Ice Fishing in Upstate New York


Hotspots for ice fishing beyond Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Looking for another family activity for winter? Consider ice fishing.

“Ice fishing is an enjoyable winter activity that anyone can enjoy,” said Mike Crawford, owner of Upstate Guide Service in Auburn. “With proper clothing, good ice and moderate weather conditions, ice fishing is a great way for family and friends to get outside together during the winter months.”

His company has provided guided ice fishing trips since 2003.

These are just a few of the more popular places to drill a hole and drop a line.

• Lake Champlain offers both cold water and warm water fish species. Look for perch, pike, salmon, lake trout and crappie.

• Saratoga Lake provides a variety of fish, including pike, bluegills, and crappies in the shallow areas and in deeper waters, walleyes and perch.

• North of Old Forge, Fourth Lake offers trout, yellow perch and landlocked salmon.

• Lake George boasts abundant lake trout, landlocked salmon, yellow perch and black crappie. The scenery is also postcard perfect.

• Tupper Lake is the place to go for northern pike, large walleye and lake trout. If big fish are your wish, this is where to head.

• Lake Colby has been stocked with landlocked salmon, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

The St. Lawrence River is popular summer and winter. Catch bluegills, sunfish and crappies here. It is a popular ice fishing venue, so if you want to get away from the crowds, you might need to look elsewhere.

 Lake Ontario’s bays and shoreline offers many opportunities for access. At the east end in Oswego County at Sandy Pond, anticipate pike, perch, bluegills, sunfish and crappies.

• On the south shore, Sodus Bay is an ice fishing hotspot with a variety of water depths for a good variety of fish species, such as pike, perch and panfish.

• Oneida Lake is where you will find many anglers fishing for walleyes and bass in the spring, but it is also popular for ice fishing.

• Touted as the largest of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake’s 400-foot depth causes it to never totally freeze; however, a shallow area at the north end becomes solid enough to fish for perch and panfish.

• By contrast, shallow Honeoye Lake offers walleyes, perch, bluegills and pickerel.

• Anglers in western New York like Chautauqua Lake for its abundant walleyes, along with perch and crappie.

To learn the latest on conditions, visit the website of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) —

The site offers the following ice safety tips:

“This guide is based on new, clear ice on non-running waters. Slush ice is about 50% weaker. Clear ice over running water is about 20% weaker. Double the recommendations for white ice. Many ice anglers do not like to fish on less than five inches of ice, and do not like to drive a pick-up truck on less than 15 inches of ice. Use common sense!

“Be cautious in areas where “bubblers” are used to protect docks. They can produce thin, unsafe ice some distance away. Be especially alert in areas near shore, over moving bodies of water, and where streams enter and exit lakes and ponds.

Remember, use the buddy system while ice fishing — it saves lives.”

How Thick?

Ice Thickness

What can accommodate

• 2 inches or less – Stay off

• 4 inches – Ice fishing or other activities on foot

• 5 inches – Snowmobile or ATV

• 8-12 inches – Car or small pickup truck

• 12-15 inches – Medium truck