A frustrating winter for New York ice anglers, businesses
Lake George, N.Y. — On a normal Sunday afternoon in mid-February, the parking lot at Million Dollar Beach in Lake George would be jammed with cars, pickup trucks and trailers from ice fishermen accessing the big lake.
But on Feb. 19, there were just 7 vehicles parked in the lot.
With just a 200-yard strip of 4-inch ice on the lake’s south end, only a dozen or so ice fishermen dotted the ice.
The frozen surface was nowhere near thick enough for the usual crowds of snowmobiles and four-wheelers that typically zoom up and down the lake in February.
The story has been the same around much of New York this winter. Abnormally warm weather has left many lakes wide open for most if not all of winter, Lake George among them.
Garry Nelson, owner of The Outdoorsman Sport Shop on the lake’s west shore, called the winter “probably my worst winter in business in 26 years.”
Two bays were fishable for several weeks, but most of the lake remained wide open throughout winter.
It was the first time since 2003 that the bulk of Lake George did not freeze.
Bait-and-tackle shops around the state have told similar tales of woe, from Chautauqua Lake to the Finger Lakes and southeast to Westchester County.
John Miller, owner of Bob’s Sport & Tackle in Katonah (Westchester County), echoed Nelson’s comments by calling the winter “horrible” as well.
He said there were only four days this winter where there was enough ice for hardwater fishing on the reservoirs near his shop.
“All we can do is hope for a busy spring and summer to make up for it,” he said.
To the west in the Finger Lakes, many bigger waters like Cayuga and Seneca lakes didn’t freeze this winter.
Billy Bob Lusk, owner of Seneca Marine Bait & Tackle in Watkins Glen (Schuyler County) said only smaller waters at higher elevations got enough ice to be fished this winter in his region.
“You don’t have to be a climatologist to know it hasn’t been a banner year for ice fishing,” Lusk said.
Farther west, Bud Moore at Spectacular Sports near Chautauqua Lake said there was very little ice on bigger waters in western New York as well.
He called the season “very bad.”
It wasn’t dire everywhere, however.
Most of the lakes of the Adirondacks were fishable through the ice from early January on.
Places like Saranac Lake, Indian Lake and Paradox Lake were fished heavily early on, though ice arrived later on other popular waters like Schroon Lake and parts of Lake Champlain.
The warm winter promised a shorter season on many waters because the ice did not get nearly as thick as usual.
Emergency responders in Warren and Saratoga counties were sent on three ice rescues of ice fishermen Feb. 22-24, with no serious injuries reported.
Nelson, of The Outdoorsman in Lake George, said there is a bright side to the lack of ice on Lake George and other waters.
There will be more fish in the lake for anglers this spring and summer, since far fewer were caught through the ice this winter than normal.
Ice anglers rescued
Crown Point, N.Y. (AP) — Despite a mild winter, people continue venturing onto the ice on New York lakes – and emergency crews keep having to rescue them.
One rescue occurred last month off the western shore of Lake Champlain at Crown Point, on the Vermont border 100 miles north of Albany. Officials say five adults and three children out ice fishing got trapped when the ice dislodged from the shoreline and left them separated from land by a wide gap of open water.
Authorities tell the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh that firefighters used ladders and inflatable gear to rescue the group.
The ice rescue followed three others earlier in the month, two on Oneida Lake in central New York and one on Saratoga Lake. Officials say ice conditions are dangerous because of mild temperatures.