When I was a little girl, my family had a camp on Cross Lake in Central New York. We’d spend the summers down by the water, swimming and fishing all day and night. My grandfather taught my brother and me all he knew about fishing. Over the years I lost interest, but my brother’s passion for fishing continued to grow. He fished extensively in New York before moving to Florida and fishing off the coast. Since he’s recently moved back to Syracuse, he has reintroduced me to the old hobby. Now, we spend our evenings together again out on the water, walleye fishing in New York State at Oneida Lake. it’s not only a peaceful way to spend time with my brother and husband, but it also makes for some delicious meals!
The Key to Walleye Fishing
In order to be most successful in a night of walleye fishing, the weather conditions have to be just right. Unfortunately, this means that it’s not the type of weather that I prefer! As the days and nights start to get colder in late autumn, walleye migrate out of the deeper waters and into the shallow banks. Lucky for us, that means we can fish right from the shore. Although many anglers still choose to go out in waders or on a boat, the fish are very prevalent in the shallow water’s edge.
Walleye prefer not only the cooler temperatures, but also a bit of wind. If you find a night where the waves are choppy, that’s prime walleye fishing time! They often start to feed and bite around dusk, and stick around as it gets dark. This makes for some chilly late nights, but it’s worth it every time one of us yells “Got one!” and the other grabs the net.
It’s important to note that there are limitations to fishing for walleye. While most of New York allows you to keep 5 walleye per day, Oneida Lake limits you to just 3 per day, and all must be over 15” in length. Make sure that you bring a tape measure along with your fishing license before you head out to the water!
My Own Walleye Fishing Gear
After several nights of borrowing my brother’s old push-button reel (and getting frustrated from it’s constant tangling), we went out to the store and I got myself my own gear. As soon as I saw the hot pink Zebco pole, I knew I made the right choice! We picked up a couple of other walleye fishing necessities – a 3/8th blade bait sonar, some bucktail jigs, and a 4” Rapala husky jerk. The sonar and jigs tend to do better in the slightly deeper water, while the husky jerk is preferable in the super shallow spots.
Oddly enough, the first fish I caught with my pink husky jerk was a northern pike – not what I had intended. But, my brother emphasized that northern pike are a rare catch in Oneida Lake, so I called it a win.
Patience is Important
Oneida Lake is the largest lake completely contained in New York State, and therefore has lots of shoreline. Anglers around the lake all know that there are the commonly known spots – like Chapman Park, Oneida Shores, and Sylvan Beach – but everyone has their ‘secret’ locations too. I’ve discovered that people often have a spot they don’t like to publicize to avoid it getting crowded and oversaturing the number of fishermen compared to fish.
For the more crowded locations, it’s important to get there early to stake out a spot. For example, the pier at Chapman park gets very crowded at dusk, and there are some anglers who will arrive while it’s still light and just hang out at the end of the dock until it’s dark. Whether you’re waiting til it’s fish feeding time, or you’ve already stated casting, patience is key. You’re not going to hook a walleye on every cast (unless you’re super lucky!), and you shouldn’t rush the reel either. Fishing for walleye is most successful when you’re patient with the line and slowly reel back in. Give the fish lots of time to decide to bite.
More Than Walleye
Of course, there’s more than just walleye fishing in New York. Oneida Lake is also home to pickerel, northern pike, sunfish, crappie, bluegill, perch, bass… You might also find sturgeon, but if you catch one you must immediately release it unharmed. Sturgeon are protected in New York because they are a threatened species.
I’m happy to know that walleye fishing is allowed almost year-round in New York – the first Saturday in May through March 15th – and look forward to learning how to ice fish this winter. I’ve really started to enjoy cooking and eating more fish – and it’s definitely budget friendly!
About the author: Danielle runs her own travel blog at Wanderlust on a Budget. She writes about budget-friendly activities and travel tips to help everyone realize the travel doesn’t have to be expensive. On her blog you’ll find a mixture of historical sites, obscure attractions, dog-friendly activities, and outdoor adventures – plus lots of breweries and wineries!