Ice fishing kickoff will likely be late this year

Hammond, N.Y. – Normally by mid-November, the ice fishing crowd
is gathering their gear for another season on the hard water.

They may still be doing just that, but they’re likely looking at
another late start this season.

While some North Country waters offer safe ice in early
December, that’s probably not going to happen this year.

“We’re about three weeks late with our water temperature,” said
Richard Chapman of Chapman’s Sports in Hammond on Black Lake, one
of the state’s most popular ice fishing waters. “I’ve seen more
severe weather in the first week of October than what we’ve had at
the end of the month this year.”

The unseasonably warm fall weather has set the stage for another
late start and perhaps short ice fishing season for the third
straight year.

“Last year the ice came five weeks late,” Chapman said.

Jeff Goldberg at Fish307 in Queensbury near Lake George, one of
the state’s most popular ice fishing spots, is resigned to the
possibility of another short hard-water season – the third straight
for Lake George.

“Two years ago we had nothing, and last year we were six weeks
shorter,” Goldberg said. “I’m just operating on the assumption that
global warming has taken hold and our ice fishing season is going
to be 4-6 weeks short, and I’m buying based on that assumption. I
have to; I’m still trying to recover from two years ago.”

Lake George is typically one of the last lakes to freeze,
however, with an ice season that generally begins in late January
but extends well into March.

“So if we get a normal swing of weather we’ll still be OK,”
Goldberg said. “Right now, it’s no worse than last year.”

On Black Lake, Chapman says the 30-year average has shown first
ice to be on Dec. 10. That might be a longshot this season, he
says.

“We’d need a lot of real cold conditions to make that date this
year,” Chapman said earlier this month. “Even the duck migration is
a little weird this year. It’s just starting, and a lot of duck
hunters who mark their calendars every year for their hunting dates
aren’t happy.”

DEC Region 5 fisheries biologist Rich Preall says the warm
weather has also affected the department’s annual egg collections
on waters like Raquette Lake and Fish Brook Pond. DEC collects eggs
from spawning lake trout and brook trout for hatchery rearing
efforts, and the warm weather and resulting warm water temperatures
have delayed spawning activity.

“This is certainly one of the warmest falls we’ve had,” Preall
said. “We had some years as bad decades ago, but this is warm.”

Preall said Mother Nature’s major trump card in lowering water
temperatures back closer to normal could still be played out.

“Snowy conditions will cool down a lake pretty fast,” he said.
“That could still happen.”

Even though ice fishing seems a long way off, Goldberg says many
of his customers are already planning their annual first-ice
sojourn, wherever and whenever that may be.

“Even today, most of the customers in here have been looking at
ice fishing gear,” he said late last month.

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