True Tales from Lock 6

By Spider Rybaak
Lock 6 has bass, too.
Disappointment only disappoints if you let it.
This was proven to me about the hundredth time last Friday. I had agreed to help my good buddies at McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services (315)882-1549) treat some nursing home residents to a couple hours of quality fishing at a local pond. Arriving at the picnic site on the beach, we were dismayed to find no one there. Just then Mike McGrath gets a call on his cell informing him our guests had been there earlier but were driven away by the extremely high temperatures and blistering sun.
So there we stood, four adult males loaded with fishing gear, staring at a shallow pond loaded with sunfish. Not that we have anything against bluegills…but we’re healthy, competitive dudes and sunnies just don’t cut it. We decide to go for carp, McGrath’s specialty, a critter he feels is totally misunderstood; a resource underutilized in our neck of the woods.
Our caravan hit the road. Rounding the last major curve on NY 481, the steam station’s two giant smokestacks appeared like they dropped out of the sky, signaling we were on Oswego’s southern limits. The mild-mannered river came into view, followed by a rest stop and the Lock 6 access road at its end. We turned in, parked, gathered our stuff and head for the bottom of the lock.
The City of Oswego’s massive water works unfolded before us, revealing how man reduced Lake Ontario’s second largest tributary to a wimp. You see, according to accounts written by the Jesuit Fathers who discovered the stream for the French Crown, the river dropped forty-something feet in its last half mile, tumbling into a mighty set of rapids that roared downstream under a constant mist.
Not anymore. Man’s intervention has utterly tamed the place, forcing its flow into submission with steel and concrete. Indeed, on the lock side, you can hear the water murmuring as it starts over the dam and hissing as it slides down the concrete. But when it hits the hydraulic at the bottom, it gives up. There isn’t even any discernible current on the east bank. The only indication the water is flowing is the surface foam swirling in a leisurely dance downstream.
But don’t let the serenity fool you. Below this gentle surface lurk some of the biggest bottom feeders in the Empire State.
First you got ‘a call ‘em–so to speak. McGrath, probably the most proficient master of carp culture in the Western World, does this by chumming up an underwater storm. He throws all manner of grains, soaked in tantalizing sauces and delicious juices, into the drink to whet their appetites. Slow beasts by nature, it takes anywhere from a few minutes to an hour—sometimes a little longer–for the carp to come around.
In the meantime, the lock pool’s other residents are fair game.
Pulling out my favorite casting rig, an Abu Garcia combo, I throw a YUM Dinger rigged wacky style. The first cast meets a smallie weighing about a pound, launching it through the surface film. Giving me a look that would scare a mad dog, the fish shakes its head, shooting the hook right back at me.
Marshall, a McGrath associate his peers nicknamed “Animal,” grabs the rod and says “Let a man show you how it’s done.”
After two casts he’s fishless and I’m smug in my knowledge that he’s just a youngster about to eat a heaping helping of humble pie.
Next cast he’s into a smallie. It gives him the evil eye, too, but Animal just laughs…or maybe it was a snarl. Shortly the fish is in his hands and he’s asking me: “See how it’s done.”
Kids, I mutter under my breath and take the rod back.
In the meantime, he’s tying a jighead tipped with one of my Berkley Gulp Three-inch grubs onto an Abu Garcia spinning outfit I brought along. Before he can cast, several carp begin jumping and swirling below us.
“They’re here” McGrath announces and orders his associates to man their stations.
I figured I might as well try the grub Animal just put down and cast it into deep water. Right when it hits bottom, it gets hit hard, sending me into a reverie: I’m gonna show the kid. A split second later the line goes limp. I reel in the jig in and find the point broke off when I set the hook.
A carp grabs McGrath Associate Darrell Stories’ bait. He sets the hook and the fight is on. We gather around his wheelchair to give him moral support.
The line goes slack.
As we’re forming into single file to take turns expressing our sympathy over his loss, Animal’s rod goes into convulsions and starts heading for the drink. Grabbing it, his reel’s drag screaming in protest, he explodes into a joyous outburst. A short time later, Mike McGrath is up to his shins in water landing the 20-pounder.
During the excitement, Darrell gets another hit, feels the thrill of a large fish resisting on the other end, and loses it.
I tie on another jighead, tip it with a 3” GULP grub and begin working it expertly. I’m really feeling good about my splendid skills…and I get a hit. There’s no fight, though. I bring it in and it’s a round goby stretching the tape at a little over 6 inches, my biggest to date.
And even though the goby was a trophy of sorts, my elation was short lived: Darrell was into another carp; Animal baited up and cast out again; and McGrath was preparing a pack (encasing his hooked bait, a corn pop, into a ball of chum) to cast out.
Smitten by the brute power of Animal’s catch, I put away my jighead and setup for carp.
Animal Starting his cast. Note pack swinging in the air off to the right.
McGrath packing the line baits.
Animal releasing his prize.

My trophy gobie.
McGrath attempting to land Animal’s carp.
Line baits prior to being wrapped in a pack.
Darrell Storie fighting one that got away.
Animal feelingfor the final take: carp nibble on the entire pack, and when they reach the line bait, they get hooked,and, feeling the sting, take off like a rocket.

Success.Note the lamprey scar on the carp’s belly.