LIVINGSTON COUNTY – As ice slowly fans out over still lakes, the state is reminding ice fishermen to put safety first and preserve the health of the ecosystem they enjoy.
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According to a press release from the Department of Environmental Conservation, (DEC) four inches of solid ice is usually safe for anglers accessing ice on foot. However, ice thickness can vary even within the same body of water.
“Ice fishing is a popular sport in New York State and with the post-Christmas drop in temperature, I am sure anglers are looking forward to an early start to the season this year,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The rush to get out onto the ice can lead to tragedy unless anglers remain vigilant to the condition of the ice. Anglers should heed DEC’s recommendation of at least four inches of solid clear ice before venturing out on the ice.”
Anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can easily be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
“Ice fishing continues to increase in popularity in New York State,” said the DEC in the release. “Unlike the open water season, when an angler usually needs a boat to access good fishing locations, no boat is required to access these locations once a water is covered with safe ice. It’s also a great sport for families, as they can mix in skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or other activities during an ice fishing trip to keep everyone interested and happy.”
The use of fish for bait is popular when ice fishing and bait fish may be used in most, but not all waters, open to ice fishing. The DEC website, accessible here, has a list of specific regulations by county to find out where bait fish can and cannot be used.
Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:
Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species (please see: Special Regulations by County);
Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught;
Do not reuse baitfish in another waterbody if you have replaced the water they were purchased in;
Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.
Anglers are reminded to make sure that they have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice. Fishing licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.
As part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative, Feb. 17 and 18, 2018, has been designated as a free fishing weekend, where anyone can fish with or without a license. This is a great opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time or for experienced anglers to take friends ice fishing for the first time. Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the Ice Fishing Chapter of DEC’s new I FISH NY Beginners’ Guide to Freshwater Fishing for information on how to get started ice fishing. Additional information, including a list of waters open to ice fishing, can found on the DEC ice fishing web page and the Public Lakes and Ponds map.