Let's take a look at what's in store for winter fishermen and how things are shaping up for the 2010 season. (December 2009)
Empire State anglers have no need to spend the winter hunkered down by the woodstove. There's plenty of hardwater fishing action out there! New York boasts more than 7,500 lakes and ponds and many are open for ice-fishing. Ice-anglers can target walleyes, northern pike, pickerel and panfish this winter, and many waters throughout the state remain open to the harvesting of brown trout, lake trout and landlocked salmon.
Hemlock Lake is a good ice-angling destination for lake trout, browns and rainbows, landlocked salmon, largemouth and smallmouth bass, some good-sized pickerel and black crappies.
The Empire State allows jigging and the use of tip-ups. Allowable baits vary from water to water, as do regulations on specific species, so always be sure to check the current fishing regulations before drilling any holes.
Ice-fishing is a great way to while away these cold winter days -- just be certain there's a safe amount of ice before venturing out. Look for a minimum of 4 inches of solid ice, and remember that ice thickness varies throughout any given water body. Avoid areas of moving water, including inlets, outlets and dams.
There's ice-fishing potential nearly everywhere an angler looks, from Lake Ontario to inland ponds and lakes swimming with stocked trout or big, toothy pike.
Here's a roundup of some of this year's best bets for hardwater action near you:
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Region 8 (west-central New York) offers ice-anglers a wide variety of options.
There's no way to talk ice-fishing without a bow to Lake Ontario. This Great Lake gives ice-anglers 326 miles of shoreline in New York state offering excellent fishing for white perch, yellow perch, walleyes, northern pike and panfish.
Some bays worth exploring this winter include Braddock Bay, Cranberry Pond, Long Pond, Buck Pond and Round Pond. At Irondequoit Bay in Irondequoit and Webster, fishing is noteworthy for white perch, yellow perch and walleyes.
Lake Ontario is managed under special regulations, so be sure to check the rulebook before heading out.
Check DeLorme's New York Atlas and Gazetteer maps 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74 and 83 for shoreline details and access points to Lake Ontario.
Conesus Lake is the most westerly of the 11 Finger Lakes. The lake covers 3,420 acres, is eight miles in length and about one mile wide. Two miles west of Livonia, Conesus is a drinking water source for several towns. Ice-fishing shacks are prohibited here by local health ordinances.
Conesus is an excellent warmwater fishery, offering hardwater action for northern pike, walleyes, largemouth and smallmouth bass and panfish.
Fisheries biologists report that the walleye population is on the rise in response to annual stocking, and yellow perch numbers are also increasing. The lake has been stocked with tiger muskellunge since 1991.
The Finger Lakes are managed under special regulations, so be sure to check the current rulebook before heading out.
There are several public access sites, including one on East Lake Road near MacPherson Point, about four miles south of Route 20A. Access is also available via the Conesus Inlet Wildlife Management Area off West Lake Road at the south end of the lake. Or, try Pebble Beach at the northwest corner of the lake. There's additional access at the north end of the lake off Route 20A at Sand Point.
Hemlock Lake, also in the Finger Lakes chain, is the water supply for the city of Rochester. A self-service permit is required to fish here.
The lake spans 1,799 acres and is one of only two Finger Lakes with an undeveloped shoreline. Robust populations of smelt and alewives result in excellent trout growth rates. The lake is stocked annually with lake trout, browns and rainbows. There's also a population of naturally reproducing rainbow trout here that originate in Springwater Creek.
Canandaigua Lake's 10,558 acres are in Yates and Ontario counties. This is the fourth largest of the Finger Lakes, with Honeoye, Canadice and Hemlock all nearby to the west.
Canandaigua is an excellent trout fishery. Lakers and brown trout are stocked, and there is a naturally reproducing population of rainbow trout that come in from Naples Creek and its tributaries. The lake also offers excellent angling for largemouth and smallmouth bass, and has enough panfish to keep younger, less patient anglers happy.
Access sites include the Canandaigua Lake State Marine Park off routes 5 and 20 in Canandaigua and a parking area for 80-plus vehicles in Woodville on Route 21, about three miles north of Naples.
Honeoye Lake, 10th in size compared with the other Finger Lakes, is in southwestern Ontario County. This is an excellent fishery for walleyes, largemouth and smallmouth bass and chain pickerel. Walleyes are stocked annually. Access may be had at the southeastern corner of the lake off East Lake Road. There's also access off Sandy Bottom Road at the northwest corner of the lake.
