With two major ice fishing contests on the horizon on the Great Sacandaga Lake, anglers will be looking for colder temperatures to make the events safe.
Currently, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is warning of precarious ice conditions on area lakes and streams due to a warm winter.
“During warm winters such as the one we are currently experiencing, some anglers take risks that they would otherwise not take,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a news release.
Martens said safe ice did not form last year on many larger waters, but smaller lakes and ponds eventually provided sufficient ice for safe angling.
“Although the wait can be frustrating, falling through the ice is not a risk anyone should take,” he said.
The ice on the Great Sacandaga Lake is three to four inches thick, said Jack Smith of the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation.
He said lake ice should be about six inches thick for safety purposes.
An ATV broke through the ice on the lake a week ago, but there were no reported injuries, authorities said.
The federation is sponsoring its annual ice fishing contest Jan. 26 for perch, trout and pike. That is the same day as the annual walleye challenge, coordinated by businessman Lou Stutzke. Smith said about 150 people have signed up for the federation contest.
“If the weather keeps cold, it will get better,” he said.
Right now, the weather is not cooperating. Temperatures are expected to top 50 degrees this weekend.
Smith said the federation will decide next week whether to go forward with its fishing contest.
“One year we had to cancel it because of the ice and weather,” he said.
Dave Allen of Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Mayfield said he is telling people to exercise caution when they go out ice fishing on the lake.
“I am selling bait, and they are fishing all over. But I am telling people to check it as they go along,” he said.
He advises people against going on the lake with a snowmobile or an all-terrain vehicle.
“They should be walking out there,” he said.
Allen said he believes lake ice conditions will improve next week when the weather gets colder.
“I think we will survive all right and get through the weekend. It looks like it will cool off,” he said.
The DEC said ice thickness varies between every body of water and even within the same body of water, so anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup.