Snow Time

Ice fishing for walleye

Songs riding the airwaves this time of year are full of references to the Holidays. But finding natural sights and sounds of the season are pretty tough. Unless you’re in Oswego County, that is.

For instance, anglers from all over the country come here to climb the rapids of the Salmon and Oswego Rivers, and Lake Ontario’s numerous smaller tributaries (called skinny creeks in fishing parlance), in search of steelhead, a species of rainbow trout that can go 20-something pounds. Although trophies this size can be elusive, area waters offer a reasonable chance at one. But even if you only get a relatively small specimen—they average six pounds—its bright green back, pink and silver sides, all speckled in dark spots, make it a living sign of the season.

Our friendly skies are loaded with seasonal fare, too. Snow and Canada Geese are plentiful, and, since the county is split into two migratory game bird hunting zones (northeastern and western), you can target snow geese in the Northeastern zone up until the New Year.

Winter Wonderland

After the Holidays, cold weather settles in and the county’s outdoor recreational opportunities really heat up.

Steelhead run Lake Ontario tributaries all season long to take advantage of their slightly warmer temperatures, and the cornucopia of salmon and trout eggs shifting currents constantly sweep out from autumn’s spawning beds.

If you’re into walking on water, Oneida Lake offers some of the best ice fishing for yellow perch and walleyes in the Northeast. If you prefer drilling for crappies and panfish, Lake Neahtahwantha, on the west side of Fulton, has been filling local’s freezers with the beasties for as long as anyone can remember. Finally, Sandy Pond is notorious for large perch and northern pike.

Small game hunting season for critters like ruffed grouse, squirrels and cottontail rabbits remains open until the end of February, while varying hare and cottontails can be taken in the northern zone until March 21.

Skirting the southeastern corner of the tiniest Great Lake, our entire county is blessed with a meteorological phenomenon known as lake effect. But even we have an area known for extreme snow: the Tug Hill Plateau, famed for the deepest snows this side of the Rockies. A 340-mile web of state-designated trails offers mechanized sledders access to the “The Hill” and neighboring Adirondack Mountains. This is Oswego County Snowmobile Association territory, an organization of 10 clubs whose members maintain the trail system and publish maps for snowmobile enthusiast that come from far and wide to enjoy the splendor of snow covered fields and forests.

Traditionalists who prefer to dash through the snow on skis or snowshoes will find these hard packed trails ideal for their recreational pleasure, too. What’s more, folks on foot have miles of Lake Ontario beaches to explore. Buffeted incessantly by northwesterlies, the shoreline is lined in a towering crust of pack ice carved by wind and waves from Mother Nature’s wildest imagination into snowy peaks and pot each erupting in slush with every passing wave to form crystalline castles with icicle chandeliers.

Another icy pursuit sure to boil your blood is ice climbing in the Salmon River Falls Unique Area. Home to endangered plants, this sensitive area’s cliffs are off limits, but the ice straddling the falls is open. While the trail to the bottom is closed in winter, climbers can use it provided they register daily by filling out a downloadable form and depositing it into the box at the on-site information kiosk. (FYI: Safe ice doesn’t generally form until around mid-February.)

There’s even stuff to do around here with man’s best friend. Dogs love running, and if they can do it in a pack, it’s even better. Dog sledding fills both these desires. “The Hill’s” heavy snows and the 9,233 acres of remote woods in the Winona State Forest that are crisscrossed with numerous trails, make northern Oswego County the perfect venue for this howling activity. In fact, the area is so perfect the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club comes up each winter to stage competitive events.

If you prefer a more personal experience with Rover, try skijoring, an activity in which you don cross-country ski equipment, attach yourself to the dog with a line, and take off.

An optimist once proclaimed: When you get lemons, make lemonade. Oswego County treats winter the same way: When you get snow, make snowballs.

For more information on any of these exciting winter activities, go to

Another way to get the skinny on playing in Oswego County’s big back yard this winter is to visit Oswego County Tourism’s booth at the Northeastern Sport Show, Americraft Center of Progress Building, New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY. January 22-24, 2010.

NY’s longest-running event of its kind, the Northeastern Sport Show has been providing generations of Americans with mid-winter respites from cabin fever with a litany of displays devoted to the great outdoors.

Numerous North American hunting and fishing outfitters will be present. Their booths, lined with trophy mounts and photos–some even feature videos–will launch you on vicarious adventures of a lifetime. And if you decide you want to experience the real thing, the folks manning the tables will be happy to sign you up for the trip in your dreams.

Great sport shows don’t get that way by chance. The Northeastern Sport Show owes its success to balance. After booking an outdoor adventure, you’ll find other booths to fill your every need, from clothing and supplies to boats and ATVs.

Educational and Competitive Attractions:

  • Seminars by the Benoit Brothers: Learn how they drop more trophy bucks in a given season than the entire membership of a typical rod and gun club.
  • Animal displays like Talons! Live Birds of Prey, and Bwana Jim’s Wildlife show.
  • Trout pond
  • Go Mining
  • Kids casting contest
  • Big Buck Club Display
  • Archery Range
  • NWTF-Sanctioned Turkey Calling Contest
  • Goose Calling Contest

And there’s more…too much to list here. So mark your calendars now, and prepare for a day of wild excitement, regardless of what the weather dishes out.