Walleyes Return to Shore

Beach Scene: Oneida Lake at dusk, in Autumn.

A few nights ago, I noticed a bunch of cars parked at the abandoned bridge at the mouth of Oneida Creek. I turned around and went to investigate. Roughly 15 guys were fishing from shore, and in the 10 minutes I stood there watching, four landed walleyes.

I returned to my car…rubbing my hands in glee. You see, I knew the reason they were there wasn’t because a large school of walleyes came in—if that had been the case, I would have seen a lot more caught.

The reason they were putting up with shoulder to shoulder competition on the east shore was because a stiff wind was blowing out of the south, sending whitecaps slamming into the entire length of Oneida Lake’s north shore, making for uncomfortable fishing.

And if my 50-something years of fishing have taught have me anything, it’s that this marvelous species loves the wind, and, as often as not, follows it.

So I aimed my wheels for Oswego County’s southeastern corner. When I got to the Cleveland Dock fishing access site on NY 49, the wind was blowing so hard I was afraid it would wrap the violently swinging, wooden DEC sign around its holder.

Still, several guys were standing shoulder to shoulder in its shadow. The most successful were casting into the channel leading into the tiny harbor at the mouth of Black Creek. Unfortunately, there’s only room for one, so anglers had to wait their turn. When the guy on the spot caught his limit, he’d leave and the guy next to him would take his place, catch his limit…

That wasn’t the only productive spot, however. Walleyes sweep in and out of the dock all night long, heading for the mouths of its two tributaries to pig out on the minnows gathering there each evening this time of year. Both are on posted property. However, the fish come within range of anglers casting from the harbor’s sagging concrete wall when they round the corner from the west.

Hardy anglers take their fair share of walleyes by wading out off the southern edge of the FAS and casting from the decaying breakwall lying there like a broken concrete snake. While they have to put up with waves and wind slamming into them, they’re rewarded by having three directions in which to cast, any one of which can be carrying a school of “eyes” heading in.

From now until first ice, walleyes will be cruising the lake’s shoreline at night following schools of minnows looking for warmer water. The bite can happen at any time and can last anywhere from one fish to everyone’s limit.

Vary your retrieve. The fish will respond to a Rapala Husky Jerk retrieved steadily one minute, jerked the next, worked slowly and steadily the next cast, and twitched, with barely any movement at all, after that.

Other public spots worth trying are the park at Taft Bay, and Phillips Point at Three Mile Bay/ Big Bay Wildlife Management Area.

Autumn at Cleveland Dock at dusk
Night bite.

Cleveland “Eye”

Rich Carew with one of three walleyes he caught in less than 30 minutes at Cleveland Dock.

Jill Jerominek, of Osceola, with a nice “eye.”