking to talk…irritating everyone on board.
And then the meanest salmon in our part of the lake takes one of our Michigan Stingers. This time I’m on top of things; growling, swinging elbows “it’s my turn!!!!!,” I demand.
The 18-pound chinook took me on a whirlwind lesson in kingly behavior. Fighting like the devil one minute, then jumping, diving, racing right at me. At that point I actually thought he got off but Ron ordered “He’s  running at you, reel like crazy.”
I’m glad I listened because right about then the slack tightens as the fish makes an abrupt about face and makes the fight honest again by storming for Niagara Falls. To make a long story short, it takes me another 10 minutes to land him.
By now the heat was getting to us and everyone except Capt. Dick—he wanted to keep fishing–agreed it was a good time to split.
Oswego’s territorial waters are so salmonid friendly, the fishin’s great even when it’s slow…And that’s hard to beat.
Deadly Trio: (top to bottom) Gobey, Honey Bee and Modified Stinger.
The face of battle: Janet Clerkin.
Capt. Dick and Janet holding an average king

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