Canadice Lake is the smallest of the Finger Lakes and may by fished by permit only. The lake is regulated by the Rochester Water Department. Thanks to these limitations and the lake's undeveloped shoreline, Canadice offers a remote fishing atmosphere reminiscent of the Adirondacks.
Canadice is home to stocked lakers, browns and rainbow trout and the occasional batch of surplus landlocked salmon. Ice-anglers will find largemouth and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish in the shallower portions of the lake. Access is on the east side near the intersection of Canadice and Birch Hill roads.
Park Station Pond in the Chemung County Park in Erin is stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Trout may be taken here all year, with no size limit and a daily bag of five fish. Public access is off Laurel Hill Road, about three miles north of Route 223.
Ice-fishing opportunities in central New York are no less attractive. Whitney Point Reservoir on the Otselic River in Broome County is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project. Historically, a 1,200-acre "recreation pool" has been maintained from May through November, and a 900-acre "conservation pool" is maintained through the winter. However, keeping the pool at
1,200 acres was slated to become permanent in 2009, except during summer droughts.
When ice thickness allows, Whitney is the site of the Whitney Point Sportsman's Association's "Almost Annual Ice-Fishing Derby," which targets the lake's abundant crappie population. The lake is also home to walleyes, largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel, yellow perch, carp, channel catfish and bluegills.
Walleyes are managed under special regulations, with an 18-inch minimum length and a three-fish daily limit. Fishing is allowed from the first Saturday in May through March 15.
Access is via Dorchester Park off Route 26 about one mile north of the Whitney Point Reservoir Dam. There's also access in Triangle, off county Route 13 at the Upper Lisle bridge (with limited parking) and along Keible Road.
Arctic Lake's 60 acres are within the Oquaga State Park in Sanford. The lake offers good ice-angling for rainbow trout and panfish. Trout may be taken year 'round from this Broome County lake. The daily limit is five fish, with no more than two longer than 12 inches.
Region 7 also offers miles of excellent hardwater fishing along the deep holes and backwater areas of the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers when there is safe ice.
Both rivers are managed under special regulations for muskellunge and tiger muskies. The season is open from the first Saturday in May through March 15, with a 30-inch minimum length and a bag limit of one fish of either species per day.
Anglers should fish the Chenango for northern pike, muskies and walleyes, the Susquehanna for those species plus tiger muskies.
Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 48 for Chenango information, Map 46 for Susquehanna details.
The Salmon River (Redfield) Reservoir in Orwell and Redfield offers hardwater anglers 2,660 acres of opportunity for rainbow and brown trout, walleyes and panfish. Special regulations are in place on walleyes.
The lake is also home to largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch and black crappies. Access is available off the Orwell-Redfield Road, onto the CCC Road, 4.5 miles west of Redfield.
Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 84 for area details.
Perch Lake in DEC Region 6 offers north-central New York anglers a unique opportunity because only ice-fishing is allowed. The Jefferson County lake was added to the Perch River Wildlife Management Area in 1950. The lake was closed to public fishing for over 45 years, and was opened for ice-fishing only in January 1995. Fishing is allowed from Dec. 1 to March 1.
Perch Lake is about 10 miles north of Watertown. The 545-acre lake is most productive for northern pike and yellow perch in winter, but is also home to largemouth bass, black crappies and bluegills.
Don't overlook the St. Lawrence River this winter. If safe ice forms, the St. Lawrence is an excellent warmwater fishery for largemouth and smallmouth bass, muskellunge, walleyes, northern pike, yellow perch, crappies and bullheads. This 1,200-mile river flows out of the northeastern tip of Lake Ontario all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Access sites are multiple. Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 92 for details.
DEC's Region 5 includes Lake Champlain and all the icy waters of the Adirondack region. How lucky can an angler get, with not one, but two "great" lakes to choose from?
Champlain is home to trout, salmon, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleyes, yellow perch and muskellunge.
Special regulations are in place on most species in Champlain, so be sure to check the current rulebook before heading out.
DeLorme's NYAG, maps 39, 40 and 54 offer details of the lake's multiple bays and access points.
