Oneida's wild weather

Where I’m from in south Louisiana, we’re accustomed to unpredictable weather in the forms of tropical storms and flash floods. Hurricane season officially starts in June, and there’s always a touch of anxiety that comes with its arrival.

The good people of central New York had their own first-hand encounter with wacky weather on Tuesday when hailstorms broke out across a good portion of the greater Syracuse area and surrounding counties. Temperatures have been unseasonably cool here (in the lower 50s throughout the day Tuesday) since a rainstorm passed over the area Sunday night. More showers moved into the area on Tuesday, which caused some volatile weather (some of which was captured on local news website Syracuse.com.

Of course, this is the same area that is playing host to the first Bass Pro Shops Northern Open of 2017. The three-day tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday on Oneida Lake, which at 50,000-plus acres is the largest lake located entirely in the state. It’s shallow (22 feet on average) compared to New York’s Finger Lakes which are located to the southwest of Oneida. Because of its basic horizontal layout, Oneida sometimes is referred to as the "thumb" as the nearby "fingers" run from north to south.

The question is will the blast of cool air that started Sunday have an effect on the bite during the Northern Open this week?

“I think it may help actually,” said Cicero, N.Y., resident Chad Van Slyke, who is one of the 200 pros competing in the tournament this week. “I’ve spent my whole life on this lake, and the past couple years have brought the unseasonable stuff; temperatures in the 80s in April. The fish seem to like some wild weather. It’s the hot water they don’t like.”

Van Slyke said water temperature in Oneida has been hovering in the 70-72 degree range, and that’s made fishing ideal during the past few weeks. He competed in a 120-boat tournament last week and had an 18-pound limit on one day, but still he wasn’t sure that would be good enough to put him among the event’s leaders.

“Fishing has been that good up here recently,” Van Slyke said. “I think the tournament is going to be an absolute shootout. There are some really nice 4-pounders in the lake, and a couple of those will go a long way to a nice bag. There should be a lot of people stacked up in the 15 1/2- to 16 1/2-pound range. A couple of the bigger bites could separate some people from that bunch.”

Air temperatures are expected to normalize somewhat beginning today, with a slow but steady climb back into the upper 70s. Rain, however, could eventually be a factor with a 40 percent chance for showers on Thursday increasing to 80 percent on Friday and 100 percent on Saturday. If wind accompanies that rain, Oneida Lake could be a challenge as it gets extremely choppy given its relatively shallow depth.

“I’d say it’s one of the more dangerous lakes in America when it’s windy,” Van Slyke said. “It reminds me of (Lake) Okeechobee (in Florida). It can really churn because it’s so shallow.”