Holiday Browns and Chromers

By Spider Rybaak

Centerpinning at the West River Walk’s last stairs, upstream of the powerhouse.

December is the best month for taking trout from the bank in the city of Oswego.

Draining 5,100 square miles, including the Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake, the river running through town carries a lot of water, an average of 6,700 cubic feet per second, according to the United States Geological Survey. Late autumn storms can raise the stream’s temperature and double its flow. Driven deep into Lake Ontario, the plume’s relatively warm current draws fish to the friendly rapids in downtown Oswego.

Last Friday water levels in the city reached 16,000 cfs, a level way too high to fish effectively from the high wall downstream of the power house. And Motel Row? Forget it, too much water to cover from shore.

By Sunday, the flow dropped to 13,000 cfs, just right for taking it to the bank.

A couple guys wading along the wall between the dam and the hydro plant scored browns and rainbows averaging 7 pounds each. Both were float-fishing with centerpin equipment. One used a bead, the other an egg sac.

Fishing from a drift boat was even better. Three guys running the rapids off Motel Row landed over a dozen steelies and browns. They were float-fishing beads with centerpin equipment.

“Center-pinning is the best way to catch steelhead,” boasted one.

Conditions were exactly what they should be in December. Surprisingly, there were very few anglers out. And it wasn’t even that cold.

Don’t be intimidated by the snow and ice. Oh, sure, you can see your breath, and getting your hands wet guarantees cold fingers. But dressing in layers and carrying a towel will keep you toasty.

Indeed, the hits alone are enough to beat the cold.

The rest of December promises more dynamite, run-off-triggered action.

January will turn the rain into ice and snow, cooling any thaw streaming over it. Oh, the fish will still bite, but not as eagerly on most days; sunny days can spur hot and furious action, however.

Anglers must wear personal flotation devices to fish the river upstream of the power house.Since the utility owns the property, it has the right to make the rules and anyone not complying with the dress code can be evicted.

View from the West River Walk upstream of the power dam.
Drift boat at Varick Dam.
A float fisherman working the tailrace at the foot of the West River Walk’s high wall
while a drift boat works the Dug Out on the other side.
Jon, Fair Haven, NY, holding a decent steelie taken on a bead off Motel Row.
J.J.Elmer with a big brown he took on a bead off Motel Row.