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Hooks & Antlers column: Ice fishing expert Krusko visits Black Lake


Local ice fishing derbies have been a winter staple for several generations of North Country anglers. Last week, though, a new-kid-on-the-block derby made its way to the area in the form of a professional ice fishing tournament when the Northeast Ice Fishing Circuit (NEIFC) held an event at Black Lake.

The Black Lake event was one of seven panfishing competitions on the 2013 NEIFC and, like the other six tournaments, the Black Lake one was a panfish tournament comprised of a practice day on Saturday, a free kids’ clinic and fishing contest on Saturday, and actual competition on Sunday.

Unfortunately, high winds and warm temperatures on Sunday resulted in organizers making a decision at 4:30 a.m. to cancel the tournament for safety reasons. When I spoke with NEIFC director Jeff Snyder he said they planned on including Black Lake on their tournament schedule again next winter.

Professional Angling

On the practice day, I had a glimpse into the world of professional ice fishing when I spent time with Nathan Krusko at Black Lake’s Rollway Bay. Krusko emphasized that mobility and time efficiency were critical for success on the ice fishing circuit, and he referred to the portable Eskimo shelter as his office. Having removed the seat from the one-person shelter, Krusko neatly stored all of his gear inside, and that storage allowed for mobility and saving time.

Krusko also noted that tournament ice anglers were on the cutting edge of their sport, and his equipment definitely reflected that cutting-edge trend. For example, he used a lightweight ION battery-operated 40VMAX ice auger that would cut 40 holes through 24 inches of ice on a single battery charge. He wore a lightweight Striker Ice suit that provided warmth and served as a flotation suit should he fall through the ice.

His bucket also served as his seat and for fish storage, and that bucket had attached lure compartments, rod holders, and electronics.

When Krusko moved from one spot to another, he carried this fully rigged pail in one hand and the electric auger in the other.

Perhaps the major difference between the weekend ice angler and the professional one is the pro’s skilled use of electronics.

Anglers on the tournament trail are skilled at using GPS units, underwater cameras, and flasher units to locate structure, to locate fish, to determine a fish’s mood, and to make a presentation that entices a fish to bite.

Krusko is a true ambassador for the sport of ice fishing.

Anglers, who visit his website at and listen to or view the various clips, are sure to become more knowledgeable about ice fishing. For example, utilizing Krusko’s concept of “bowing to the gills” will translate to more panfish at line’s end.

Northeast Circuit

For the current season, NEIFC is conducting events on Black Lake, Silver Lake, Honeoye Lake, and Oneida Lake in New York; Lake Champlain and Lake Bomoseen in Vermont; and Khale Lake in Pennsylvania.

All events are panfish ones where the winning team (one or two anglers) will be determined by the total weight of 12 panfish (perch, crappies, bluegills, or sunfish). Membership is not required to fish, and the entry fee for one person or a two-person team is $100 per event with an 80 percent of entry fee payout.

The NEIFC was established to promote the sport of ice fishing through tournaments, free seminars, kids-only fishing clinics, and fish-for-free events. NEIFC members strive to teach the next generations the skills to catch fish through the ice and to introduce them to the joys, satisfaction, and rewards that a day on the ice can bring.

For more information on the NEIFC, visit


Saturday: Sign-up day (in-person) for Hunter Education Course at SLVSC (344-4017).

Saturday: Redwood VFD’s “Luck of the Draw” Ice Fishing Derby (783-8993).

Saturday: Parishville VFD’s annual Rabbit Hunt (244-0817 or 265-2922).

Saturday-Sunday: Saranac Lake Club’s 29th annual Colby Classic Ice Fishing Derby.

Saturday-Sunday: Lyme Ice Fishing Derby.

Feb. 9: Chippewa Bay F&G Club’s annual Ice Fishing Derby.

Feb. 9: River Valley Gun Dog Club hosts annual banquet at SLVSC.

Feb. 9: Sons of the American Legion’s annual Ice Fishing Derby at Sackets Harbor.

Feb. 9: The Waddington Sons of the American Legion’s Ice Fishing Derby. For further information, contact derby chairman John Dinneen at 388-4360.

Feb. 9-10: Theresa FD’s 27th annual “Luck of the Draw” Ice Fishing Derby (777-3936).

Feb. 13-17: Central New York Boat Show at NYS Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

Feb. 16: Howie’s/fishcap Ice fishing derby 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Wheathouse Bay Ogdensburg. Call 393-3669 or

Feb. 16: Clayton’s 8th annual Catch-and-Release Ice Fishng Derby (771-3533 or 767-4497).

Feb. 16: Plessis annual Fishing Derby (Luck of the Draw and Big Fish Divisions).

Feb. 23: SLRWA’s annual Northern Pike Challenge (384-3450).

Feb. 23: Racquette Valley F&G Club’s Ice Fishing Derby.

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