Jacks in the Ice

Eric Arbogast with some nice Oneida Lake walleyes.
Climate change is a funny thing. The experts claim the world is warming. Oneida Lake formed safe ice a week before Christmas – two weeks earlier than normal – indicating things are cooling down. It’s enough to make you question the weather forecasting business.

One thing’s for certain, however. Today, January 5, Oneida Lake is crowned in an ice cap that’s six inches thick.

Ice fishermen and snowmobilers are all over the place. Some spots are so crowded with ice shelters they look like ice-fishing villages. And the fish are cooperating.

Also known around these parts as jack perch, they’re huge; averaging a solid 10 inches.
A lot are even bigger, up to 13 inches. They’re hanging out in about 20 feet of water and they’re taking Swedish pimples tipped with buckeyes.

Rick Sorenson of Apps Landing Bait Shop claims guys are coming back regularly with 20 to 30 perch. And he should know, located right at the entrance to the DEC’s popular Cleveland Dock fishing access site (parking for 15 cars and close proximity to the magical 20-foot depths), and offering a complete selection of ice-fishing bait and tackle, he’s got anglers coming and going constantly, giving him play-by-play reports on all the action.

On the hard water, anglers are proving how accurate Sorenson is. One pair of guys on the ice out in front of the shop had so many; from a distance it looked like they were sitting on ice carpeted in perch.

Bob Twichell of Fayetteville had about 15 on the ice, five of ‘em 13-inchers. He was using an old technique: drawing fish to his bait with a decoy. He’d bait a line with a perch eye, let it down to the bottom, crank it up a couple of inches and rest the rod on the edge of the ice. Then he’d call fish in by violently jigging a Sonar in a hole a couple feet away.

Bob Twitchell landing another perch.
His buddy Kyle Storie, scored much better using contemporary tactics. He had a fish finder in his hole, and jigged a dot tipped with a buckeye.
Kyle Storie and his carpet of jack perch.
Twichell says, “Walleyes come through all the time. But they don’t hit well until 4 or 5 p.m., when it starts getting dark.”

An old wives’ tale says early ice is the best for ice-fishing; probably because the fish haven’t had their senses overwhelmed with motorized augers, snowmobiles, cleats, you name it.

So get out there, walk quietly and pack a lot of bait. The fish you catch will make your shivering worthwhile.

Andrew Allerton with a nice catch he took on a Swedish Pimple tipped with a buckeye.