By Joey Greco
With the warmer-than-usual weather patterns we’ve been experiencing this season, ice fishing anglers have had limited options for venturing out on the hard water. Most larger bodies of water have yet to see any ice, and most anglers have been forced to fish smaller lakes or ponds that still have ice left over from the first cold spell of the year. That said, we’re all anxiously awaiting more cold!
The excitement is palpable among anglers looking to access the area’s top winter hot spots
for ice fishing such as Lake George and Saratoga Lake. It’s something we look forward to year after year. The smaller lakes have had safe ice for quite a while now, and anglers have been consistently catching yellow perch, crappie, bluegill and various trout species at them. Grafton Lakes State Park is an excellent location to chase rainbow trout with tip-ups (or suspension devices) baited with small minnows such as fatheads (a.k.a. “cup bait”) or Berkley PowerBait. These fish will be found suspended off weed lines or steep drop-offs and can be caught not far from the surface—usually, two feet to six feet under the ice. The key to fooling wary trout is to rig up with the lightest tackle possible, as they have the keenest eyesight and can be notoriously picky. I like 2- to 4-pound fluorocarbon leaders and very small treble hooks (sizes 12 – 14). This will keep your presentation looking as natural as possible.
If yellow perch and other panfish are your target species, jigging (a type of lure) and tip-ups will be your go-to technique. Covering water and drilling lots of holes is often needed to find the fish. As with many species, these fish can be found in large concentrations and may only be located in specific sections on the lake. Generally speaking, these fish will be willing to bite once they’re found, so not much time is needed to fish each hole. I like to take five minutes or so in each spot, attempting to entice a fish, and if nothing shows up on my electronics by then (more on this in a minute), I’ll simply move on to the next hole. Jigging small spoons and tungsten-style jigs tipped with small wax worms or grubs are a couple of winning presentations. Need some good tackle? Hit up FISH307 on Lake George and ask for Jeff Goldberg; the store has a phenomenal staff and large inventory that’s sure to satisfy any of your ice fishing needs.
Speaking of which, hands down, the most revered destination to cut some ice in the Capital Region is mighty Lake George, the “Queen of American Lakes.” Its crystal-clear waters harbor an absolutely amazing population of yellow perch, bass, lake trout and landlocked salmon, and it’s a popular annual destination for anglers. Just about anywhere on the lake, bounties of yellow perch can be jigged up in the 35 feet of water range on small gold jigs tipped with grubs and small plastics. I prefer the micro plastics made by Maki Baits and Ross Custom Bait; natural colors seem to work best in this lake; and white, oranges, greens and blacks seem to produce the most bites.
Lake trout and salmon can be found just about anywhere this time of year, and typically, will not venture far from deep water. These species will be found in slightly shallower water early in the morning, feeding on perch and smelt, and will usually slip off into areas of deeper water later in the day. Jigging Swedish pimples and plastic tubes in natural baitfish colors can produce bites from these hard-fighting critters. Electronics such as a flasher or traditional sonar graph are handy when targeting lake trout and salmon. These tools will help you keep tabs on where the fish are in the water column, and by playing a game of “cat and mouse” with your bait, the fish will often be triggered into biting out of sheer aggression. However, please consider catching and releasing these fish, as the lake trout in Lake George aren’t well stocked.
The fish are all naturally reproducing, though, and we hope to see a stable population for many years to come.
If you’d like a guide for your next winter ice fishing adventure, contact us at newyorkfishing.com and book your date today. Good luck and be safe out there!