Anglers enjoy a quiet moment along the east side of the Oswego River in downtown Oswego. The river offers plenty of public access for shoreline fishing along its 24-mile course. (Photo by Mary Ellen Barbeau.)By Spider Rybaak Oswego County - An old saying goes: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." And New York makes it easy for you to try your hand--and luck--at this pleasant pastime by designating the last full weekend in June as "Free Fishing Days." That's right, on June 27 and 28, anyone, regardless of age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, whatever, can fish any water in the Empire State without a license. And the opportunities are almost limitless. Indeed, New York is blessed with a fabulous web of waterways which includes two of the Great Lakes, numerous chains like the Finger and Indian River Lakes, thundering rivers like the Black, Salmon and Raquette, and even a Wonder of the Natural World, Niagara Falls. What's more, the water quality is so good, the fishing so great, the state is one of the world's premier fishing destinations. Hooked on Oswego County Oswego County is unquestionably the most fisherman-friendly place around. It borders the southeastern corner of Lake Ontario, the best salmonid fishery in the Lower 48 states; claims Oneida Lake, famed worldwide for its fabulous walleye fishery; and hosts most of the Oswego River, Lake Ontario's second largest tributary. The Salmon River, the most famous trophy salmon and trout fishery in the Northeast, is totally contained within the county, and offers the nation's only meaningful summer, whitewater action for trophy landlocked Atlantic salmon, and Skamania (a warmwater-tolerant strain of steelhead) this side of the Mississippi. Beginner's Spots Don't let the world-class status of Oswego County's fisheries intimidate you. There's plenty of fishing access where you don't need millions of dollars worth of equipment, just a rod and reel, a bucket of bait, and something to sit on For instance, Oneida Lake walleyes can be taken all summer long from the fishing access site at the source of the Oneida River, below the northeastern corner of the I-81 bridge. This spot is handicap accessible. Get there from downtown Brewerton by heading east on county Rte. 37 for about a half mile from its intersection with US 11. Or head down county Rte. 37 in the opposite direction for about three miles to its end, turn left on county Rte. 12, and continue for a couple hundred yards to the dam in the hamlet of Caughdenoy. The still water above the barrier, as well as the plunge pool below, are loaded with bass, sheepshead, catfish, walleye and panfish, all within casting distance of shore. With the exception of Hinmansville, which only offers shoulder parking at the southwestern corner of the county Rte. 46 bridge, the Oswego River has convenient public access with parking at all villages and cities along its course. For instance, Phoenix encourages public fishing in the canal, as well as the fast water in the heart of town. There's even a boat launch off Culvert Street (turns into Lamson Road). Fulton offers productive fast water and slow water access at the locks on the eastside of the river, as well as the launch and access on NY Route 481, on the north side of town. Minetto boasts canal access, including a launch suitable for handheld craft on the west side of the bridge. Topping off this marvelous stream, is the highly productive water in downtown Oswego. Whether you prefer the rapids below the dams, the slow moving water in the "Hotel District" below Lock 7 and the harbor, or even the weedy areas of Wright's Landing and below Breitbeck Park, you'll find the water in the city loaded with fish ranging from perch, bluegills and crappies to larger species like walleyes, northern pike, sheepshead, catfish, and monster carp Both Salmon River Reservoirs offer good public access right on some of their hottest spots. The Lower Reservoir offers bank-fishing access and beach launching with parking off county Rte. 22, right between the two bridges at Bennett Bridges, and on Hogsback Road. Redfield Reservoir has several DEC access sites off county Rte. 2. The utility company maintains one, complete with picnic facilities and a beach launch, at the end of Falls Road. The village of Redfield offers access on the south side of county Route 17, with a handicapped accessible platform overlooking the reservoir. The ancients believed fish was brain food. Today we know the art of catching fish is equally valuable, capable of feeding--and healing--mind and soul. The state's Free Fishing Days makes it easy to indulge in this age-old, sensual and spiritual feast. For more dynamite fishing spots go to or call 800-248-4386 and request an Oswego County Hunting and Fishing Guide. Spider Rybaak is an award-winning outdoor writer who has been published in more than 20 periodicals. He is the author of "Fishing Eastern New York" and "Fishing Western New York" guide books that cover 429 streams and lakes in New York State. Contact him at


Photo caption Anglers enjoy a quiet moment along the east side of the Oswego River in downtown Oswego. The river offers plenty of public access for shoreline fishing along its 24-mile course. (Photo by Mary Ellen Barbeau.) Contact: Janet West Clerkin Tourism and Public Information Coordinator (315) 349-8324