The Great Sacandaga Lake again proved it’s one of the best fishing resources in the Northeast, based on the results of the two ice fishing contests held there last month.
The $45,000 Walleye Challenge, sponsored by the Fulton-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, co-sponsored by Lou and Nancy Stutzke of Fuel and Food, and Hank “Beaver” and Maria Ross. Overall, there were 238 walleyes weighed in, and the top four catches in each of the eight hours of the event were paid. The top four place amounts were $550, $300, $100 and $50, respectively.
The winners, determined by weight for each hour, were: Chris VanWormer, Johnstown, 3.06; Joe Hibbard, Canandaigua, 2.55; Greg Warmer, Mayfield, 3.5 (biggest ’eye of the day); Matt VanValkenburgh, Johnstown, 3.15; Ron Blowers, Northville, 2.41; Scott Henze, Northville, 2.95; Randy Beageal, Northville, 3.15; and Donald Scalea, Schenectady, 3.05. The winners also drew for major prizes: Jeremy Frolish of Mechanicville won a snowmobile, and Scott Shepard of Northville and Robert Walsh of Cossayuna each won a four-wheeler.
The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation ice fishing contest attracted a record 377 anglers. The biggest fish to come to the measuring board at the Sacandaga Boating Club was the 40-inch northern pike caught by Bob Burka of Mayfield, winning that division. Second place went to Frank Hernandez of Schenectady with a 375⁄8-inch northern, and third was Paul Kietzman of Broadalbin with a 37 1⁄4-incher.
In the trout category David Jiminez of Altamont had a 19 3⁄8-incher, followed by Harry Fordyce of Edinburg, with a 17-inch catch. Pete Chupka of Mayfield won first and second place with a 15 1⁄8-inch and 14 3⁄8 -inch perch. Marty Sepoko of Connecticut was third with 14 1⁄4 inches.
A few days after all these anglers were on the Great Sacandaga Lake, a dozen or so ventured out on the lake to do a little fishing, and they also did very well. Galway anglers Jack and Jeff Douglas, along with Ira, Cubby and Zack Cromley of Mayfield and a number of unidentified anglers were all catching fish in the Broadalbin area. The Douglas group caught a few dozen perch ranging from 13 to 15 inches and a dozen legal walleyes, most of which were caught on jigs and/or tip-ups with live bait.
The big surprise here is that the pike have been biting — something that hasn’t happened in quite a while. The bigger pike, those in the three-foot category, are coming from deeper water. Recently, there was a 40-incher caught, measured and released by an unidentified angler.
Employees at Saratoga Tackle said the pike anglers are asking for the biggest bait available and are fishing about two inches off the hard bottoms or just over the tops of the sunken weeds. The big pike mentioned above came in 15 feet of water, right on the edge of a channel drop.
The walleye bite is still best two hours before and after sunup and sundown. I know — from the lights I saw on the water the other night — there are some all-night anglers sitting in their warm shanties.
The best ’eye technique is tip-ups with live bait, set outside the deeper weed edges, varying the depths until you get a bite. The best way to locate is with an electronic depth/fish finder. Also, poke at least one hole where you can do a little jigging with a Rapala.
Saratoga’s panfishing for most species is still very good lakewide. The crowds are still gathering 100-200 yards off of Fitch Road on the Route 9P side of the lake. All of the plastics are reported as the best baits. As a reminder, if you park near or on Fitch Road, be sure to park well off the road and take your trash with you.
I’ve also been told there’s quite a bit of activity on the ice out from Stoney Point, Riley’s Cove and the area around Chinatown. The bite is coming in eight feet or less, mostly from panfish, but every once in a while, a nice walleye, pike or pickerel will grab those little baits.
Crappie bites have slowed down, and the fish may have gone deeper. If you’re familiar with Saratoga Lake and know where those deep water humps are, chances of getting some good crappies are excellent. These humps are out in the 20- to 30-foot depth ranges where they come up to 10 feet or so. This is where crappie schools can be holding. I’m willing to bet those tip-up and jigging anglers I see out in what seems to be the middle of the lake are fishing over a hump — another good reason to have a depth/fish finder.
Reports from Lake George as of Jan. 31 are three to four inches of ice on the bays from Bolton south. Also, there is a fair amount of fishing around Hearthstone, Million Dollar Beach and Assembly Point. There have been reports of a good laker bite, jigging with a white and purple Swedish Pimple and also using tip-ups with smaller live bait. I suggest, especially on Lake George, calling any of the bait and tackle shops in and around the lake to check the conditions. Personally, I’m not comfortable on three to four inches of ice.
Years ago, I caught a hefty six-pound-plus largemouth bass and a three-foot long northern pike from the shore of Nassau Lake in Rensselear County — in the same day. This little lake is probably full of surprises, and Averill Park ice angler Bryan Shoemaker got a big one recently. He was fishing with an eight-inch shiner when the flag went off and his battle began. Finally, Bryan was pleasantly surprised when he squeezed a 40-inch, 12-pound northern through the hole.
At Lake Lonely, they’re still catching the big pike in the north end, in and around the point by the golf course. Panfish are all around the lake, and I’ve been told by a frequent Lake Lonely angler that one of the hot spots is down near the mouth of the narrows coming out from Lake Lonely Boat Livery. Stay to the left (west) side of the lake about 30 feet out from shore. This side will often hold some decent perch.
BIG $$$$ ICE ANGLING
If you’re looking for some big-money ice fishing tournaments, the New York State Ice Pro-Am Tournament series is offering three of them. The first will be on Chautauqua Lake, Feb. 16-17, for walleye, perch and panfish. The second is on Sodus Bay, Feb. 23-24, for pike, walleye, perch and panfish. The third will be on Tupper Lake, March 9-10 for pike, walleye, perch and panfish.
Each of these events has three levels: professional, amateur and open. In the open division, the largest 10 fish for each species place in the tournament. The professional and amateur divisions are scored on a point system and require the anglers (single or two-person teams) to catch multiple species to score points. The top 10 teams in each division with the most points place in the tournament.
The amateur division is geared toward the more skilled anglers who crave increased competition for higher payouts. The pros are geared for those who are sponsored by fishing companies and/or who want to compete at the highest level offering the highest payout. Entry fees are: $160 pro, $90 amateur and $40 open.
Based on a minimum of 250 pros, 200 amateurs and 500 open participants at each of these events, the top 10 will receive a check. The first- and 10th-place payoffs in each division are: pro, $10,000 and $150; amateur, $5,000 and $100. Open will be determined by the number of anglers. In addition, at each event, two Polaris Sportsman 500 ATVs, an Aqua-Vu Micro Plus Camera System, power augers and more will be given as door prizes; and all registrants in all divisions will be eligible. For further information and registration, go to www.nysiceproam.com.
If you are looking for a smaller ice fishing contest, the Wells Fish and Game Club will host one Feb. 23 on Algonquin Lake in Wells. The tournament hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the entry fee is $15. You can register Friday, Feb. 22, at the Wells Methodist Church, Route 30, between 6 and 8 p.m., or at 6 a.m. the morning of the contest. Awards will be given for the biggest perch and pickerel. For further details, call 924-2110.
If you had a good day poking holes in the hard water and would like to share it with your fellow ice anglers, email me all the details at firstname.lastname@example.org