Minimum of Four Inches of Clear Ice Usually Safe for Anglers on Foot
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today reminded anglers to be cautious when ice fishing.
"This past week's cold spell has improved conditions for ice fishing across New York State," Commissioner Seggos said. "Still, anglers should keep safety in mind and test the ice before venturing out to enjoy some hard-water fishing."
Four inches of solid ice is usually safe for anglers on foot. However, ice thickness can vary on waterbodies and even on the same waterbody. 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 presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice is not evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged 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.
Ice fishing continues to increase in popularity in New York State. Unlike the open-water season, when an angler usually needs a boat to access good fishing locations, boats are not required to access these same locations once a waterbody is covered with safe ice. It's also a great sport for families, as they can mix in skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or other activities during ice fishing trips to keep everyone interested and happy.
As part of Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting initiative, Feb.16-17, has been designated as a free fishing weekend. The requirement for a fishing license is waived during this period. This free fishing weekend is a great opportunity to try ice fishing for the first time or for experienced anglers to take their friends ice fishing. Beginning ice anglers are encouraged to download the new I FISH NY Guide to Ice Fishing (PDF). Additional valuable information, including where to fish recommendations, can be found on the DEC ice fishing web page and the Ice Fishing Chapter (PDF) of the DEC's I FISH NY Beginner's Guide to Freshwater Fishing.
The use of fish for bait is popular when ice fishing and bait fish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing.
Anglers should take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing:
- Review and follow the DEC baitfish regulations;
- Make sure that the use of baitfish is permitted in the waterbody by checking the special regulations by county section of the Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide;
- Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught;
- Do not reuse baitfish in another waterbody if the water the baitfish were purchased in has been replaced; and
- Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.
DEC reminds anglers to make sure that they have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice. Fishing licenses are now valid for 365 days from the date of purchase.