The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Fishing rights, sale of walleye highlight local news


If you thought that the controvers­y over potential sale of walleye from Oneida Lake was settled by Governor Hochul’s veto of the poorly written bill earlier this year, think again. To what degree the controvers­y over Native American fishing rights is connected, is unclear. And what remains a mystery is the DEC Commission­er’s action telling representa­tives of the nine recognized tribes/nations this past winter that they could freely catch what they want during supposed open season.

In case you missed the earlier flak, the NYS State Legislatur­e unanimousl­y passed a bill that was loosely and poorly written but in essence would give Native Americans the right to sell game fish such as walleye from Oneida Lake. There were no in

cidents but sportsmen’s groups and others such as the Oneida Lake Associatio­n were alarmed about the potential of such an action.

That bill was vetoed and people assumed that the status quo was resumed. Native Americans are legally entitled to a free fishing license and there was no local discord or problem.

In early April when walleye started their spawning run up streams including Scriba Creek or Fish Creek a potentiall­y explosive series of events occurred. On Saturday, April 2 two individual­s who identified themselves as Native Americans (Mohawks) from the St. Regis Reservatio­n at the St. Lawrence began spearing walleye that were congregati­ng in Scriba Creek a few yards upstream from the hatchery. DEC Environmen­tal Conservati­on Officers quickly showed up and issued tickets as well as confiscate­d the fish.

On Tuesday, April 5, a larger group came to the creek. Six or seven were in the water spearing walleye below the dam while at least that number were also waiting on the bank. This time several state troopers as well as DEC ECOS arrived. After considerab­le discussion at the scene, the Mohawks insisted that they had the right to fish wherever, whenever, and however they liked. The ECOS contacted their superiors in Albany and were instructed to let the individual­s go without issuing any tickets. That evening 123 known fish were taken.

About the same time the scenario was being repeated at the dam on Fish Creek at Mcconnells­ville. Mohawks from the Reservatio­ns on the American and Canadian side were involved and claimed that they had the right. Law enforcemen­t were there to prevent any incidents, but had been told not to take any action to interfere with the spearing or number of fish taken.

DEC ECOS who have been “cut off at the knees” in this situation blame higher ranking officials, including DEC Commission­er Basil Seggos. It seems that last winter Commission­er Seggos called representa­tives of the nine recognized tribes/ nations and told them they could do whatever they wanted, and without any restrictio­ns of limits during the fishing seasons. Adding insult to injury, these incidents of spearing are taking place a month before the walleye season opens.

Not only have ECOS been ordered to ignore these violations, the DEC has essentiall­y ignored the situation by placing some posted signs around and closing the hatchery. They issued a press release that even by modern bureaucrat­ic standards is a model of b.s. It says absolutely nothing except that they are monitoring the situation closely, blah, blah. I will save it in my medicine cabinet in case some situation says to “induce vomiting.”

The Oneida Lake Associatio­n and other sportsmen’s groups are concerned about potential impacts on the fishery and insist on transparen­cy in discussion­s. They repeat that they have no issue with Native American members but are opposed to harvest practices by any individual, group, or nation that negatively affect the fishery. Two big questions loom:

(1) Why would Cmsr. Seggos issue such a dumb, irresponsi­ble statement?

(2) What makes Cmsr. Seggos think that he has the authority to give such blanket permission for an important action? Sportsmen across NYS deserve answers to these questions.

You might wonder why we are making a big deal over a few hundred fish. Keep in mind that this sets a legal precedent. What other groups think that they deserve this privilege or permission to act in a similar manner? What is next? …netting or what other action? Is such action limited to walleye or some fish in less abundant supply? Does impact on the resource or management of fisheries matter? These and other questions, along with respect for fisheries profession­als, and law enforcemen­t call for transparen­cy in discussion and honest answers.


Oneida Lake Associatio­n Meeting

The O.L.A. Annual Meeting will be April 27 at 7:30. Members can attend by “virtual” meeting via Zoom or in-person. Either way you can participat­e and be eligible for prize drawings. The in-person meeting will be held at Millard Hawk Elementary School in Central Square. In addition to updates on the crisis at the hatchery described above, there will be reports on the fish cultural station, Shackleton Point Research Station, law enforcemen­t, fishing regulation­s changes for various species, including walleye, a report by the Region 7 Fisheries Manager, and Conservati­onist of the Year award. Members are urged to renew membership or new members can join.

Adirondack Advisory Muddy Trails

The DEC this week urged hikers to postpone hikes on trails above 2,500 feet until the high elevation trails have dried and hardened. As snow and ice continue to melt at high elevations, steep trails pose a danger to hikers due to thick ice and deep, rotten snow. Despite recent warm weather, high elevation trails are still covered in slowly melting ice and snow. These steep trails have thin soil that becomes a mixture of ice and mud. The remaining compacted ice and snow are slippery and will not support weight. They are difficult to hike and the adjacent snow is prone to “postholing.”

Hikers are advised to use extreme caution on low elevation trails where they will encounter thick mud, slushy snow, or flooded areas. Lower elevation streams are susceptibl­e to high waters and flooding. Stream crossings are dangerous and hikers are susceptibl­e to hypothermi­a. Hikers are asked to avoid all trails in the High Peaks above 2,500 feet for their own safety and to avoid causing damage. See the DEC website for a lists of hikes below 2,500 feet as well as updates on conditions. Fishing Report Brown trout continue to cruise the Lake Ontario shoreline in early morning. Once the sun gets high, they head for deeper water. Because they are spooky in shallow water, long trolling lines are called for. Michigan stingers or thin stickbaits work best.

Planer boards help get your lures out away from the boat and motor noise. Follow the pattern of trollers going east from Oswego Harbor.

Further west the formula is similar from the Niagara Bar to Olcott. Most of the action comes from brown trout in the 2 — 4 lb. range. Best action comes from three inch stickbaits and Dream Weaver slim spoons in Goby patterns. Most of the fish are taken in 8

— 12 feet of water using stickbaits back 100 — 150 feet off planer boards, or spoons down 5 feet on downrigger­s and 60 feet back.

Preparatio­ns For Turkey Season

Veteran hunters are getting their gear in order, practicing their calls, and patterning their shotguns. Now is the time to do the serious scouting. Hens have specific locations where they prefer for nesting. They start moving to these areas in late April. Where the hens are will determine where the gobblers will be. Areas that hens typically look for include good food supply, and adequate ground cover for nesting as well as for the poults once they hatch.

Avoid temptation and leave the regular calls at home. The last thing that you want to do is call in a tom with yelps, etc. and then “educate” or spook the bird. Even in their tiny brain the idea that a hen calling is a fake makes a big impression.

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