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Hardwater fishing, decidedly different!
Feb
08
2019

Winter should not stop anyone from fishing. Cold temperatures beckon to the dedicated angler, who regards ice on frozen lakes the same way most people think of milkshakes: the thicker, the better. Snug shelters and fish finding skills come to the fore in this sport, since techniques like fly casting are unable to be practiced under the ice.

Here are some special spots and favorite fish.

Local favorite

Lake Colby is a popular lake on the northern edge of town. In summer, it's Saranac Lake's town beach and a favorite fishing, paddling, and sunset destination. In winter, it's a favorite ice fishing lake and sunset destination.

The geography of this cloverleaf-shaped lake makes it special. It has plenty of shoreline with four bays. The outlet bay is bisected by railroad tracks to form Little Colby Pond. The lake is a stocked, two-story fishery. This means it gets a steady supply of hatchlings that congregate in two layers. There's a warm upper story and a cold, deeply oxygenated lower layer. This supports plenty of diverse fish species.

A favorite place in any season: Lake Colby.
A favorite place in any season: Lake Colby.

Blue Line Sports is a downtown fixture, with a long history as a complete outdoor adventure and sporting goods store. My local informant recommended ice fishing Lake Colby in general, and salmon in particular. Every fall, there's a release of one hundred 21-inch landlocked salmon brood stock from the Adirondack Fish Hatchery on the shores of Little Clear Pond.

Atlantic salmon, known as landlocked salmon when found in lakes.
Atlantic salmon are known as landlocked salmon when found in lakes.

Atlantic salmon can thrive in fresh or salt water, and are actually native to the Adirondacks. Waterways like the rivers that run down to Lake Champlain supported the fish migration that reached mountain lakes. In 1900, landlocked salmon were saved from extinction with an ongoing program that stretched over fity years. Sparse natural reproduction is supplemented by annual stocking to keep this prime game fish in good supply.

Modern equipment makes the hole drilling and setup even easier.
Modern equipment makes the hole drilling and setup even easier.

A favored technique among anglers features tip-ups and minnows.

The Lake Colby landlocked salmon fishing season lasts throughout the year. Fish are restricted to a minimum length of 15 inches, and anglers cannot exceed the daily limit of three.

Go big

Another Blue Line Sports recommendation for fine ice fishing is Lower Saranac Lake. Here, the northern pike have room to grow, and they do.

The view from Second Pond which leads to the southern end of Lower Saranac. The dot in the middle of the right-hand third is a snowmobile.
The view from Second Pond, which leads to the southern end of Lower Saranac. That's a snowmobile in the distance.

Lower Saranac Lake is one of the Saranac Chain of Lakes. It is located south of Lake Colby, and Ampersand Bay is at the western edge of town. It is six miles long, three-and-a-half square miles in area, and has plenty of islands and irregular shoreline that help fish thrive.

It's a home away from home.
It's a home away from home.

Northern pike don't need stocking or support. They are apex predators, aggressive feeders, and will get away if given enough slack and maneuvering room. They use sudden bursts of energy and erratic moves to fool their prey, and sometimes they fool the angler too.

The northern pike fishing season runs from the first Saturday in May through March 15. The minimum length for pike is 18 inches and the daily limit for anglers is five. I've seen yard-long pike pulled from various fishing spots along the Saranac Chain. They are out there.

Get competitive

Ice fishing is so popular that it lends itself to neighborhoods of shanties, tents, and creative adaptations, as in the storage container in the top photo. An ice fishing derby is one way to celebrate the culture and community of this sport.

Lake Colby is the site for Saranac Lake's annual ice fishing event, which takes place every first weekend in March.

Got one! Since the minimum length is 18 inches, this is not a keeper.
Got one! Since the minimum length is 18 inches, this is not a keeper.

The Colby Classic Ice Fishing Derby offers prizes  for the heaviest fish in the perch, trout, salmon, and northern pike categories. Northern pike do not inhabit Lake Colby, so entries from other lakes can be submitted.

Leave the shanty for a cozy place to stay. Being out on the ice works up an appetite, so explore our restaurants. Visit all the fun shops in Saranac Lake's walkable downtown.


This week in ADK news:

Raised on Oak

Chilling with birds

Dam good skiing

Breaking trail

River's new digs 

Before you say "I do"

Sledding pro tips
 

Categories:Fishing, winter
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About The Author

Pamela Merritt's picture
Pamela Merritt finds a library's reading room as exciting as a hike through the forest. She met the Adirondacks in 1999 and declared it "home." She's been collecting stories ever since. She declares summer's hiking and kayaking blends beautifully into winter's snowshoeing and reading to create four great seasons of enjoyment. Her published works display her eclectic range, from How-To cat care manuals to literary short fiction.

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