There has been ice up north, sure.
But it is the second week of January and it took till now for larger waters along the center of the state to really lock up. If they aren’t, they soon will be, late as that might be.
It wasn’t always this way. It seems to me that we usually had good ice by right around Christmas back in the 1970s and 1980s, and it would last. Some years we’d still be able to get out there through the middle of March.
I checked my journals, and on Dec. 28, 1989, I fished through the ice with Ron Moshier, his father, his brother Bob and Bob’s wife Robin on Canadarago and Otsego lakes. And it wasn’t just four or six inches of ice. It was eight to 12 inches. You could have built a house on it.
That is not likely to happen again any time soon. Ice fishing season is a few weeks shorter than it used to be, so we have to get out and enjoy it while we can.
I don’t fish through the ice nearly as much as I used to, but I still enjoy it on calm, sunny days, even if good cloud cover generally means better fishing. I like to get a few meals, but there is more to it than that. Just getting out of the house is a huge part of it. And the work involved – rigging up, drilling holes, walking the ice, dragging the gear – is a positive, too. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something worthwhile, which some of my friends might claim is not an everyday thing with me.
And having a fish on the line, through the ice or in open water, always has been a thrill and always will be.
High school sports: Here are your Fall 2021 Mohawk Valley High School Sports Awards all-star teams
I fish mostly for panfish and occasionally use tip-ups for walleyes and whatever other sizeable fish might be willing to nail a minnow. My panfish outfit is simple, and if you are a beginner, you can do worse than copy it. I use a short jigging rod, 4- or 6-pound monofilament, usually on an ultralight spinning reel. I hang a couple of tiny ice jigs on droppers off the leader, or use blood knots as stoppers, then tie a heavy flashing lure like a Kastmaster at the end. I bait the hooks with spikes, then hope to find a school of bluegills or crappies or perch.
We’ve had very good luck with this setup over the years, and also have caught walleyes, pickerel, and quite a few big bass. I logged a 23-inch largemouth one time – it took a spike on one of the tiny jigs - and Ron Moshier caught a couple that were bigger yet. I remember reading years ago that you couldn’t catch bass through the ice, and maybe I believed it till I caught one myself. If you could catch crappies, bluegills, pumpkinseeds, trout, walleyes, salmon, catfish, ling, and about anything else through the ice, why not bass?
In any case, if you use that simple rig, you will catch fish if they are there. If you really get into it, you can be as sophisticated as you like in chasing a variety of species in a variety of habitats, and electronics and other fancy equipment begin to play greater roles.
I don’t have any electronics myself, thinking I don’t get out enough to justify the cost, but fish finders make the job much easier. An auger, a bucket, a skimmer and the right boots and clothing, and you’re set.
Of course, safety is a big thing. I crashed through rotten ice once, up to my waist, and can assure you it is not a pleasant experience. And you don’t want to end up like those three dozen anglers who spent a couple of hours cruising around Green Bay on a giant ice floe last week.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Beginner’s Guide to Freshwater Fishing has an ice fishing section that you might find useful. You can find it at www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/gsfishing9.pdf. The DEC also alerts first-time anglers that Free Fishing Weekend is February 19-20. You do not need a license to give ice fishing a try that weekend.
There are several bait shops in the area that are open for the winter. If there are others out there, please send me an email and list your business name, address, and phone number, and we will list you in the next column.
Here are the listings we have right now:
• Fite da Bite, new location at 3805 Oneida St., Washington Mills (in the Bo-Mar Plaza), 315-723-7375.
• Blake’s Baits, 359 Otsego St., Ilion, 315-360-5650.
• The Bait Shop, 4854 state Route 26, Madison, 315-750-6161.
DEC named top deer agency
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been named the Agency of the Year by the National Deer Association.
"A quick comparison to other states shows just how successful and diverse New York's deer management program is," said Kip Adams, NDA's Chief Conservation Officer. "The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has gone the extra mile in the past year to address limitations regarding hunter opportunity, suburban hunting, deer overabundance, and their integration of setting deer population objectives using social and biological science ranks among the highest in the country."
The National Deer Association was formed in 2020 when the Quality Deer Management Association merged with the National Deer Alliance. The organization also honored Dr. Krysten Schuler of Cornel l University’s Department of Public and Ecosystem Health as Professional Deer Manager of the Year. She was recognized for her leadership in managing and slowing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease nationally and her substantial contributions to CWD prevention in New York, and her integral work as part of DEC’s wildlife health program.
Gary Lee to speak at TU banquet
Retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee will be the guest speaker at the Mohawk Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited’s annual banquet February 12 at The Roselawn in New York Mills.
Lee will speak on loons and Adirondack trout.
There will be a cocktail hour at 6 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner. There will be door prizes and a bucket raffle. Tickets are $25 and $45 per couple. Reservations can be made by contacting Ken Ziobro at 315-736-3521 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Steve Prievo at 315-956-9124 or email@example.com.
Write to John Pitarresi at 60 Pearl Street, New Hartford, N.Y. 13413 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 315-724-5266.
This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Outdoors: Colder temps mean ice is finally here