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Rain Soaked Walleyes

By Spider Rybaak

Don Hendrickson of Panther Lake holding a 24 inch pickerel he took at Cleveland Docks just after the rain.
Last Saturday morning, opening day of walleye season, a flotilla of about 30 boats was out in front of the house. Most were manned by participants of the Cicero-Mattydale Lions Club’s Walleye Derby. The field numbered close to 2,000 and nearly everyone caught something, even if it was just a perch. 
Writing for Syracuse.com, Dave Figura reports the $1,000.00 prize went to Daniel Van Meter of North Syracuse for a 24 ¾ inch walleye he took on a jig.
That’s a big one for Oneida Lake. You see, while larger fish have been wrenched from these productive waters often enough, the average size for an Oneida Lake walleye is about 18 inches.  
My neighbor, Reed, nailed his limit, all ranging between 16 and 18 inches. Unfortunately, his girlfriend and her father, who went with him, didn’t catch any. At least the father got a sunfish; his girlfriend got skunked.
Ironically, one of the pike he caught came on her rod. She asked him to hold it for a second while she checked the eye or something at the tip and right when she handed it to him the fish hit. A proud, ethical woman, she wouldn’t take credit for a fish she didn’t catch. Still, she probably feels a little ticked—but all that should go away when she’s eating it.
Both days of the tournament were blessed with decent weather. The sun shined a lot and there was just enough wind to keep the walleyes active without making it uncomfortable for the competitors.
On Monday it turned nasty—into great walleye weather. When I headed out to go surf fishing that evening, I planned on hitting Lakeport’s Lake Oneida Beach Association. But it was too calm. The wind was blowing out of the south so I headed for Cleveland.
Good move. My lure encountered stiff resistance on the first cast. So stiff, in fact, I couldn’t stop it. 
 Whatever it was, it just took off, slowly, deliberately, like an elephant trying to shake a mosquito off its butt.
…And that’s all she wrote. I listened to my line sizzling through the waves. Before I knew it, I could see my spool in the moonlight. A couple seconds later it’s empty, and in a heartbreaking snap, I’m without line, lure or fish. Believe me, that’s enough to grab your attention on a soggy night.
Fortunately, I had 150 yards of Berkley’s new Nanofil in the trunk. By the time I returned to the bank, the rain started. I tied on a black/silver Challenger and cast into the blinding deluge. It was blowing so hard I couldn’t get out more than 20 feet, and even then, only if I put every ounce of strength I had into it. And forget about straight…I had to cast to the left just to have it go out in front of me.
Five minutes of that, and I’m getting wet. The rain is crawling up my sleeves and through my sneakers. Nose running, glasses streaked, hair pasted to my cheeks, I figure I might as well call it quits. And then a beautiful, golden-sided “eye” nails it. 
After landing him I actually thought about casting out again. But the elements presented a convincing argument against that.
On the way home the sky cleared up momentarily and I saw guys fishing in the surf in Cleveland, Sylvan Beach and Lakeport. I stopped to watch the one standing off the decaying breakwall south of Cleveland docks and actually saw his rod bent, straining against a fish. But before he could land it, the clouds blew into the face of the moon and darkness stole my sight again.
The rain over the past few days is sure to raise water levels. Culverts will spew a stained flow, turning the water near shore cloudy. The wind will pitch in by driving warm temperatures–and the bait–into shore; it’s the perfect storm for walleyes in the surf.

Rich Bolster, Constantia, with a keeper walleye taken from the bank.
“Surfin'” Oneida Lake Style.
Don Hendrickson with a walleye this time.