Oneida Lake 8/7


I don’t know what it is about Oneida Lake, but I have never really done great there on smallmouths. My buddies have all experienced the easy fishing – find the birds and cast Rat-L Traps or Topwater and catch lots of smallmouths. Work the shoals, weedlines, points and catch them great. I’ve never encountered that stuff there. I remember doing well there when I first fished the lake with my buddy Terry about 1986 or 87. I caught a 24″ 4lb walleye there the first time I fished it – at the time, that was a good fish. I’ve done OK with largemouths there this year. Pickerel are everywhere – not a problem. But the smallmouths really baffle me at times. I’ve caught some, but not enough and not consistently.

Today I got up at 3:50 am after a long week of guiding, then moving, then more guiding – all interspersed with dentist appointments and other errands – I was beat but wanted to fish it when my buddy Mike called and told me he was going. I booked a bunch of trips over the upcoming two weeks yesterday, so it was today or nothing for awhile. Mike has considered the lake a fairly easy smallmouth lake and has had his best smallmouth fishing ever over there. After today, we left scratching our heads!

We were on the water before 7 am and gave Shackleton Shoals a good going over. I hadn’t fished there in a decade and Mike wanted to spend some time there. I had a fish just crush a spinnerbait within 1/2 hour – but came up empty. We worked topwater, flukes, spinnerbaits, dropshot rigs, tubes and other jigs. I threw crankbaits, spidergrubs, carolina rigs and jerkbaits at times. We fished other areas too – both onshore and offshore. Birds were around and occasionally diving, but smallmouths didn’t seem to be active. Mike took me to areas where he’d previously hammered bass – zippo. It appeared to me that bass were possibly nudging our lures or nosing up to them and not committing. We did feel some light taps throughout the day – but very rarely. I don’t think they were panfish hitting us, since I did try a dropshot worm that would have hooked the pans.

After 7 hours of hard fishing we’d landed nothing. No great grabs or hookups. Fishing can be humbling at times, that’s for sure. We tried a shoal that I’d had success with a month or so ago with my friend Eric. I finally had a grab on a tube jig – it wound up being a solid drum. Then Mike had a fish try to engulf his topwater lure 3 or 4 times. It finally got hooked – it wound up being Mike’s best pumpkinseed ever, a solid 9″er. Whenever it appeared the birds would get working – nothing happened. I’m not sure if it’s a seasonal slowdown, or just the day’s weather pattern. Maybe a combination of both, but either way – we’ll be back. I struggled on Otisco Lake for years till I finally decoded it in 2008. Since then, I’ve loved it. Hopefully that time is coming soon for the mighty Oneida Lake.