On New York’s bigger lakes, get ice fishing while the getting is good
The cold snap to start 2018 that drained our heating budgets and put a dent in our wood piles was certainly good for ice fishing conditions. And as things get back to normal we may be even more appreciative of that cold stretch as winter wears on and eventually winds down.
Lake George, in the southeastern Adirondacks, is my home water. Although Thomas Jefferson referred to it as the “Queen of American lakes,” anglers, especially ice fishermen, have always called it “The King.”
But the problem the past few years with Lake George, and many other bigger bodies of water throughout the Northeast, has been warm weather and lack of safe ice. Not this year, as anglers have been on these bigger lakes, or parts of them, for weeks now.
Still, as we turned the corner toward the end of January, Lake George was not entirely frozen. Not that it ever is this time of year, which gives anglers hope. But a recent warming trend has many of us wondering how long the warmer weather will last and if these bigger lakes will ever button up entirely.
I’m not complaining about the early season bonus, as already I’ve been able to get out on Lake George a few times and fished on nearly a foot of ice – something that hasn’t happened the past two winters. In those years, when I do fish the lake, it’s usually late January or early February before it freezes over in the deeper sections where my fishing buddies and I prefer to go in pursuit of lake trout.
This may be another one of those years where something is better than nothing, and what we have now could be about all we’re going to get. Of course, there’s still a lot of winter left to go, but on average, February tends to bring more snow than cold.
Then there’s last year to think about. In 2017 we got March weather in February and February weather (and perhaps even January) in March. A late-winter cold snap saved a couple of the bigger ice fishing tournaments and provided an opportunity for anglers who had hardly fished up to that point in the season.
So again, we’ll see what happens. Just like snowmobilers and skiers continue to hope for early snow that eventually becomes the base of their trail systems, ice anglers now have a base of ice to work with for the rest of the winter. At least there’s something to build on.
Meanwhile, safety remains top priority and ice conditions need to be monitored daily, especially on these lakes that are only partially iced over and have sections of open water. During warm-ups, there’s also ice along the shoreline to consider.
Devices like ice-eaters and bubblers around docks can be a an ice fisherman’s worst nightmare. Some dock owners point them out and away from the docks as opposed to underwater in an upward direction.
Who knows if the ice we have is going to be all the ice we’re going to get. Like they always say, the best time to go fishing is when you can, and hopefully you can get out there now while the getting is good.