They’re walking on ice!
I did a few drive-bys of local waters and saw bundled-up people standing/sitting over holes in the ice, jigging and using tip-ups. I even saw several snowmobiles out there running around.
I never recommend motorized vehicles of any kind on the ice.
I know we’re all anxious to see our tip-up flags fly and jigging rods bend, but let’s take a minute and review some of the safety rules of ice fishing.
When it comes to going onto the ice, regardless of how much ice you “think” there is, safety should always be the number one concern. When you go through the ice, being a strong swimmer means nothing.
You’re in trouble!
Every ice angler should have two things at all times: a zipped-up personal flotation device and ice picks. Better yet is the Frabill Safety Ice Kit that includes one pair of extra-large rubber, pull-on creepers (that ice is very hard), a safety whistle and ice picks that have retractable guards and a 72-inch stretchable cord. If you go through, you’re going to want those picks. The package sells for $15 (www.frabill.com).
Another very important item is a cell phone, for obvious reasons. Carry or wear a safety line that can be thrown to someone who has gone through the ice.
Tell your family/friends your ice fishing plans and when to expect your return.
Don’t go alone. Bring a friend.
Always be cautious crossing near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, etc.
How thick must ice be to be “safe?”
The answer is, it depends, because you can’t tell by just looking at it. The Department of Environmental Conservation Safe Ice charts say two inches, one person; three inches, groups in single file; 71⁄2 inches, one two-ton car; eight inches, a 2.5-ton truck; 10 inches, a 3.5-ton truck; 12 inches, a 7-8-ton truck; 15 inches, 10 tons; and 20 inches, 25 tons. This guide is based on clear, blue, hard ice on non-running water.
Stay far away from docks using bubblers for protection. I have to mention again, I’m not a fan of bringing any vehicle on the ice, regardless of its thickness. The chart is for ideal conditions. I highly recommend checking with local bait and tackle shops for the latest conditions before venturing on the ice.
If you’ve been on the ice, especially a few weeks ago, you know what cold and windy conditions are. When it’s windy on open ice, it’s bitter.
One way to break that wind is to use an ice shanty, and there are plenty to choose from. Frabile has several new ones. I like the Fishouflage Ambush Outpost ice shelter. It has a two-person capacity, is made of 900-denier skirt, has a thermal top, two corner doors with heavy-duty zippers, four clear-view, removable windows, adjustable venting, reflective piping on four sides, measures 70x70x80 inches assembled and 50x8x8 inches folded. It goes up and comes down easily and weighs just 27 pounds, including the carrying bag. When I saw one, I knew it would make a very comfortable turkey/deer blind for me. Selling price is $250.
For safety and comfort, you need to dress accordingly. And my suggestion is to always over-dress. Standing on the ice requires good boots. I suggest checking out ThermaCell’s Heated Insoles. These lightweight, durable, heated insoles are wireless, remote controlled and need no batteries because they’re rechargable in just four hours. They maintain a steady heat that can be set at 100 or 111 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping your feet close to normal body temperature. Selling price is $135 (www.thermacell.com).
Chef’s Choice has a new sharpener package designed for line-watchers, and honestly, it will also work for large- and small-game preparation. The Model 710 features the Marine Sharpening Station that resists harsh saltwater, is water-resistant with an IPX-4 waterproof protection rating (splashing from all angles), comes with two power adaptors (120V-AC and 12V-DC auto/marine), and has water-resistant suction cups for holding the unit securely.
Also, it has a professional two-stage scissor sharpener and a professional fishhook sharpener that operates on two AA batteries. It will definitely keep your hooks sharp and make the preparation of crappie, walleye and venison steaks, chops and roasts much easier. MSRP is $190 (www.edgecraft.com).
They’re Catching Them
On my drive around Saratoga Lake, I saw ice shelters off of the state launch side and on the way out to the lake on the west side. But the main concentration was the 40 or more anglers who had punched holes about 200 yards from Fitch Road. No surprise there. Driving up Fitch Road, I counted 22 ice angler vehicles parked next to the road. If you park there, be sure to keep it clean. It’s a privilege and very convenient for ice anglers, but if trash is left around, “No Parking” signs will appear, for sure.
Tim Blodgett of Saratoga Tackle was very busy when I talked to him. He said the lake has about eight inches of ice, and that the panfishing is very good and the walleye bite has started. The nearly dozen vehicles parked on Route 9P near the trail into Lake Lonely make me think the pike and probably crappie bites are on.
Dave Allen of Dave’s Bait & Tackle in Mayfield told me the same thing was happening at the Great Sacandaga Lake, especially for walleyes and pike. They, too, have 8-12 inches of ice. He has already weighed in a 61⁄2 pound, 261⁄2-inch walleye, caught by Pete Beck of Northville. Mark Himes of Gloversville caught a 381⁄2-inch pike. Both were caught on shiners.
There will be two ice fishing tournaments on the Great Sacandaga Lake Jan. 25.
The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation will host its contest from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Entry fee is $20, $25 (until 10 a.m.) on contest day. All measuring and awards will be at the Sacandaga Boating Club on Merriam Road in Broadalbin. Children under 12 are free with a paying adult.
The four top places, determined by length of the fish, will be paid $300, $200, $150 and $50, respectively, for pike, perch and trout. There will be six trout with orange tags, each worth $500. Go to www.gslff.com for application forms and locations where forms can be picked up.
The sixth annual Walleye Challenge will also be held that day on the Great Sacandaga Lake. The event, sponsored by Fuel-n-Food in Fulton County, Frank’s Gun & Tackle Shop and Bartyzel Inc., has a 1,750-entrant limit which was filled in November. There will be $1,649 paid each hour of the tournament with places 1-6 receiving $599, $400, $300, $200, $100 and $50. All prizes and cash awards will be presented at Lanzi’s on the Lake on Route 30 in Mayfield.
The Cossayuna Lake Improvement Association will host its sixth annual contest from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Feb. 1. Registration will be at the Cossayuna Fire House.
Entry fee is $10 per person, and 100 percent of the entry fee will be paid out: 50 percent for the largest (in inches) pike or tiger musky, 25 percent of the largest perch and 25 percent for the largest crappie. All fish will be measured on the lake near Pratt’s Point. You can register at the Cossayuna Fire House from 5:30-8 a.m. the day of the event. For further details go to www.cossayunalake.com.
Also that day, the Tupper Lake Rod, Gun and Sports Club will host its annual ice fishing derby on Simon Pond for northern pike only. Contest hours are from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Entry fee is $35 for required pre-registration.
Contestants will be competing for more than $33,000 in cash and prizes. For full details and an application form, go to www.tupperlakearchers.net or call 359-9715.
Ice Fishing Report
If you have had a good day ice fishing and want to share it, email me the details, including your name, city where you live, where you fish, what you caught and how you caught it.