Use caution on late ice – fishing can be productive, but hard-water conditions can be iffy
As the March sun gets higher in the sky and the days get longer, ice anglers anywhere there’s still ice will be trying to get that one last outing in. But they should approach these outings with caution.
Late-season ice fishing can be fantastic. Panfish and perch fishing can really heat up for the angler who knows and understands their body of water and how fish use it as oxygen levels change in the water. But increased openings around tributaries, and even rain water (or melting ice) flowing into holes all contribute to iffy conditions.
Lake George in the southeastern Adirondacks is my primary fishery. Ice-out records have been kept for over a century, and in a year like this one, when the lake entirely ices over, final ice-out often doesn’t occur until early April. But that doesn’t mean you can access the ice up to that point.
A few years back, there was over three feet of ice on Lake George at its peak in mid-February. Winter hung on that year, and on March 31, the day before trout season opened, a buddy and I decided to give ice fishing one more shot. When we got on the ice that morning, it was cold – well below freezing – but it warmed up during the day. Despite there being over a foot of ice where we fished, the recent warm temperatures had caused the ice to start pulling away from the shoreline. That day it pulled away a lot and we had to leap from ice to shore at day’s end and wound up getting a little wet. We both looked at each other and asked, “Was it worth it?”
You hear stories all the time of anglers using planks to get from shore to ice. Sometimes they use them to get over pressure ridges. I’ve even seen them drive snowmobiles and ATVs over them. I’ve also seen anglers use boats to get from the shore to the ice, and back. That’s dedication.
Despite the fact that what ice is left might seem safe, since that March 31 outing of a few years ago, I’m not as daring as I used to be. At some point I simply draw the line and put my gear away. When that happens is up to Mother Nature.
It’s been good ice-fishing season in the Northeast. When spring weather shows up, anglers will want to get in some time on the ice, and some will certainly push it.
Spring is inevitable. The amount of daylight increases with each passing day and the sun gets higher in the sky. That’s hard for a big block of floating ice to overcome, even if it is cool at night. Eventually, the ice will dissipate, sometimes quicker than we realize. It’s amazing what a warm spring day can do to the ice conditions.
I’m not suggesting that anglers throw in the towel as soon as seasonable spring weather arrives. I’m just suggesting that you pay extra attention to ice conditions before venturing out on it. And if you do go, put safety first.