As ice thickens, DEC reminds anglers to be careful on the ice

From left, Tim Tetz, Ross Logan and Brayton Tetz show off a large salmon that they caught on Lake Colby Wednesday. The Tetzes are from Fairfax, Virginia and were guided by Logan and Matt Burnett of Upstate Guide Service. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — The state Department of Environmental Conservation is reminding anglers to be careful out on frozen lakes and ponds this winter.

The DEC said in a press release that ice fishing is growing in popularity, largely due to the fact that anglers don’t need a boat to access bodies of water. But as the ice gets thicker, the department also said that ice thickness can vary and that areas of moving water should be avoided.

“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 DEC said in a press release. “The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions.

“DEC strongly encourages individuals 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.”

On Lake Colby in Saranac Lake Wednesday, there was about 6.5 inches of ice in one location. Licensed guide Matt Burnett was out on the lake with a couple of clients fishing for salmon, and said he is methodical in checking ice conditions, especially on waterbodies that he doesn’t visit often.

From left, guide Matt Burnett, customers Brayton Tetz and Tim Tetz, and Ross Logan ice fish for salmon on Lake Colby Wednesday morning. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

“I either fish water that I know very well, or when I fish new water I scout it. You always scout,” he said. “I’ve been going out drilling holes 50 yards out, 100 yards out.

“I don’t want to be less than five inches of ice. I fished on five inches of ice out here a couple weeks ago, and then we had that warm weather. And it looked terrible out here, so I went and scouted it again.”

Burnett said anglers should check the ice often because it can change around the lake.

“I usually just bring a hand auger, because if you have a sharp hand auger, three turns and you’ve got a hole,” he said. “And it’s not that heavy to carry around. You’re not going to walk out to the middle of the lake and do your hole. Don’t go out any further than you want to fall through if you don’t know what the ice is, and just check as often as you need to.

“Then there’s no surprises. Because if you don’t know the body of water, there’s springs, there’s uncertain things.”

Burnett said he always wears ice picks, devices that have a sharp metal point that give your hands traction in the event you do fall through the ice.

Free fishing

The DEC also announced that the weekend of Feb. 16 and 17 has been designated as a free fishing weekend, meaning no fishing license is required. All other angling regulations remain in effect.

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