Anglers on Ice: Sacandaga Ice Fishing

In January, when the sky turns steel gray, snow starts falling and the frigid temperatures force you indoors, winter can start to feel never-ending and at times a little sad. Throughout the years beating the winter blues has driven human beings to some pretty strange pursuits, from plunging into frozen waters just for kicks, to “redneck knee-boarding,” to moonlight snowshoeing. Few activities have been more enduring however than ice fishing.

A pastime in more countries than just the U.S. alone, ice fishing is popular all over the cold-climate world including Northern and Eastern Europe, Canada and Iceland. Here in the Northeastern United States, ice fishing can be a highly social activity. It’s even possible to find lakeside resorts that rent shanties by the day, and who will even provide shuttle service (via snowmobile or winterized SUV) to the most desirable locations!

Winter in the Adirondacks sees anglers on the ice chasing caches of walleye, pike, perch, and trout, often while participating in another great Adirondack tradition: fishing contests!

Here in the Great Sacandaga Lake region alone there are numerous ice fishing contests taking place! To highlight just a couple, the 2011 Walleye Challenge, sponsored by Fuel & Food in Mayfield, commences Saturday January 29th and includes some $45K in prizes. The Speculator Lake Pleasant Piseco Fish and Game Club holds their annual Ice Fishing Contest, now in its 10th year on Saturday February 26th. There is also the Great Sacandaga Lake Business Association’s Year ‘Round Tagged Fish Contest which runs June 1st through May 31st, 2011 and boasts some $15K in cash prizes.

But if you’re the type to grab your pole and auger, head out on the Sacandaga Lake ice by yourself, throw up a shanty and just get away from it all, there are certainly no shortage of places on where an angler can achieve his solitude. There are dangers to be aware of however. Be conscious of thin, “rotten,” or soft ice, and stay away from inlets as the ice is generally thinner. If fishing alone (which is never recommended), experts recommend carrying a self-rescue device in case a fall through the ice occurs.

Ensuring there is no shortage of fish under the frozen lake, The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation stocks the lake full every year while monitoring the overall health of the lake. Ice fishing season on the Great Sacandaga runs from November 15th to March 15th for northern pike, pickerel, tiger muskellunge and walleye; and from November 15th to April 30th for all other species under General Angling Regulations.