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Ice fishing hits the spot in Northern New York

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The arrival of a nor’easter snowstorm before Thanksgiving might have caused countless gasps in the north country.

But as the snow accumulated and the temperatures dropped, ice fishing enthusiasts began rushing to get their equipment out of storage with the anticipation of an early arrival to the hard-water season.

Ice is a great equalizer for anglers, and it also offers heart-warming amenities.

The best spots are available to anyone who can get there; there’s no need for a high-powered boat or a rod and reel that will cast 30 yards.

Mike Seymour, a renowned fishing guide and author from Canton, writes of the special charm of the sport in his book “The Smart Guide To Freshwater Fishing.”

In the book, he says: “During open-water season, shorelines, docks, streams and boats do not allow for group fishing, but groups of family and friends are routine sights on the ice. In some cases, congregations of fishermen resemble a small village. Ice fishing derbies also play a role in the social aspect of the sport.”

Along with being a major deterrent and antidote for cabin fever, ice fishing can aid in fitness because of the exercise involved.

Heck, you can even get a tan on sunny days, and anglers are always advised to carry sunblock.

Northern New York has long been known as a fisherman’s paradise. And the fishery and breath-taking landscapes are available all year long. During the winter, the natural beauty takes a different tone, and fish are accessed in different manners.

Like open-water fishing, getting started in ice fishing is relatively inexpensive. Jig poles and tip-ups are reasonably priced, and although they’re a staple for serious anglers, one doesn’t need a gas-powered auger for drilling holes or depth finders to enjoy a day on the ice.

In fact, novice anglers using a hand auger often will be greeted by veterans who will offer advice, drill some holes, and even share hot food and a drink.

Like open-water fishing, preparation is crucial to success and safety, and a New York state fishing license is required. Anglers are urged to check weather conditions and dress appropriately, stay far away from any open water, and heed the special advisories for ice thickness. According to accepted tables, it takes 2 inches of ice to hold one person and at least 12 inches to hold a truck.

The safest approach and best way to find fish is to look for groups of anglers. A quick stop at a tackle-bait shop normally will produce friendly advice on what bait to use and where to go.

The area’s ice fishing bounty ranges from yellow perch, northern pike and walleye — the staples of ice fishing derbies — to numerous kinds of panfish, trout and landlocked salmon in the Adirondack Region waters, which often are subject to special regulations.

Ice fishing derbies, meanwhile, are extremely popular, and they’re important fundraisers for sportsmen’s clubs and other organizations.

The largest derby in the area is the Northern Pike Challenge, hosted by the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association in Waddington on the final Saturday in February. The event offers $25,000 in cash and prizes, and awards $1,000 each hour.

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