Lake George in the Essex County town of Ticonderoga is open for landlocked salmon year 'round with an 18-inch minimum length and a daily limit of two fish.
Lake George is also home to lake trout, rainbows and brown trout, pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass and plentiful panfish.
Special regulations apply here for the various trout species. Live bait is allowed, but the use or possession of smelt is prohibited.
There's public access south of Ticonderoga off Route 3.
For details of this and other access sites, see DeLorme's NYAG, Map 89.
For a nice session of fast panfish action and the potential for big northern pike, check out Carters Pond in the Carters Pond Wildlife Management Area along county Route 338 in Greenwich, about four miles west of Salem.
For details, check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 81.
Great Sacandaga Lake in Edinburg and Day is considered one of Saratoga County's best smallmouth bass waters. The lake is also home to walleyes, northern pike, chain pickerel, brown trout, rainbow trout, yellow perch and black crappies.
Special regulations apply to some species.
Fishing the tributaries from the lake upstream to the first highway bridge is prohibited from March 16 until the opening day of walleye season in May.
For access details, see DeLorme's NYAG, Map 79.
Other Region 5 waters worth a look this winter include Moreau Lake, Round Lake and Saratoga Lake. Moreau, in the town of the same name, is considered one of the county's best largemouth bass destinations. The lake is also home to trout, chain pickerel and yellow perch. Trout may be taken here all year, any length, with a daily limit of five fish.
Round Lake in Malta is one of the region's better waters for largemouth bass and northern pike. The lake is also home to tiger muskies and panfish.
Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 66, for details on Malta Lake access.
Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs offers ice-anglers opportunities for rainbow trout, walleye, northern pike, chain pickerel, yellow perch and bluegills.
Special regulations are in place on sunfish, which may be taken all year with no minimum size, but there is a 15-fish daily limit.
Public access is adjacent to Route 9P at the northern end of the lake. Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 80, for specifics.
DEC's Region 3 encompasses the Hudson Valley and Catskills areas of New York. This southeastern area of the Empire State offers hardwater anglers plenty of action for trout and all the warmwater species.
Morgan Lake in the city of Poughkeepsie covers 12 acres and is a popular winter trout hotspot. Trout may be taken here year 'round, any size, with a daily limit of three fish.
Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 37 for details.
Silver Lake is located north of Letchworth State Park in eastern Wyoming County. This 836-acre lake in Clinton has plentiful yellow perch, black crappies and bluegills, largemouth bass, walleyes and a naturally reproducing population of northern pike. Northerns here can exceed 35 inches, but most anglers take fish in the 18- to 25-inch range.
Thanks to an ambitious stocking program, Silver Lake walleyes are now self-sustaining as well. The average walleye taken from Silver Lake is between 15 and 25 inches, but some 8-pound whoppers are caught here. Largemouth bass have good growth rates, and there are good numbers of them in the 12- to 15-inch range.
Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 102.
Wappinger Lake in the Dutchess County town of Wappingers Falls provides 87 acres of hardwater fishing for largemouth bass, chain pickerel and pumpkinseeds.
See DeLorme's NYAG, Map 37, for area details.
Orange County ice-anglers can head over to Palisades Interstate Park for a variety of hardwater options. This park boasts several small lakes including Cohasset, Barnes, Kanawauke, Massawippa, Silver Mine, Stahahe, Summit and Lake Tiorati. These lakes, all near Tuxedo, offer good winter fishing for largemouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish.
Round Lake in Monroe is open for trout fishing year 'round with no minimum size and a daily limit of five fish. The 95-acre lake is also home to largemouth bass and panfish.
While in Monroe, plan to drill a few holes in Walton Lake. This 118-acre lake is also open for year-round trout fishing and is stocked with brown trout.
Walton Lake is also home to largemouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish.
Check DeLorme's NYAG, Map 32 for details on both waters.
Chodikee Lake, near the Ulster County town of Lloyd, is another good warmwater fishery, offering ice-anglers a shot at largemouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish.
Access to the 63-acre lake is about five miles east of New Paltz off Route 299. Go north on Chodikee Lake Road for about a mile, and then bear left onto Camp Stuts Road.
For additional fishing information, call the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Resources Bureau of Fisheries at (518) 402-8920, or visit www.dec.state. ny.us.
For travel information, call (800) 225-5697 or visit www.iloveny. com.