Arctic blast has anglers walking on water

Waverly, N.Y. — It’s been an up-and-down early season for ice fishermen and women around New York.

A cold late November and early December put ice –  and those who fish through it – on many waters in rural parts of the state. But weeks of warm weather and rain ate away at that hard-water cover, resulting in little fishable ice around the holidays and concerns about when ice fishing season would begin in earnest.

That changed dramatically during the first full week of January, and the ice that formed from brutal cold that plummeted to 32 below zero in some sports of the Adirondacks appeared to be here to stay.

Ryan Mitchels, of Mitchels Bait & Tackle in Rochester, described the early season as “back and forth” but said most smaller waters in the Rochester area were safe for fishing as of Jan. 9, with 3 to 6 inches forming on smaller Rochester-area waters like Cranberry Pond and Long Pond.

Jim Johnson, owner of Jim’s Bait Shop in Mayfield, near Great Sacandaga Lake, said the bays of Sacandaga were fishable as of early January, and extreme cold predicted for mid-January would likely lock up the rest of the lake. 

He said some of the lake’s bays picked up 6 inches of ice from the December cold and the snap after New Year’s Day.

“I think ice fishing season is here to stay,” Johnson said Jan. 9.

James Daher at Mickey’s Bait and Tackle in North Syracuse, near ice fishing hot spot Oneida Lake, said the main part of Oneida had not iced over, but the lake’s bays – including the popular Big Bay – were being fished.

“Oneida Lake has plenty of ice. They bays are all frozen,” he said. “We’re looking pretty good.”

Mike West, whose family operates The Crossroads Country Store & Sport Shop in Chester, Warren County, said that most waters of the southern Adirondacks were in good shape as of early January. Early ice that formed from the cold snap that hit in early December survived the warm spell, and solidified when the January cold moved in.

West said Brant Lake and Loon Lake in Warren County have been fishing well, with a number of large rainbow trout being caught on Brant Lake.

Lake George, one of the most popular waters for hard-water anglers, had not iced over as of press time. Numerous bays had several inches of ice, and the open water temperature had dropped to the mid-30s, but the lake typically does not freeze until late January. 

Garry Nelson, owner of The Outdoorsman Sport Shop in Lake George, said fishermen were out on several inches of ice on Saw Mill and Warner bays and off Million Dollar Beach as of press time.

Lake Champlain’s bays, including the popular south end spots of Bulwagga Bay and South Bay, had more than 8 inches of ice as of early January.

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