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Above normal temperatures leave many ice fishing spots unstable

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation urges people to check for ice thickness before going out on the ice
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation urges people to check for ice thickness before going out on the ice

Ice fishing is a favorite winter pastime for central New Yorkers. The many lakes scattered over the region give ample opportunity for fishing fans to continue their hobby year-round.

This year, recent rescue efforts for ice fishers on Oneida Lake may mean a closer end to the season. Jim Everard, a fisheries biologist with New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation said it is almost impossible to tell what each season will bring.

“In central New York you never know what the spring is going to be like,” Everard said. “But typically you are ice fishing into the end of February for sure and typically always into the middle of March.”

Unseasonably warm temperatures following winter storms have caused portions of the lakes to repeatedly freeze and melt. Everard said that this made for more unstable ice conditions.

“It was just an odd year, with that warm and cold,” Everard said. “So ice did not form uniformly this year, by any standards, on the lakes.”

The DEC recommends there be at least four inches of ice for fishers to safely venture out. But other factors like standing or moving water could impact areas that have some ice coverage. Everard said the best tool for knowing when to go out is just common sense.

“Common sense is the hugest thing,” Everard said. “To tell somebody they can’t go out, or not go out, we can’t do that. But if you have to put waders on to get out to the ice, it’s probably time to hang up the gear for the year.”

Ice fishing can be risky for not only the individuals who are fishing but first responders who may have to perform rescues. Everard said the dangers do not just impact those who choose to fish.

“To me, it’s more, not the individual, it’s more the poor people who have to come out to rescue them and risk their life getting out there,” Everard said.

As important as it is to know where the ice is at a safe thickness, Everard said it is just as important to know where not to go.

“Just while you are walking on the ice, pay attention,” Everard said. “If you see a wet spot, and every place else is not wet, that is a good place to avoid.”

Everard said that it is important to bring both a friend and good judgment when going out to the ice.

“Use common sense and your own good judgment if deciding to venture out,” Everard said.

For more information regarding ice fishing in New York, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7733.html.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.