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