Hats Off to the anglers who ventured out onto the ice on any of the frozen waters in the Northeast.
Although the majority of the avid ice anglers stayed off the ice, the small group of those that did had to deal with crusty snow cover and wind chills in minus-zero temperatures. That is an extremely dangerous time to be on the ice.
I spoke with Nick at Saratoga Tackle recently, and he said business was very slow and there were only a handful of diehards out on the lake. He said before you can chop a hole in the lake, you have to dig your way through 20-plus inches of snow and then drill/chop through 25 inches of solid ice. By now, both the snow and ice depths could be greater.
Some of the smaller lakes, like Lake Lonely, Round Lake, Ballston Lake and Cossayuna Lake, have been giving up some panfish and occasional pike and bass to the few anglers out there. But the bite is not very frequent.
Dave Allen, proprietor of Dave’s Bait and Tackle in Mayfield, reports similar low fishing pressures.
I did hear from one angler, Jack Douglas of Galway, who braved the nasty weather on the Great Sacandaga Lake and was able to stay warm in his well-built ice shanty. He said the fishing was very slow and he only caught two fish, both of which are considered trophy catches. One was a 14-inch perch, and the other a 36-inch northern pike that he caught on a large minnow.
The Great Sacandaga Lake also gave up another big northern pike to Jason O’Donnell of Rock City Falls. He was fishing a two-inch minnow just two feet beneath the ice when his jigging rod, spooled with only eight-pound test line, bent in half. Thirty anxious minutes later, Jason pulled out a 37-inch northern. His pike tipped the scales at 15 pounds. He was fishing in the Broadalbin area of the lake.
I have known Val DeCesare of Scotia and his family for some time, and they are all avid and successful anglers, especially on Schroon Lake. The big catch this year came through a hole in the ice at Schroon when his wife, Diane, pulled in a 30-inch, 10 pounder using a three-inch Hunt bait in 30 feet of water. A quick catch, photo and release, and the big fish was again swimming in Schroon.
The DeCeasare kids, Val Jr. and Alyssa, and their friend, Ryan Pantalone, teamed up and battled what turned out to be a 26-inch salmon that they caught on a golden shiner just under the ice.
There will be two ice fishing derbies this weekend, one on Saturday and one Sunday.
On Saturday, the Albany County Conservation Alliance will host a contest at Warner’s Lake from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. There is a $5 entry fee, and all proceeds will go to sending youth to the state Department of Environmental Conservation camp. You can register from 7 to 8 a.m.
There will be two prize award divisions: 16 and older, and 15 and younger. Parking for contestants is at Zwickelbaurer’s Restaurant. For further information, call Kevin Busch at 495-4396.
On Sunday, the first Mariaville Lake Kids fishing derby will be held from 7 a.m. to noon. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. at the Mariaville Lakeside Store. There is no entry fee, and prizes will be Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificates for the three biggest perch and pickerel.
If you do not have any ice fishing gear, don’t let that stop you. They will drill your hole and set the kids up with the tackle they need to fish, and that includes the bait. The event is sponsored by Dave Perrone of Mariaville Lake Store, the Schenectady County Conservation Council and the state Conservation Officers Association. For more information, call Jason at 339-7612.
Now that weather conditions appear to be stabilizing and we will be able to more comfortably walk on water, here are a few ice fishing tips on local water that should help you put a few more fish on the ice.
In the big-fish category of northern pike, there is no place better to start than the Great Sacandaga Lake. The big “toothers” are out there. Also roaming the lake’s 42 square miles of water is a good population of tasty walleye.
You will always find shanties and flag watchers around the big shoal off shore in front of the Sport Island Pub in Northville, out from Lanzi’s On the Lake Restaurant and Marina in Mayfield, the sand bar out from the Northampton Beach State Park Campground in Mayfield and off Cranberry Creek and the shoals around Sand Island near North Broadalbin.
Another big-fish lake is Lake George. There are plenty of places to poke fishing holes. The lake offers pike, perch, lake trout and salmon. Lake trout and salmon will hold off the town beach in 20 to 40 feet of water.
Moving on up the eastern side of the lake, Dunham’s Bay is a popular place to drop some big shiners and suckers down just over the tops of those sunken weed beds where the pike are. Don’t forget the heavy line and leader. And it is the wise angler who sets one tipup in the shallow weeds (five feet) because the pike do cruise the shallows near the ice.
Other areas in the Southern Basin of Lake George that also produce pike are the north side of Assembly Point in Harris Bay, where the pike feed on big perch, and so can you with your jigging rod. On the western shore, Huddle Bay has produced some very big pike on large shiners fished anywhere from five to 30-plus feet down on shiners.
All the fish we chase do not always stay at one depth. It is the wise angler who varies bait depths, whether it be with tipups or jigging.
One of the most important pieces of equipment is a depth/fish finder. They can save you a lot of time, and let you know if there are fish to catch down there.
Lastly, and most important, when ice fishing, remember to call ahead or stop at the local bait and tackle shops to find out conditions.