By Bob McNitt
The middle of last month saw Oneida Lake "visited" by a large contingency of outdoor key-punchers (aka writers and editors) during the annual New York State Outdoor Writers, Inc. Spring Safari. Not to worry - these "experts" left plenty of fish in the lake to provide excellent angling throughout the rest of the year. Although noted primarily for its walleye and yellow perch fishing, Oneida holds an impressive selection of fish – 58 different species to be exact.
The hosting and lodging for the group was provided by Caroline & Pete Rich, of Anglers Bay Cottages (PO Box 143, Cleveland, 13402, phone 315-675-3662) on the north shore just east of the village of Cleveland. When we arrived, we knew our angling skills would be severely challenged due to a strong southeasterly rain-driving wind that would basically make the western and northern portions of the lake off-limits with big rollers and whitecaps.
As many local anglers are aware, at 22 miles long and five miles wide, Oneida Lake is one of the state's premier angling destinations and is especially noted for its walleye fishing. In fact, the NYSDEC has a large walleye rearing hatchery, the Oneida Fish Cultural Station, on the north shore in Constantia, which is a tour you shouldn't miss when you're in the area. In addition to walleye, the hatchery is also rearing lake sturgeon and paddlefish, the latter being a prehistoric-looking species whose appearance appears to be somewhat like a cross between a catfish and platypus, and can grow to 50 pounds or more. This is a fledgling program, and the DEC hopes the species, previously extinct in the state, will take hold in waters where they're stocked. The hatchery is open from April 1 to September 30 seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.