Put safety first on lakes, rivers
Before I get into this week’s ice fishing report, I’d like to relay some of DEC’s excellent advice on “Safe Ice.”
It begins with: “A minimum of three to four inches of solid ice usually safe for anglers on foot.” There is no perch, bluegill, walleye, pike, etc., worth going through the ice for. I know that supposedly first ice is the best fishing, but it’s not worth the risk of ending up in the water. And as I always recommend, wear a zipped-up personal flotation device and have a pair of ice picks handy.
Remember that ice thickness varies from one body of water to the next, or even on the same body. It’s important when heading out on ice that you talk with local anglers and especially bait and tackle shops about the ice thickness. Find out where fish are biting and what bait they are taking while you’re there. Stay away from water and around boat docks/houses. This is especially true around the Lake George boat houses/docks. Many have bubblers that keep the ice off around the docks and that undermines some of the ice nearby.
Tim and Nick at Saratoga Tackle report anywhere from four to six inches of ice on Saratoga Lake, but there are soft spots, so be extra careful. I saw a lot of tip-ups and jigging sticks being used several hundred yards out from Fitch Road. This is nothing new. The area is a pan fisherman’s paradise for most of the season.
Bluegills are the primary biters, but crappies and perch are also being caught. Several anglers who came in for lures and bait said they found the south end of the lake better for perch fishing. The primary baits and lures for early panfish have been teardrop diamond jigs and No. 2- and 3-sized Rapalas tipped with spikes.
And don’t get caught up in the “catching” and forget the size and limits: Crappies must be nine inches, and the daily limit is 25. Perch can be any size, with a limit of 50 daily. Bluegills, pumpkinseed and redbreast sunfish can also be any size, with a daily limit of 50. The black bass season is closed, so they are, catch-and-release only. For complete regulations including special regulations for certain lakes, go to the “New York Freshwater Fishing Regulations 2012-13.”
There have been a few decent northern pike pulled up between the Route 9P bridge on the right side heading out to the main lake and around large weed bed in front of the Water’s Edge condos. All species have been caught, including plenty of pickerel, on live bait. The walleye bite seems to be much better in the evening — no surprise there. They’re catching them on baby suckers fished on tip-ups and No. 7 and 9 jigging Rapalas.
Lake Lonely’s reputation for giving up big pike early on in the season seems to be repeating again this year. The biggest was an estimated 12-pounder taken last week on live bait. Most of the fishing is being done on the upper end of the lake (north) out from the golf course and along weed line edges, but I wouldn’t hesitate poking a hole over the weeds and letting a big sucker swim around there.
Ira Cromling and his gang found success during the early ice fishing on the Great Sacandaga Lake last week. They caught six walleyes, a few big perch and a trout. And Dave’s Bait and Tackle in Mayfield said there was also a 28-inch, seven-pound ’eye taken recently.
However, last Sunday, they reported the ice was quite sloppy and really not safe. Dave also told me several ATVs went through the ice, but fortunately, no one was injured. Best bet, as always, is to check with the bait and tackle shops on ice conditions.
I received information on several popular ice fishing tournaments scheduled this winter. On Saturday, Jan. 26, Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation (GSLFF) will host its annual ice fishing contest on Great Sacanadaga Lake from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. This event will have a purse of $1,500. The top three anglers with the biggest (measured in inches) northern pike, perch and trout will receive $300, $150 and $50, respectively.
All measuring will be at Sacandaga Boat Club in Broadalbin. Entry fee is $15, $18 (until 10 a.m.) the day of the event. Children under 12 are free when fishing with a paid adult. Contest applications with entry fees are also accepted at Ross’ Bait Shop, Hagaman; Dave’s Bait & Tackle, Mayfield; LaPort’s Bait, Edinburg; Jim’s Bait Shop, Mayfield; Frank’s Bait Shop, Vail Mills; and Fuel & Food, Mayfield. For an application, go to www.gslff.com, or call Jack Smith at 863-1062 or Randy Gardinier at 848-7248.
The Schroon Lake Fish & Game Club will host its 21st annual Ice Fishing Derby March 2-3, on Schroon Lake. Fishing will begin at daylight Saturday and end at 4 p.m. Sunday. The three categories of fish and the minimum size that can be weighed in are: lake trout, 24 inches; northern pike, 24 inches; and salmon, 15 inches.
There will also be prizes for the biggest pickerel and perch. The three main categories will each pay three places. Winners will be determined by weight of the fish. All cash prizes will be awarded at the Clubhouse after 4 p.m. Sunday and drawings for door prizes will be made hourly on both days.
Entry fee for the contest is $12 until Feb. 24 and $15 after. The club will have a pasta dinner with all the trimmings Saturday at the club, beginning at 5 p.m. The cost is $10. They’ll have hot dogs, hamburgers and chili on Sunday. For further information, call 532-7953.