Local anglers encouraged to take up ice fishing this winter
MILLERTON — Millerton resident and ice fisherman Don Tuncy typically uses a cordless drill to drill a hole in the thick, solid and relentless ice of his hometown’s Indian Lake, starting off close to shore and working his way out. At that point, he said, he takes the end of his scoop tool to clean out the holes in the ice and uses the ruler attached at the end to measure the ice thickness. Then, after showing the patience few sportsmen know other than those who have so often brushed flakes of ice off their drill bits, he waits for hours for the fish to bite. It’s another typical, frigid January morning. And Tuncy waits. Fisherman often test the ice with tools like augers (which bore holes in the ground) or spud bars (a long piece of steel with a ruler at the end).
Tuncy has been ice fishing since he was about 9 years old. He recounted the days when he and his father used to walk down to Twin Lakes in Salisbury, Conn., where they would cut holes in the ice with an ax and then use an ice chisel. These days he ice fishes with his grandson, Hunter Horton.
When asked what sort of fish he usually catches in the chill of winter, he named a great variety, from sunfish and calico bass to perch, large mouth bass and pickerel, adding that the large mouth bass are very good eating this time of year.
“I think it’s a good sport if you start the kids out young,” Tuncy said. “You see a lot of women into ice fishing now, which is nice to see, and you can take your grandkids out, and it’s nice just to get out, to meet people and to have a good time.”
Nowadays, Tuncy said he goes ice fishing in a regular group of three to four people who go fishing together about two to three times a week, sometimes more. In between their fishing, he said they usually take a grill with them along with some hamburgers and hot dogs so they can have a nice toasty lunch on the ice.
It’s a socially distant sport that’s great for winter, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Services (DEC), which is encouraging local fisherman, both new and experienced, to try ice fishing while keeping safety in mind.
“From small local ponds to large lakes and reservoirs, New York has a tremendous array of ice fishing opportunities for anglers to experience close to home,” NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a recent press release. “Many fish species are active throughout the winter months and the fishing can be just as good as during the open water season. As always, before venturing onto the ice, DEC asks all anglers to make sure the ice is thick enough to fish safely.”
For those unfamiliar with the art of ice fishing, the DEC recommends that fisherman have 4 inches of solid clear ice for them to safely walk on, though the ice thickness can vary on water bodies and within the same water body, according to the DEC.
As a precautionary measure, fisherman should be aware of areas of moving water as well around boat docks and houses where dock bubblers (or de-icers) may be installed.
Other recommendations for safe ice fishing include fishing with a family member or friend, making sure to have a valid fishing license before heading out on the ice and even checking with the local bait and tackle shops to find out where the ice is safe and what kind of fish are swimming in the area. Fishing licenses are valid for one year from the date of purchase, and residents can find out more about how to procure a license by visiting the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov.
With COVID-19 still a threat, the DEC has advised fisherman to stay 6 feet apart, wear their face masks when they can’t maintain social distancing, avoid sharing gear when possible, take out what they bring or place their trash in receptacles and respect one another and the resource where they’re fishing by providing space and practicing ethical angling. Additionally, fisherman are advised to exercise caution while on the ice and to make sure their licenses are current.
For more information on ice fishing, check out the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov.