I t may have taken awhile, but the ice fishing season has finally arrived.
A cold snap last week and some temperatures more in line with January norms have the regions hard water anglers breathing a sigh of relief after unseasonably mild temperatures delayed the start of the ice fishing season by a few weeks.
Leonard Field, who owns Honey’s Bait and Tackle in Whitehall, said that ice on South Bay was slow to form this year, but most of the area from Whitehall to Ticonderoga has rozen enough fishable at this point.
“It’s frozen all the way up toTiconderoga. There’s probably four to five inches of ice and three to six inches on the back bays,” Field said Monday.
And the anglers have taken notice.
Field said a bunch of people were in buying bait last weekend and most were happy with what they caught.
“Most guys were fishing in the shallower water; they weren’t finding much in the deeper waters,” Field said. “They been catching some panfish and walleye.”
Hank Neddo of South Bay Bait and Tackle was also busy last weekend, nearly selling out of bait.
“This weekend was crazy. Everybody is biting at the bit to get out,” he said.
Rob Steele with Tom’s Bait and Tackle inBomoseen,Vt.said the season got off to a slow start, but like Field and Neddo, said things started to pick up last weekend.
“Everybody is getting anxious. We had a few guys in this weekend. Everyone is excited to get out,” Steele said. “2006 or 2007 was later than this, but when it did freeze that year, it froze good and that’s what we’re hoping for this year. We’ll be alright.”
He said the main portion of theLakeBomoseenwas still wide open as of Monday but said some of the smaller ponds and bays have begun to freeze over and a few anglers were able to wet their lines near the floating bridge.
Just south ofLakeBomoseenon Lake St. Catherine, the main portion of the lake had yet to freeze at the beginning of the week but that hadn’t stopped anglers from getting out on the “little lake” and some of the bays.
Matt Hart made the drive all the way from Castleton on theHudsonto do a little fishing on Lake St. Catherine Sunday morning. And while the lack of ice kept him from fishing in his normal spot, he was able to find to some ice near the boat launch.
Unfortunately, other a few flags, he wasn’t able to find fish.
“It’s just nice to get out, I’m excited for the season to start,” Hart said.
Despite the formation of ice, Steele encouraged anglers to check out the ice wherever they are fishing even if someone fished in the same location the day before.
“With the temperatures fluctuating, the ice is changing day by day,’ Steele said.
As a general rule, if ice is less than two inches thick, people should stay off it altogether.
Four inches is generally safe on foot, five inches can support an ATV or snowmobile, eight to 12 inches will generally support a car and 14 or 15 inches of ice is generally recommended to support larger vehicles.
These are guidelines only; ice conditions can fluctuate near river mouths, points of land, bridges, islands, and over springs.
Waves can also be a concern early in the season. Waves in areas of open water can cause ice to break up quickly and it’s advised anglers stay away from these areas.
Officials also encourage anglers to carry a hand line or hand spikes or even wear a personal floatation device in case you do go through the ice.
And always let someone else know where you are going to be and when you’ll be back.
Anglers are also encouraged to brush on their regulations. For instance, New York has increased the number of lines a person is allowed to have from two to three and baitfish restrictions are constantly evolving in bothVermontandNew York.
To learn more about these changes, visit the New York State Department of Conservation webpage or the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department webpage.
A delayed start to the ice fishing season may have inconvenienced local anglers, but has not affected any of this year’s scheduled ice fishing derbies.
Most organizers have already set the date of this year’s events and none have been canceled or delayed yet.
Although some bodies of water have yet to freeze, most tournaments are about a month away and if temperatures drop into the single digits and wave-inducing winds stay calm, most surfaces will freeze in relatively short time.
Below are the dates of some of the more popular fishing derbies in the area. Look for more detailed information on each event as they near.
Lake Champlain Down HomeDerbyFeb. 4 and 5 (KidsDerbyon Feb. 4).
Where: All water south ofLake ChamplainBridge.
Check in Locations: Benson Landing Access Area
Organization/contact: Benson Fish and Game Club
Great Northern Fishing Contest,6 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 11
Check in Locations: Halfway downSouthBay; look for flags on shanty
Organization/contact: Hank Neddo, 499-0846
LakeHortonia FishingDerby,6 a.m. to 3 p.m.Feb 11-12
Check in Locations: Mouth of the channel outlet
LakeBomoseen Ice FishingDerby, Feb 18 and 19
Check in Locations: Crystal Landing
Organization/contact: Castleton Lions Club, Stanley Patch 802-468-5001 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Great Benson Derby, Feb. 25 and 26
Check in Locations: Crystal Beach
Organization/contact: Bob Day 468-5004; Dan Wood 468-2726; or Jeff Lason at Gilmore Supply
Tyke’s Kids Fishing Derby,6 a.m. to 3 p.m.on March 4
Check in Locations:SouthBayBoat Launch
Organization/contact: Elaine Phillips 282-0034
Lake St. Catherine Frosty Derby; Traditionally first weekend of March (TBD)
Check in Locations:LakeSt.Catherine State Park
Organization/contact: Poultney Fish and Game Club