Football Browns from the Bank

By Spider Rybaak

Jamey Bond, caretaker of Mexico Point State Park, and son Jericho with a couple of browns they took off the west breakwall off the mouth of the Little Salmon River.

Oswego County offers world-class fishing opportunities for every temperament. Take bank fishing, for instance. No matter what time of year it is, something’s hanging out close enough to shore to reach by casting. In early spring, the game fish of choice for landlubbers is the brown trout.

We’re not talking your typical two-year-old stocky that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation throws into “cricks” to sweeten a stream angler’s chances of catching something to write home to mother about. We’re taking about veterans of a couple years of running free in Lake Ontario, growing three to five pounds, so big they’re called football browns. They resemble America’s favorite pigskin so closely, cousin Staash (rhymes with gosh) claims “if your grip is good enough to hold one of the slimy things you can throw it into the end zone, making it spin like a bullet all the way.”

While just about any Lake Ontario pier, breakwall or beach makes a good casting platform, Oswego County’s waterfront is superior because of our tributaries. After all, the Oswego (the lake’s second largest feeder) Salmon and Little Salmon Rivers run through here; as do numerous skinny creeks like Grindstone, Catfish, Rice and Sage. Slightly stained by run-off, and a couple degrees warmer than the lake, their plumes reach deep, hooking the appetites of browns, dragging them inshore to bask in the comfortable temperatures–and indulge in a feeding frenzy on all the baitfish hanging out in the balmy zone.

One of the hottest spots is off the mouth of the Little Salmon River in the hamlet of Texas. Public breakwalls line both sides at stream’s end. The western structure, the longest, is on the grounds of the Mexico Point State Park (from NY 104B, head north on Mexico Point Drive), a facility run by the Town of Mexico. The east side’s belongs to NYS Park’s Mexico Point Boat Launch (from NY 104B, head north on Cty. Rte. 40.)

Equally popular among local anglers are the stained waters where Grindstone Creek pours into the lake at Selkirk Shores State Park (head south on NY 3 about three miles from the NY 3/NY 13 intersection). While the fishing is most consistent off the park pier just north of the stream, running a lure through the current just off the mouth gives you a good chance of catching a bonus steelhead heading upstream to spawn.

Beach fishing is good off the mouth of Deer Creek, which feeds the lake a few hundred feet north of the Salmon River’s mouth. Running through a wildlife management area of the same name, get there from the NY 13/ NY 3 intersection by heading north on NY 3 for about 3 ½ miles, turning left on Rainbow Shores Road, continuing to the end, turning left on the dirt road, bearing left at the fork ½ mile later, and continuing to the WMA’s parking lot. From there, walk south along the beach to the creek’s mouth.

If you’re into urban settings, the city of Oswego offers a couple popular beach sites: one at the end of 6thAvenue on the west side of town, and another at the end of East 10th1/2 Street.

Good baits to use are blue/silver and green/silver Little Cleos, and gold or silver/black back crankbaits like Smithwick Rogues, Thundersticks and Rapalas.

A brown trout taken at Selkirk Shores State Park last weekend by the author.
Fishing scene: Pier at Selkirk Shores State Park.
Pier view of the sunset: Selkirk Shores State Park.