Between a Muskrat and a Toad

By Spider Rybaak

Bucketmouth taken on a spinnerbait on the shoals due north of Oneida Shores County Park

I’ve found myself between a rock and a hard place many times. I’ve flown in planes and fallen in love, so I’ve been between heaven and earth, too. But yesterday’s fishing trip with Ray Chittenden was a first: between a toad and a muskrat.

Literally. You see, we went to Oneida Lake and concentrated on the fish-rich waters between Muskrat Bay and Toad Harbor.

While other parts of the lake may harbor the lion’s share of walleyes right now, few can compare with the massive quantities of various fish species found in this magical piece of Oswego County’s territorial waters.

What makes it so productive is its wealth of structure and habitat. Windfalls, reeds and docks line the south shore, while marsh and forest, watered by creeks and springs, cling to the north side’s wildlife management areas. Off to the west, I-81 provides riprap and bridge abutments. And down the middle of it all, flanked by fishy drop-offs, runs the main channel’s deep currents.

And Ray knew how to milk it for everything it had…except walleyes.

Our first fish is a rock bass weighing at least half a pound. A pickerel comes aboard shortly afterwards, followed by a monster pumpkinseed; all in the first half hour.

Searching for Mr. Walleye, we move east, into deeper water. Ray puts away the worms and starts casting. His efforts pay off with a three- pound bronzeback taken on a YUM Walleye Grub dragged on bottom along the drop-off west of Buoy 136, and a two-pounder that took a Berkley Power Teaser tipped with a Honey Worm and worked around Buoy 137.

“OK,” he says, “We got enough smallmouths, let’s go for a bucketmouth,” and aims the boat for the weed bed due north of Oneida Shores County Park boat launch. As soon as his spinnerbait touches the water, a largemouth of about two pounds nails it.

“We’re on a roll,” he boasts, and suggests we try for some panfish.

We drift along Muskrat Bay’s shoreline, past residences ranging from simple cottages to palatial homes fit for a bank executive. Six perch and a blue gill later, our time running out (I only had four hours to fish) Ray asks “do you want to give walleyes another shot?”

You bet’cha!”I answer.

We head back for buoy 136 and start drifting. I’m jigging a Sonar; Ray’s working bottom with a worm on a spinner harness. The wind blows us toward the river.

A few minutes later he’s into another fish, a legal bucketmouth.

While anglers just about everywhere are complaining about the summer blues, smart pluggers are enjoying great fishing on the west end of Oneida Lake.

Come on over and give it a try.

Ray with a nice smallie taken on a YUM Walleye Grub.
Monster pumpkinseed’s like the waters between Muskrat Bay and Toad Harbor, too.
Bass pros scouting the west end of Oneida Lake