Submitted by Guest Writer Mike Crawford, licensed guide and owner of Upstate Guide Service.
All images provided by Upstate Guide Service.
The lake and mountain country of the Adirondacks have excellent ice fishing, with several close-to-town lakes that offer ice anglers convenient and productive ice fishing opportunities. One of the coldest places in the northeast each winter is Saranac Lake. Safe ice fishing conditions usually can be found from mid to late December through the month of March.
Ice fishing is a challenging and relaxing way to spend a day outdoors in winter. Anglers enjoy magnificent landscapes and often excellent ice angling. When the lakes’ surfaces freeze and make for safe travel, anglers venture out to catch fish for both sport and food.
Fish do not stop feeding when the cold and ice comes. In fact, many species, like lake trout, landlocked salmon, and pike, are active and feeding all winter long. Schooling panfish, like perch, bluegill, crappie, and smelt, can be found in great numbers and make for excellent angling with good action and great eating!
Simple tactics and proper technique are needed for ice anglers to have a good chance at battling and harvesting lake trout, landlocked salmon, northern pike, and walleye through the ice on the Saranac Chain of Lakes and other nearby lakes within short driving distance of the village of Saranac Lake.
Ice fishing the near-shore shallow waters for perch, bluegill, pike, and pickerel is often the best bet for children and young adults, or first-time ice anglers. It is a solid introduction to the pastime of ice fishing and can provide consistent action.
Trophy ice fishing for northern pike, lake trout, landlocked salmon, or brown trout is available to ice anglers in the Saranac Lake region. Fishing for these species is not complicated. But success is dependent upon the mood of the fish and conditions. Trophy ice fishing is excellent in the Saranac Lake region, but anglers looking for a 10-pound fish coming through an eight inch hole in the ice will need a large degree of patience and perspective.
A day on the ice with a licensed Adirondack guide is a safe bet for a comfortable and enjoyable winter day of ice fishing in the Adirondacks. And the Saranac Lake region is perhaps the best spot in the Adirondacks to start! Ice fishing, with proper attire and footwear, is something the whole family can do and enjoy outdoors together. Local guides make sure your comfort and safety are always the most important part of the trip. Hot lunch and beverages, many laughs, and fish on the ice make for exciting Adirondack memories!
What you need and what to expect
- Each angler 16 years of age or older needs a valid NYSDEC fishing license. These can be purchased online. The transaction can be captured on a smartphone and you are good to go!
- Footwear is most important. Cold feet will ruin, or at least make uncomfortable, your day on the ice. Leather hiking boots will not suffice and insulated pack boots are best. Traction devices add another measure of comfort and safety, and ice skates can be a great to pass the time if the ice is right!
- A good outer shell of heavy nylon or Gore-Tex is ideal. Dressing in layers under a solid outer shell will keep you warm in wind and cold. Guides often provide heated shelter(s) from the elements, but often ice anglers need to traverse frozen lake surfaces for short to medium distances on foot to access fishing locations. In addition, ice guides will often transport anglers via snowmobile to shelters. Anglers need to be dressed for such journeys.
- Conditions on the ice are always changing. Experienced Adirondack guides specializing in ice fishing trips understand this and make decisions based upon the safety and comfort of their guests. Ice fishing is a safe and enjoyable winter recreational pursuit that is challenging yet enjoyable for beginners.
- Each angler should have a small day pack with snacks, water, and personal items he or she may want along for the day. Full day trips often include a hot lunch provided by the guide.
- Ice fishing often requires live bait. This is provided by the guide service but is an added expense beyond guide service fees. Experienced anglers can purchase live bait right in Saranac Lake.
- Safe ice is determined by the guide and is never less than five or six inches thick. While scales of ice thickness are available and published for safe ice fishing conditions, ice conditions are always changing. It is always best to follow the direction of an experienced licensed guide service to avoid on-the-ice hazards and ensure a safe trip.