Early March Drive Up the Oswego River

Sandy Creek native, Colin Kehoe, showing a perch and the rig he got it on.

When nice weather finally broke winter’s spell late last week, I found myself sitting behind my desk feeling much like a kid in school on a warm spring day. Like a youngun,’ I couldn’t just leave my desk and take off for the great outdoors. Unlike a kid, however, I couldn’t day dream about it, either. So, being a mature, responsible adult, I worked furiously and finished with enough light left to take my favorite ride: up the Oswego River.

I launched my excursion from Three Rivers. There wasn’t any ice on the water nor were there people fishing from the bank.

So I continued north to Phoenix. At the bridge I saw a guy sitting on the wall below the lower lock, pole in hand. Parking my car, I climbed up a snow bank left by a plow at the outer edge of a beauty shop’s parking lot and slipped and slid my way down a slim trail through the aging snow. The middle of the canal channel was open directly below the lock but slipped under ice a couple hundred feet downstream. Mallards sat on the edge of the hard water on the west side, Colin Kehoe, a native of Sandy Creek, sat on the canal wall across from them.

In no time flat the guy was reeling in a nice eight-inch perch.

“That’s a pretty good size perch,” I hollered as I walked toward him.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s not as big as the ones we get in Sandy Pond, and I haven’t gotten as many as I do when I fish there. But the pond is slushy and sloppy, and you need an ATV to get around. Here I can walk from the car and fish open water.”

He was still-fishing fathead minnows on bottom and had at least a dozen perch running six to eight inches in his five-gallon bucket.

As tempted as I was to drop a line, I didn’t have any minnows, and there was only about an hour of light left. So I decided to continue on to Oswego to see what I could see.

A few minutes later I rounded the turn on NY 481 just south of town and the steam plant’s stacks popped into view. Shortly afterwards, I turned into the fishing access site parking lot just before the bridge crossing the lock at Leto Island. I noticed a drift boat anchored out in the river, at the downstream end of the middle wall, and reached for my camera.

Feeling really lucky just catching sight of a drift boat in action, I rested my elbow on the railing at the top of the lock stairs to steady my arm, focused, held my breath and started squeezing the shutter. Just then, the guy holding the rod decides to set the hook…hard. I mean, he whipped his arm back so forcefully I could hear his line slicing through the air. Next thing you know, a steelie explodes out of the water like it’s auditioning for a documentary NASA moon shots. I didn’t get him in flight, but I got him being netted.

From the looks of it, the weather we’re having is more fish-friendly than normal and the denizens of the drink are celebrating ice-out the most fisherman-friendly way imaginable: with their teeth. So don’t just sit there, get out and wet a line. The Oswego River’s full of hungry fish, and promises to provide one dynamite spring for anyone willing to venture out and wet a line.

Netting a steelie at the middle wall in Oswego.

Waiting for perch to bite… and ice-out