The winter of 2009-10 is now officially five weeks old and I'm pleased to say I think the deer have had it fairly easy so far.
I did a little post-season scouting the other day and found deer to still be in their natural patterns - moving around freely and feeding with little trouble. I saw no real signs of yarding yet and even some late season breeding activity. Hope the mild weather keeps up for at least a few more weeks.
In the meantime, I've been out on the ice probably a dozen times and have to say I haven't personally seen the treacherous ice conditions the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have warned about.
In fact, conditions are not at all unlike the past few years.
That's not to say dangerous ice doesn't exist, I am just saying ice fishing opportunities are out there for those who use their heads. I've seen upward of two feet of ice on some of the smaller ponds already, and popular fishing destinations like Lake Eaton, Long Lake, Raquette Lake, Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Eagle Lake, Paradox Lake, Brant Lake and most of Schroon Lake all hold fishable ice.
Many of the bays on Lake George and southern Lake Champlain are also buttoned up - with about a foot of good black ice on Port Henry's Bulwagga Bay.
Obviously, these conditions change daily, so be sure and call a local bait shop before planning a trip.
Ice fishing derbies on tap
There are a number of fishing tournaments upcoming. The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation Tournament is today, Jan. 23, from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. with $1,500 in prizes. Also, today is the Dunham's Bay Fish & Game Club's annual Stanley Yurgatis family fishing derby on Glen Lake. Perhaps the region's largest derby - the Tupper Lake Challenge - will take place this year Feb. 6 on Simon Pond just south of the village of Tupper Lake. This is a $30,000 tournament and attracts hundreds of anglers. For more information, call 359-9715. The Bolton Classic, sponsored by the Glens Falls Kiwanis Club and the Chinga-Classic, Camp Chingachgook's annual fund-raising derby, take place on Lake George the weekend of Feb. 20-21.
The Bolton Classic is a one-day derby on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Veteran's Memorial Park in Bolton. Call 743-1116 for more information. The Chinga-Classic is a lake trout and salmon derby headquartered at the camp at the end of Pilot Knob Road off State Route 9L. Fishing takes place from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Call 656-9426 for more information or visit www.chingachgook.org.
The season wraps up with the Hague Fish and Game Club's annual ice fishing tournament the weekend of Feb. 27-28 and the Schroon Lake Fish and Game Club tournament March 6 and 7.
The Hague event features daily blind prizes as well as a giveaway of a Strikemaster auger, a Cold-Snap park and bib and a Clam fishing shelter. Call 543-6542 for more information or visit www.haguefishandgame.com.
The Schroon Lake derby has also grown into one of the region's largest with cash payouts in three categories and daily giveaways. Call Bunny Suprenant at 532-7685 for more information.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.