Christmas on Ice and Holiday Rainbows

Each winter, Oneida Lake is the first in Central NY to be crowned in ice, usually in the last week of December. Still, anglers generally don’t walk out there until after the first week of January. This year, the cold came early and stayed, giving the global warming crowd a bite of humble pie; and anglers their first chance in years to spend part of Christmas ice fishing.

Indeed, guys were already drilling the ice last weekend, before winter officially started. Not massive populations, mind you, but a few brave souls, spread out, a couple here, one over there, mostly on shallow bays. If the weather holds, you’re gonna see quite a few guys ice fishing before 2010 fades into history.

When it comes to ice fishing, the rule of thumb is the best bite is first ice. As of this writing, the weatherman promises the cold will hold for the next few days, meaning ice fishing on Oneida Lake will be great during the Holidays. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the season than to have some golden perch or silver walleyes brightening up my day.

Most experts agree ice only has to be two inches thick to be safe for one guy–walking, sitting, doesn’t matter. However, the thickness of early ice is seldom consistent, and it’s wise to wait until it’s three inches thick. Considering ice fishing is something you want to do with a partner for safety, three inches is the minimum.

Christmas Rainbows

With all the rain we’ve had lately, the Oswego River has been too high and roily these past few weeks to fish leisurely. Oh, the fish are there all right, in massive quantities, even. But the water has been so high and cloudy, you practically had to hit ‘em over the head with the bait to get ‘em to bite. As a result, most of the action has moved to the Salmon River.

Running at about 500 cfs at press time, it’s the perfect level for man and beast.

Good buddy Scott VanDerWater claims to have landed 40 this month averaging six pounds each, by wading. He loves centerpinning for them with a JW Young Y2080 reel loaded onto a JW Young, 13-foot Specimen Float rod. A simple, single action reel with nothing but a clicker for a drag, it’s a marvel of contemporary engineering, pitting man’s intelligence and dexterity against the fish’s brute strength and instincts.

On the other hand, you have Kevin Davis, one of the best big water guides on the Great Lakes. Specializing on big water like the Oswego River, Captain Davis moved operations temporarily to the Salmon River because of the difficulty of fishing his favorite stream. Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary, its flow is swollen with the massive quantities of run-off streaming in from as far away as the Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake.

The photos illustrating this posting show the size of the fish Davis regularly finds for his clients.

By the way, a few weeks ago, Davis led a client to a 44-pound king, probably the largest to be taken in Lake Ontario in 2010.

The man can be reached at 315-342-4861. Check out his website:

At last word, the water conditions in the Oswego River are rapidly returning to levels steelheaders consider nirvana. I am planning my last blog of the year–sometime next week–to cover the chromer bite in the Port City.