One of the great traditional Adirondack wintertime pastimes kicked of this past week – ice fishing. The stalled winter has had hard-water anglers itching to hit the ice, although a few hardy (some would say fool-hardy) early adventurers found just enough ice here and there to safely fish two weekends ago. All that is behind us now, as many smaller lakes have the minimum of three to four inches considered safe to travel ice on foot. The ice shanties are being readied, tip-ups and jig poles tested, new lines and leaders in place. This weekend will see small congregations of anglers sprinkled across the frozen surface of local lakes. According to a recent DEC survey, ice fishing participation has doubled over the past 10 years.
“Everyone is anxious to get out, as early ice often produces some of the best fishing opportunities of the season,” local guide Joe Hackett told me last week. Joe said he saw anglers on Lake Colby, Rollins Pond, Connery Pond and most of the smaller waters in the Tri-Lakes region last weekend. “I’d stay off the big lakes for a while yet,” he cautioned, “especially around the inlets and outlets”.
This year, there will be an expanded opportunity to improve the catch. In waters where a full compliment of ice fishing gear is permitted, anglers are now allowed up to three lines and five tip-ups. The previous limit was two lines and five tip-ups.
DEC reminds anglers to take these important guidelines when ice fishing:
Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species. Bait fish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing.
Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same waterbody in which they were caught.
Check for sufficient ice thickness before venturing onto the ice and frequently as you travel to new areas.
Remember, ice thickness varies on every body of water and anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks/houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. Snowmobile tracks or footprints should not be taken as evidence of safe ice – always check ice conditions for yourself and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk.
Photo: Above, Mike Todriff of Chestertown shows off a salmon caught last year on Lake George; below, Shannon Houlihan of Chestertown tries her luck with a jig pole in 2011.