With the onset of winter, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds ice anglers to enjoy the ice responsibly. DEC cautions that 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 for themselves and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk.
"During warm winters such as the one we are currently experiencing, some anglers take risks that they would otherwise not take," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Last year safe ice did not form on many larger waters, but smaller lakes and ponds eventually provided sufficient ice for safe angling. Although the wait can be frustrating, falling through the ice is not a risk anyone should take."
Ice thickness varies on every body of water or even within the same body of water and 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.
"Ice fishing provides a great opportunity for people to get outdoors during the long winter months, added Commissioner Martens. "According to a recent DEC survey, ice fishing participation has doubled over the past 10 years. Unlike other angling techniques, ice fishing is relatively simple and all one needs is a warm pair of boots, a good ice auger, some tip-ups or a jigging rod and the willingness to experiment to have success."
The use of fish for bait is very popular when ice fishing and bait fish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing. Visit the DEC website for a list of special regulations by county to find out where bait fish can and cannot be used, and for other regulations that apply to baitfish.
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.
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.
Anglers looking for potential ice fishing locations should request a copy of the DEC "I FISH NY Guide to Freshwater Fishing." This map and brochure provides locations of good public fishing opportunities throughout New York state. Anglers can obtain a copy at any DEC regional office, or can request a copy by emailing DEC at email@example.com. Please put "N.Y. Fishing Map" in the subject line. Additional information on ice fishing, ice safety, and regulations can be found at www.dec.ny.gov.