ALBANY, NY — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has offered the following ice fishing tips on safety and bait use.
Much of New York is experiencing a milder than usual winter resulting in unsafe ice conditions on many waters, please use extreme caution when out ice fishing.
“New York State has experienced a wide variety of temperatures and weather conditions, from freezing to quite mild,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “Given these unpredictable fluctuations in weather, it is critical that winter recreationists exercise extreme caution when doing anything on the ice, including fishing, to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.”
-Four inches of solid, clear ice is a safe thickness if venturing on foot. Be sure to periodically check the thickness as you move further.
-Avoid ice near open water or around docks. Dock owners often use bubblers to prevent thick ice from forming and damaging them.
– Bring safety ice picks. They can help you get out of the water if the ice breaks. Home-made or store-bought work is fine.
-Let someone know where you are going fishing and when you plan to return.
– Going out during rough water season is fun, but definitely not worth risking your life for!
-Remember, use the buddy system while ice fishing – it saves lives.
After buying new ice flies or jigs, it’s a good idea to make sure the eye of the hook is free of paint or epoxy before you put it in your fly box or tackle. It will save you some frustration and time when trying to tie your lure while on the ice.
There are special tools on the market, but an old pair of nail clippers or a simple hook will do the trick. With swatches, just mark the paint on the bottom of the eye and then scrape it off with your fingernails. With the tip of the hook, just insert it into the eye of the hook from both sides until it is clear.
There are many artificial lures made especially for ice fishing, from small ice flies used for panfish (moonfish, perch and catfish) to large spoons for lake trout. Most lures have a tip of some form of bait, commonly fish and fly larvae called “tips” or “mice”. Pecks are most often used with spikes and can be attached through the lips or under the dorsal fin.
It is important to dress in layers. Start with a layer of material that can absorb (wick away) moisture from the skin. Avoid cotton clothing, which loses its insulating ability when wet. There are many wind and water resistant clothing options available. Gore-Tex and wool are two good material choices. Bring extra gloves as they tend to get wet. Wear waterproof and warm boots. Add spikes to boots to prevent falls.
Most ponds and lakes offer ice fishing potential. Their characteristics define the types of fish that can be caught. Large, shallow ponds and lakes favor species such as walleye, pike, yellow perch and sunfish.
Deep water lakes should be fished selectively for good catches of northern pike, lake or lake trout. Brown trout, rainbow trout, and landlocked salmon are frequently caught while fishing just a few feet under the ice, even in deep water. Safe ice should be your primary consideration when ice fishing. A minimum of three to four inches of solid ice is the rule of thumb for safety. Ice thickness, however, is not uniform in any body of water. The guidelines presented here are based on new, clear ice in non-current waters. Because ice thickness can vary on a lake, check the ice periodically to stay safe.
Ice Thickness Chart: For new clear ice only
2 inches or less: Stay off
4 inches: Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5 inches: Snowmobile or ATV
8-12 inches: car or small pickup
12-15 inches: medium truck
Carry safety ice picks, two handles with spikes, to help you get out of the water if the ice breaks.
This guide is based on new, clear ice in non-current waters. Grain ice is about 50 percent weaker. Clear ice over flowing water is about 20 percent weaker. Double the white gel recommendations. Many ice anglers don’t like to fish in less than five inches of ice, and they don’t like to drive a pickup in less than 15 inches of ice. Use common sense!
Be careful in areas where “bubblers” are used to protect docks. They can produce thin and unsafe ice at some distance. Be especially alert in areas near the coast, over moving bodies of water, and where streams flow into and out of lakes and ponds.
Once you have your gear, bait, and a place to fish, you’ll need to drill a hole in the ice. There are a variety of tools available that make this “essential task” simple.
Perhaps the simplest is an old “spud” rod that your grandfather might have used on his ice fishing trips. Puds are usually the cheapest way to cut a hole in ice and work reasonably well in ice up to a foot thick. Spud bars are also very useful for testing ice thickness and safety.
Manual rods, which are slightly more expensive than spud rods, are easy to operate and offer the best overall compromise for moderate ice conditions. Buy an auger suitable for the species of fish you are looking for.
Anglers fishing for yellow perch, walleye, and other pan fish usually prefer 4″, 5″ or 6″ diameter ice mixes because of their light weight and speed through the ice. larger ones, such as trout, lake trout, landlocked salmon and pike, often prefer an ice auger that will make a larger hole, which helps with the often tricky landing of these large fish.
But remember, cutting an 8-inch hole requires the removal of nearly twice as much ice as a 6-inch hole, so don’t buy an ice auger much larger than you’ll need. Some hand drills can be equipped with an adapter that connects the auger blade to a cordless drill to drill rechargeable holes.
For the avid ice fisherman or for thicker, more extreme ice conditions, a more expensive electric auger offers the ultimate in speed and convenience, though at a sacrifice of weight and portability and may be restricted in some waters.
Ice fishing methods include “jigging” with short, light fishing rods and the use of tips. There are many types of jigging poles and tips.
Jigging involves the use of a jigging rod or hand line and a small jigging spoon or bait that is often “sweetened” with a piece of bait. The jig is designed to launch in different directions when the angler moves it up and down.
The tip is basically a coil on a pole that holds a baited line suspended through a hole in the ice. When the bait, usually a fish, is taken by a fish, the pull of the line emits a signal, usually a red flag.
Carrying gear to your fishing spot is made easier with the use of a sled. A child’s plastic sled works well, but there are sleds made specifically for ice fishing, often with compartments to store gear and sometimes with an attached shelter.
Shelters block the wind, making ice fishing more comfortable. Many types of ice fishing shelters are available, from simple windbreaks to portable fish houses.