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Oswego’s Rapids Carpeted in Golden Brown

By Spider Rybaak

Alex Korol, a SUNY Oswego student, holds one he landed while float-fishing a bead with a centerpin rig


This month all of New York is blanketed in the fading reds and golds of an aging autumn. But there’s still a lot of brilliance and vibrancy out there if you know where to look. And one of the best places to feast your eyes on the year’s last moments of splendid beauty is the city of Oswego.

But don’t look on shore. You see, the river running through the city is loaded with mature brown trout. Vying for mates, they’re decked out in their finest colors: dark brown backs fading into rich golden sides glimmering with red spots. There’s so many trout, in fact, the stream throbs with all the life traveling through it.

OK, that might be stretching things a bit. Still, there’s more brown trout in the deep tailrace stretching from the north end of the power dam to the tail-out where the heavy current breaks into whitewater than anyone can remember.

And it’s not like great quantities of salmonids is something new to the spot, either. Indeed, Pacific salmon pile into the tailrace in such numbers in October, the high wall seems to lean under the weight of all the anglers.

What’s unusual right now is the incredible number of trophy browns…big ones, up to 20 pounds.

No one was more surprised to see so many fish than I. Kwame Belle, a journalism major at SUNY Oswego, is doing an assignment on a “Bucket List” of stuff to do in the city of Oswego, and felt fishing should be included. I agreed.

Well, the salmon runs are over, so I called driftboat /charterboat  operator Captain Andy Bliss, (315) 591-4578, my favorite source for fishing information on the Oswego River, for suggestions.

“Browns are easy to get right now off the wall below the powerhouse,” he answered. “There’s a lot of ‘em because the water’s been so low, they’re milling around waiting for it to rise before running up to the dam.”

He wasn’t kidding. In the two hours or so Kwame and I fished, I personally saw 20 browns and five steelhead landed, and at least that many lost. (Kwame and I got zilch—so it goes, I guess.) The guys were bottom bouncing: casting out, letting the bait sink to bottom and walking it downstream. Most were using beads.

Browns are traditionally available in the river until late December.  This weekend, however, promises to be one of the year’s most propitious for a trophy: the weather’s supposed to be clear, water low and opening day of deer season should move half the anglers off the wall and into the woods, reducing competition considerably.

Kyle Buck of Hammondsport with one of his browns.
Bob from Colorado comes up to Oswegoeach year in November for the splendid fishing.

Kwame Belle, a SUNY Oswego student, tackles his “Bucket List” on the Oswego River.
Belle may have left fish-less, but the smile says it all!

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