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THE OXBOW, NORTHAMPTON, MA

The Oxbow is an extension of the Connecticut River located in Northampton, Massachusetts.
By Toby Lapinski
THE OXBOW, NORTHAMPTON, MA

In the summer, the waters of the Oxbow are teeming with boats, fishermen and all manner of water enthusiasts due to its easy access and close proximity to several nearby towns. Just about every species of freshwater fish known to inhabit the Connecticut River can be caught here from panfish to pike and bass to walleye.

The Oxbow is easily accessed as it is right off Interstate 91. To access the north side, take exit 18 off I-91 onto Route 5 north and take a left onto Dike Road. This is a dirt road and can often be difficult to access after a warm spell or snowstorm. Dike Road becomes Potash Road, and then take a left onto Old Springfield Road. This will bring you along the north side of the Oxbow. The south side is accessed by again taking exit 18 off I-91, yet this time take Route 5 south to Island Road on your right. Follow this until you reach the Oxbow.

Fisherman Magazine Inland Report Field Editor, Rod Teehan spoke to our local contact, Big Bean (Dick Banasieski) as it has been several years since I fished the Oxbow so I wanted to verify the current parking situation before sending anyone on a wild goose chase. He said he didn't think you could park any longer in the soccer field (where I would often park when I regularly fished here) so alternate options must be sought. The field north of the Oxbow Marina is still available and it is plowed. A nominal fee is charged (Last year it was $3.). No one is there to collect, however. There is a collection box that has envelopes. You place your money in the envelope, write your license plate number on the outside, and then drop the envelope into the box. He also noted that you can park on both sides of the bridge at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary on Old Springfield Road. Be sure to keep an eye on our Inland Report each week for a current status of the fishing success as well as general ice reports from Big Bean. He is a wealth of local knowledge and has provided us with freshwater reports for many years.

For many, many years, the Oxbow was one of my favorite ice fishing spots. Since such a wide variety of species of fish can be found here, I rarely got skunked and I could target several different species simultaneously. Generally I would set up a pair of tip-ups with a large, dead bait on the bottom for either pike or catfish, two more tip-ups with small to medium minnows to target panfish and bass and on my jigging rod I would tie a small Kastmaster or Rapala Jigging Minnow. The jig offering would be tipped with a moussie or very small minnow and generally provided enough action between flags to keep me happy and warm.

Like most water bodies, the best location to fish is always up for debate. In general I would begin by fishing right underneath the power lines that run roughly NW/SE across the northern part of the Oxbow. I often found more consistent action by setting up closer to the northern side than the south. From there I would move to the northeast corner but again sticking to the northern stretch. I often found this to be a very good jigging/panfish area and almost always experienced heavy fishing pressure. At times anglers would set up portable fishing huts in this area and have them on prime ice for much of the season. I often saw anglers set up well to the west near Hulberts Pond/Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary where there is a deep hole in the 20-foot range, but I never ventured that far west. This area can be very good during the open water season for pike so I would be willing to guess it remains a good bet during the ice season as well.

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