Last Saturday one of my friends and I set out to try ice fishing on Oneida Lake. We both enjoy ice fishing and both wanted to try fishing someplace new. When discussing the possibility of going, I realized that it really wasn’t as far away as I had imagined. On top of wanting to try someplace new, I hadn’t ever caught a walleye through the ice.
The push over the edge was talking to a coworker about fishing on Oneida Lake. He fishes Oneida almost exclusively and provided me with some information in terms of where to go and what to use. When I relayed this information to my friend, he quickly asked, “So when are we going?”
We put it off a week due to the extreme cold overnight temperatures of that weekend. Of course, as the week progressed afterwards it became clear that a storm was going to hit Thursday and Friday. Once Friday afternoon rolled around and the storm was gone, we decided we had already planned on it and both had bought some walleye-specific lures just for this trip, so we would give it a go.
Oneida Lake gets a good amount of fishing pressure as it is the premier lake for walleye fishing through the ice, plus the good sized perch that can be caught in the same area as the walleyes. Since we had to walk out, we decided to park at Chapman Park. It is a town park right on the lake, and they keep the parking lot plowed. So, we decided to aim for getting there at 5:00 so that we had time to walk out to where we wanted to fish before sunrise (sunrise is supposed to be good for walleye).
We made it to Chapman Park a few minutes later than we intended but we were the third vehicle in the parking lot. We unloaded our shanties and changed our footwear before heading out on the ice. Since we planned a three-quarter mile walk, I dressed lighter and packed my bib and jacket in my shanty knowing I would get warm walking with all of my clothing on.
As we made our way out on the lake, one fisherman came by on a snowmobile making us jealous. The storm on Friday had left about 10-12 inches of snow, but some of it had been blown around by the wind. It still was not pleasant to walk through while dragging our shanties.
After a few minutes, I pulled out my phone to see how far we were from where we wanted to go. We were maybe a quarter of the way there! We angled more toward our target and kept walking. After a few more minutes, we stopped and checked again. We were halfway but my friend was having a hard time pulling his shanty in the snow. The app on my phone said we were past 20 feet of water, so we decided to call it good enough.
We drilled holes and set up our shanties to get out of the wind that was starting to pick up. We fished for probably an hour without seeing anything on our flashers (fish finders). All the while, more and more people were showing up. You could hear snowmobiles in almost every direction.
Finally around 7:30 a mark showed up on my flasher. It came up from the bottom to look at my lure. I jigged my lure a little bit and watched the tip of my rod to see the bite. After a couple of seconds I saw the tip move the slightest bit and I lifted up to set the hook. The rod bent over under the weight of the fish, which didn’t feel that big, and I started reeling it in. It came right up without much of a fight and I pulled it through the hole in the ice. It was my first walleye through the ice! However, it was pretty small. Clearly not keeping size (15”) so I knew it was getting put back. I glanced at my flasher and another fish was on the bottom so I quickly unhooked the walleye, rebated the hook on my lure and sent it down the hole.
As my lure approached bottom, the fish came up to check it out. I jigged it some and the fish grabbed the lure as I was jigging. This one felt light as well as I reeled it up. Sure enough it was another small walleye but it had my lure completely in its mouth. I had to take out my pliers to unhook it before grabbing a quick picture and putting it back down the hole.
A few minutes later my friend hooked a fish and reeled in a walleye himself. His was bigger than the two I had caught but it was still short of being a keeper.
As the morning progressed, my friend got into some perch by using a slightly smaller jig. I switched up my lures a couple times trying to get a perch to hit. I finally caught one that was a keeper.
Around 11:00 we decided to call it a day and headed back to the parking lot. My friend ended up taking home 7 or 8 perch on top of both of us catching walleyes. Future trips to Oneida are a given now, hopefully with less snow.