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Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within the state of New York. Sometimes referred to as the thumb of the Finger Lakes, Oneida has a surface area of 80 square miles and is about 21 miles long, about 5 miles wide with about 55 miles of shoreline. Oneida is a shallow lake with an average depth of 22 feet. The lake is named for the Oneida, an Iroquois tribe that occupied a large region around the lake. The Oneida called the lake Tsioqui meaning "White Water", a reference to the wave action on this shallow lake on windy days.

The lake feeds the Oneida River, a tributary of the Oswego River, which flows into Lake Ontario. Until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, the lake was part of an important waterway connecting the Atlantic seaboard to the continental inland. In 1835 Oneida Lake was connected

to the Erie Canal system by construction of the Oneida Canal. However, built poorly with wooden locks, the Oneida Canal was closed in 1863. When the Erie Canal was redesigned and reconstructed to form the New York State Barge Canal in the early 20th century, engineers made use of natural rivers and lakes where possible. Barges were powered internally by diesel or steam engines, so they could travel open water and against a current. A new terminal in Brewerton allowed improvements that made Oneida a navigable waterway again.

Today, Oneida Lake is the domain of the fisherman. Popular thought is that it is best known for walleye and yellow perch. In the spring, walleye can be found shallow. During the summer months' walleye are usually found in deeper water until the water cools in the fall and they move back shallow. Other species include largemouth, smallmouth, chain pickerel, bluegill, pumpkinseed, rock bass, black crappie, freshwater drum, longnose gar. Both the round goby and zebra mussels have entered the lake which has made Oneida a fantastic bass fishing location. Numerous bass fishing tournaments are held each year and it has become a popular stop for professional bass fishing organizations such as BASSMASTER and Major League Fishing. Smallmouth bass can be caught around the many shoals while largemouth bass are found in the larger bays and anywhere there is good vegetation. Young of the year yellow perch and gizzard shad, along with round goby are the main forage in the lake.


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