Cold nights lead to start of ice fishing season for anglers

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ALBANY — Some cold nights have helped area ponds and lakes to freeze over, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation is reminding ice fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts not to get caught on thin ice.

“From small local ponds to large lakes and reservoirs, New York has a tremendous array of ice fishing opportunities for anglers to experience close to home,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a recent press release.”Many fish species are active throughout the winter months and the fishing can be just as good as during the open water season. As always, before venturing onto the ice, DEC asks all anglers to make sure the ice is thick enough to fish safely,” he added.

According to the DEC website, four inches of solid clear ice is usually safe for ice fishermen accessing ice on foot. The thickness of the ice can vary — even within the same body of water — so anglers should be particularly cautious of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses.

Testing the ice can be done with an auger or spud bar, and should be done at various spots as fishermen move out on a lake or pond. According to the DEC website, five inches of ice is needed to go out on a frozen lake in a snowmobile or ATV; 8 to 12 inches for a car or small pickup and 12 to 15 inches is needed for a medium truck.

As part of New York’s Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative, the weekend of Feb. 13-14, is designated as a free fishing weekend and the normal requirement for a fishing license will be waived during this period.

Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download articles and guides from the state’s ice fishing webpage — https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7733.html — which also contains additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, popular baits and a link to the DEC’s Youtube.com channel which features a host of instructional and informative videos.

Ice fishing, the DEC says, is a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter while practicing social distancing of staying at least six feet apart from people not in your immediate household. Anglers should wear a mask when they can’t maintain social distancing and should also avoid sharing gear when possible.

The DEC adds that ice fishing is great sport not just for avid anglers but for families, as they can mix in skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or other activities during ice fishing trips to keep everyone interested and happy.

Among the locations listed as popular spots for ice fishing, according to the DEC are:

Chittning Pond, in Sangerfield, for chain pickerel and panfish;

Delta Lake, in Western, for walleye, yellow perch and northern pike;

Oneida Lake, in Sylvan Beach and Vienna, for walleye, yellow perch, northern pike;

Hinckley Reservoir, in Hinckley, for multiple species of trout, yellow perch and panfish;

Prospect Reservoir, in Prospect, for multiple species of trout, yellow perch and panfish.

Lake Bonaparte, in Diana, for northern pike, walleye, brown trout, yellow perch and lake trout;

Soft Maple Reservoir, in Croghan/Orion, for tiger muskellunge; and

Whetstone Marsh Pond, in Martinsburg, for tiger muskellunge.​​

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