Ice Fishing: Putting the wraps on a quality season

There’s still ice on a few lakes and North Country ponds, but I’m not going to recommend trying to w
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There’s still ice on a few lakes and North Country ponds, but I’m not going to recommend trying to walk on it.

Looking back on the 2007-08 ice fishing season, I’d have to say it was one of the best we’ve had in some time, both in terms of fish caught and overall good weather conditions. And as I reviewed my ice fishing reports, one thing became quite clear — we had our best hard-water fishing and catching, all within a few miles of the Capital Region. Before we take a look at what happened on the ice this year, lets look at a few of the end-of-the-season catches.

In the last tournament of the year on the Great Sacandaga Lake, hosted by the 701 Fish & Game Club, the 46 anglers who competed had to be a hardy bunch, because the weather that day was just plain ugly. But those who braved the winds and heavy rain caught fish.

The winners in the walleye div­ision were Dan King of Broadalbin, 201⁄2 inches; Grayson Fonda of Mayfield, 193⁄8 inches; Garrison DeRocker of Broadalbin, 181⁄8 inches; Gary Gutowski of Amsterdam and Brian Jablonski of Fort Johnson, tied for fourth with 18-inch walleyes.

The big pike catches might have been slowed by the weather, but there were still some good ones caught. Allen Bauele of Gloversville led the field with his 32-inch pike, followed by Tom Messak of Amsterdam with a 30-inch catch. Dom Friello of Delanson had a

251⁄8-incher, and Beaver Ross of Mayfield had a 233⁄4-inch pike.

The biggest perch of the tourn­ament, 15 inches, was caught by Nick Lee of Broadalbin. Ross was second with a 95⁄8-incher. The fishing must have been very tough, because no one brought in a trout.

In little Round Lake, Ed Brophy of Clifton Park hooked up with a late-season northern pike that made his day. He was fishing in about four feet of water and weeds,

using a large shiner beneath a tip-up, when the 42-inch predator grabbed his bait. The pike weighed just over 20 pounds.

One of the best things about ice fishing is that quite often, the kids tag along, and one local young man is glad he did. Twelve-year-old Alex Stratton of Schenectady ended his ice fishing season with a nice northern pike. Fishing on the north end of Lake Lonely, Alex landed a chunky 27-inch northern that tipped the scales at seven pounds. He was fishing in about 15 feet of water with a tip-up baited with a nine-inch sucker.

SEASON AT A GLANCE

There were five ice fishing hot spots this year, based on numbers and size of the fish caught, and they really shouldn’t be a surprise. The Great Sacandaga Lake again proved that it’s a superb fishery. During this year’s ice fishing season, there were at least 11 northern pike in excess of 40 inches pulled through the ice. And if you’re an ice angler, I suggest you make a note that all were taken on live bait, and the majority were caught near the end of the season in eight feet or shallower water. Also, I’d find out where the stump field is in the Northampton area and give it a try next season. It’s where Jeremy Lawrence of Northampton caught a 46-inch northern that won the biggest pike award in the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation.

And let’s not forget the Sacan­daga walleye and trout catches. Two walleyes were taken in the 29-inch class, and a pair of brown trout just shy of 28 inches were also taken. These are great fish, and so were the 15-plus-inch perch that were being caught there this year.

At Saratoga Lake, the fish were not necessarily as big, but there were plenty of flags going off throughout the season. Their walleye season was good, with most of the better “eyes” coming from 10 to 15 feet, the first hour before and after daylight and, the first hour before and after dark.

For panfishermen, the area known as Franklin Beach, just out from Fitch Road, produced many limits (50) of hand-size bluegills. For pike and perch, Manning’s Cove was hot this season with several 12-plus-pound pike being taken. Weeds were, as expected, the key to catching them. These same areas also held an abundance of fun-to-catch pickerel.

Little Lake Lonely anglers found January and mid-February to be a crappie bonanza this year, offering a chance to fill the 25-per-day limit, many of which exceeded 12 inches. The action was primarily on the north end, and this same area also produced those big pike, as well.

Ice anglers found quiet little Round Lake a good place to fish tip-ups baited with large live bait. There was one 40-inch pike taken that I know of and a number of others in the high-30-inch class. And there was even a 40-plus-inch tiger muskie reported caught and released in the northern shore weed line area.

There’s one other body of water that produced very good bites this year — Lake George. I received calls and e-mails at least three times a week about the great perch fishing that anglers were enjoying. Most of the action took place in the South Basin in bays such as Dunham’s, Huddle and Basin. The anglers were jigging with flashy teardrop jigs tipped with grubs 25-30 feet deep. Also, small minnows and tip-ups were taking their share.

Speaking of their share, the biggest catch of the ice fishing season occurred on Lake George, when

Department of Environmental Conservation Officers William Bramlage and Lt. Thomas Caifa arrested four men, two from Washington County and two from Warren County, for possessing 494 perch; that’s almost 300 fish over the

50-per-day, per-person limit. One of them did not even have a fishing license. Good catch, DEC!

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