Fishing shanty villages populating frozen lakes across the region will disappear today — returned by truck to backyards for summer storage.
Today is the Department of Environmental Conservation’s deadline for fishing shanty removal. The date is based upon many years of ice-safety averages rather than season-by-season measurements, which means fishermen today are hauling shanties off the Great Sacandaga Lake with 2 good feet of ice below them.
“We still have a whole lot of ice,” said Jim Johnson. “I guess no one will be falling through.”
Johnson owns Jim’s Bait Shop in Mayfield on the Great Sacandaga. Right now he said the ice is still very solid, thanks to a colder-than-normal winter.
“It’s been brutal up here,” he said.
Despite the hefty layer of ice, he’s fine with the firm DEC shanty regulations.
“They know things can change quickly,” he said. “It’s all for safety.”
According to DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes, the March 15 shanty deadline is meant to streamline safety.
“Ice thickness differs so much from north to south in this state,” he said.
Lakes in the Adirondacks, he said, could have significant ice in April, while downstate lakes are clear for paddlers. If ice fishermen were left to their own devices, he said, a lot more shanties would end up in the lake all year.
“It’s easier this way,” he said.
While the deadline is pretty firm, he said conservation officers have a lot of discretion about who they ticket. Some years, shifting winter temperatures or freezing rain manages to freeze shanties in place. Constantakes said the customary $100 ticket probably would not be written in such a case.
“Their primary mission is to inform,” he said.
For Johnson, disappearing shanty villages marks the end of a season. With the shanties goes the pike, walleye and pickerel season.
“It’s history,” he said.
Luckily for the bait industry, one season leads right into the next. Local guys, he said, will be ice fishing out in the open for pan fish and trout for at least a few more weeks. By the time the ice is gone, he figures some time in April, trout season will bring sportsmen to back-country creeks. Then it’s on into the regular summer season.
“I just put away the tip-ups and bring out the fishing poles,” he said.