Access a challenge for ice anglers
Being a weekend warrior ice fisherman has not been easy this season. Like everything else in the outdoor world during this COVID pandemic, ice fishing is as popular as ever and the evidence is being found not only out on the hard water, but especially anywhere anglers gain access to the ice.
As an angler and a reporter I do double-duty keeping tabs of ice conditions on my local waters, and with it comes observing access points. What I’ve found – something I’ve known all along – is that we ice anglers are as bold as we are innovative.
Back in January, before some of the bigger lakes had ice, I was hitting a smaller lake near my home known for its rainbow trout fishing. A town-owned municipal access site can only accommodate about 12 vehicles, so one fine Saturday morning, anglers simply parked in the lot of a neighboring restaurant. On top of that, they got on the ice at the restaurant when a bubbler prevented them from doing so at the launch.
This put the restaurant owner in a bind. Her parking lot was full when she opened for lunch, and of the dozens of angler vehicles using the parking lot, only a few considered actually patronizing her business. Also, with little snow on the ground the foot traffic quickly created a path of mud across what is a nice lawn in the summer.
As much as she wanted to help the anglers, she faced liability issues by letting them access there rather than at the launch. Soon enough, another bubbler was causing issues in front of her business. Trying to help the anglers, she took the time to contact local authorities and property owners about the bubblers, but it was to no avail.
Still, anglers were blaming her without putting themselves in her situation. Fortunately, some of the bigger lakes froze over and the pressure was taken off this smaller lake and limited access point.
Once the bigger lakes froze, however, their parking lots too became jammed. On nearby Lake George I counted over 70 vehicles at a state campground one Saturday afternoon. At another access point at a small town beach, anglers thought nothing of parking along the road despite No Parking signs.
When local property owners called police over emergency vehicle concerns, they bore the brunt of the blame. But they’re really just looking out for their community.
The problem is compounded by the fact that few lakes have enough ice for anglers to drive vehicles on. Although risky (yes, I’ve done it) it sure takes the pressure off at lake access locations. But having sufficient ice to support vehicles has not been the case on a lot of New York lakes this year.
Lastly, one thing that amazes me about my ice fishing brethren is just how bold we can be when it comes to access. With many lakeside property owners gone for the winter months, some anglers think nothing of just sneaking in through their property. The problem is that when one angler does it, several others follow suit.
Sometimes individual anglers may actually have permission from the property owner. But I’ve seen such access ruined by other anglers who figure if one guy is getting on there, so can they. Overcrowding, and especially misuse, convinces property owners that allowing ice anglers access is not in their favor.
It is obvious that in some cases we have an access problem for ice anglers (an entirely different topic). But the solution is to not compound the situation and make things worse. Having a Plan B should always be an option.
One recent Sunday morning I went to a favorite remote ice fishing spot. When I got there, the only parking spots were over a mile from the water. So, I found something else to do that day and decided to tap my maple trees. Such is the life of the weekend angler.