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DEC reminds anglers to put safety first when enjoying ice fishing

ALBANY - Ice thickness can be difficult to predict, however, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today reminded ice anglers to enjoy the ice responsibly. With the early cold weather that New York has experienced this year, anglers will likely be headed out on the ice earlier than they have in the past few years.  DEC cautions that the presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be taken as evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions for themselves and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk.

“Unlike other angling techniques, ice fishing is relatively simple and all one needs is a warm pair of boots, a good ice auger, some tip-ups or a jigging rod and the willingness to experiment to have success,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. 

Ice thickness varies on every body of water or even within the same body of water, and anglers should be particularly wary of areas of moving water and around boat docks and houses where bubblers may be installed to reduce ice buildup. Testing the thickness of ice can be done with an auger at various spots. For more information on ice fishing visit the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7733.html.

The use of fish for bait is very popular when ice fishing and bait fish may be used in most but not all waters that are open to ice fishing. Visit the DEC website for a list of special regulations by county (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/71546.html) to find out where bait fish can and cannot be used, and for other regulations that apply to baitfish.

Anglers are reminded to take these important steps when using baitfish while ice fishing: 

  • Follow the bait fish regulations to prevent the spread of harmful fish diseases and invasive species.
  • Use only certified disease-free bait fish purchased at a local tackle store, or use only personally collected bait fish for use in the same water body in which they were caught.
  • Do not reuse baitfish in another water-body if you have replaced the water they were purchased in.
  • Dump unused baitfish and water in an appropriate location on dry land.

Anglers looking for a good place to ice fish should check out DEC’s Public Lakes and Ponds map at www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/42978.html