It appears that winter's wrath has seized most area lakes and ponds with a firm grip while fishing shanties continue to sprout like dandelions on a summer's lawn. Despite such appearances, ice travelers should remain cautiously alert, as the ice isn't all that it appears.
Two recent incidents, one involving a truck that went through the ice on the Upper Saranac Lake and another involving four vehicles taking the plunge near Pilot Knob in Fort Ann provide ample evidence that there is no safe ice when motor vehicles are involved.
In both of the recent incidents, occupants of the vehicles safely escaped; however their vehicles didn't.
"The ice is really funny this year," explained one ice fisherman,"with a lot of cracks and slush everywhere. I believe it's safe, but it's really sloppy. You really want to be wearing rubber boots out there!"
The slushy conditions are evident on most area lakes. Water quickly fills the tracks of snowmobiles crossing Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake, despite the impressive 14-inch ice blocks that were recently cut for construction of the massive Ice Palace.
Many people fail to recognize that the ice blocks were cut from ice that was consistently kept cleared of snow. By removing the insulating snow, the ice was allowed to develop thick and strong. However, lakes which remain covered in snow or in areas with a current, such as inlets or outlets, the ice may not be so thick.
In order to dispel a common myth, I recently spoke with Region 5, Environmental Conservation Officer Captain DiDonato. I asked the Captain about penalties for motor vehicles that go through the ice, which I've always believed were accessed at $1,000 per day.
Capt. DiDonato explained, "You can be fined depending on the instance, and you can face both civil and criminal charges. Plus, you've got to consider the cleanup costs, divers, salvage costs and repair or replacement fees."
He continued, "One of the main things that fishermen must know is that they must get the vehicle out. It's important to remove them as quickly as possible. We want to make certain that no fluids leak out."
Another common belief is that as soon as a vehicle ventures onto the ice, the owner's insurance policy is null and void. However, after speaking with a number of insurance agencies, I could still not get a clear answer.
Despite such facts, the comfort and portability of today's convenient pop-up ice fishing shelters have made it much easier to haul a shanty out on the ice, which should eliminate further prospects of more anglers attempting to imitate an olive in a very cold martini.
Ice fishing on Lake Champlain
in the 1940's
While present day ice fishermen may bemoan the lack of smelt in the Big Lake, I recently uncovered an interesting summary of a survey conducted back in the 1940's. The information comes from an article authored by Ray Bender, Essex County Agricultural Agent which was published in the Winter 1946, NYS Conservationist magazine.
"A joint survey by the conservation departments of New York and Vermont counted 1,203 fish shanties out on the ice; and huddled in them were 1,941 fishermen.
In 8,010 hours they caught 33,243 fish of which 66 percent were smelt and 30 percent yellow perch and the balance walleyed pike, herring and miscellaneous species."
The same publication offered this description of winter life in the North Country.
"It's a country which has 10 months of winter and two months of darn poor sleighin', and the winter's so long that the Fourth of July doesn't come sometimes until late in August."
Unfortunately, the first Adirondack Sportsmen's Show, originally scheduled for Feb. 27 - March 1 in Queensbury, NY has been postponed to Sept. 11-13, 2009.
Great White Productions, organizers of the show, made the decision in order to assemble an even larger attraction.
"We just decided that even though our total exhibit sales to date for The Adirondack Sportsmen's Show were good, they just weren't good enough for us," said Great White Production's President and CEO Jeff Fraser. "It's better to take a step back, regroup, re-brand, and make it the huge national event that we know it can and will be in the fall."
This postponement has also afforded the opportunity to pool the resources of Great White Productions and Elk Publishing, the net result being that the event will have all of the trappings to be on the cutting edge of the industry.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ice fishing derby upcoming
LAKE GEORGE - YMCA Camp Chingachgook on Lake George is hosting its 8th annual Ice Fishing Derby on Lake George Feb. 21 and 22. More than $500 in prizes will be awarded; a bonfire, hot chowder, and drinks will be provided. Adults pay $8/day or $15/both days (must have NYS fishing license); children under 12 pay $5/day or $8/both days. Proceeds benefit the YMCA Reach Out for Youth campaign to provide scholarships for area children to attend summer camp. For more information, call 656-9462 or email email@example.com