If you were one of the ice anglers I saw on the ice at Saratoga Lake battling those 40-mph gusts last Sunday, I salute you.
I watched two portable shanties blow over and their owners chase them down. But the fishing was not affected at all, as I watched (from my truck) the crowd several hundred yards from Fitch Road catching all species of panfish. Bluegills were the primary biters, and remember that on Saratoga Lake, the limit for sunfish (bluegill, pumpkinseed, redbreast) is only 15 and crappies, 25. They were using smaller plastic jigs like the Marmooska, sizes 10-12, in various colors and tipped with grubs.
The bigger perch were holding in 10-12 feet off the weed lines, but you have to look for them. One technique for finding them is to use spoons dropped down about halfway to the bottom. Jig aggressively. This technique will work even better with a sonar unit that will display the schools of fish. Every once in a while, bouncing the jig off the bottom can also get their attention. And lastly, the run-and-gun technique is worth the cost of a power auger.
When you find a school, drop a Rapala or jigging Shad Rap down and use a lift-and-fall method. Be sure to let it glide freely to the bottom each time. Quite often when you stop it, the bite will come.
As for the soft baits I mentioned above, the one-inch tubes seem to produce good perch, and really any other panfish species. Use thirty-second- to eighth-ounce jig heads, the heavier in deeper water. Start jigging on the bottom, and depending upon what happens, move up in two- to three-foot intervals.
Pickerel are setting off flags all over Saratoga and offer a lot of fun and action, especially for kids. Pike reports are few and far between, but the walleye bite continues to be best at dawn and dusk. The ’eyes are partial to small suckers and medium-sized shiners on tip-ups in 15-20 feet of water. While waiting, cut another hole nearby and do a little jigging with a size 5 Rapala.
There were several reports that the pike bite on little Lake Lonely is still on, with the biggest reported being a 15-pounder. I sure hope all those big fish aren’t being kept. Keeping big breeders in the lake is important. Try a little CPR (catch-photograph-release). Take the photos and the fish’s measurements to a taxidermist, and he can make an exact reproduction for your wall.
I received a photo of a 53-inch northern said to have been caught on the Great Sacandaga Lake. I tried to verify it with various bait and tackle shops and ice anglers, but all I could get was, “Yes, I heard that, too.” So until I get verification, I won’t be releasing the photo and other information. But a pike this size caught from the Great Sacandaga Lake wouldn’t surprise me.
The Great Sacandaga Lake walleyes are also biting. The seven-pounder measuring 28 inches caught by Gordon Finn of Mayfield was the biggest one reported. There have also been a number of ’eyes caught in the 24- to 25-inch ranges. Most of the lake’s walleye activity has been in the 10-foot depth areas around Sport Island, North Hampton and the Broadalbin area. The successful anglers were fishing about 12 inches off the bottom in 10 feet of water with shiners and hunt baits beneath tip-ups.
Northern pike are also being caught in these same areas using live big shiners and suckers on tip-ups. As for the perch, the big 12-inchers seem to be holding around Broadalbin, but require running and gunning to find. According to Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Mayfield, they’ve been very fond of rosey red minnows fished right on the bottom.
There are two ice fishing tournaments scheduled Saturday. The Great Sacandaga Fisheries Federation will host its annual Great Sacandaga Lake contest from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with all fish measured at the Sacandaga Boat Club in Broadalbin. A total of $1,500 will be divided for the longest three northern pike, perch and trout catches. First place for each will receive $300, second $150 and third $50. Entry fee is $15 now, $18 morning of the contest. For further details, call 227-8298.
Thompson Lake, Thacher State Park, will host an ice fishing contest Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Entry is $10 per person, children younger than 12, free. Cash prizes will be awarded. The payouts will be determined by the number of entries. For further information, call 872-1237.
Last month, one of Oklahoma’s most popular bass fishing organizations, Backyard Bassin’, held a tournament on Arbuckle Lake, and the bass were definitely biting. I remember from my bass tournament fishing days that 28.42 pounds anchored by a 6.54-pound smallmouth for a five-bass team catch would win just about any one-day bass tournament, but not this one. In fact, they finished second and were not even close to the winners. The winners, Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson, weighed in five bass totaling 42.04 pounds.
Two of their five fish were caught on an Alabama rig, two were caught on jerk bait and one on a football jig. Their biggest weighed nine pounds, their smallest, six pounds. Two bass in this tournament weighed 10 pounds, and there were a dozen bass that tipped the scales at more than eight pounds.
ICE FISHING REPORT
If you’ve been on the ice and would like to have your catch featured here in the ice fishing report, email me all the details. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.