Ice fishing season is a tough one to predict in the Southern Adirondacks.
Some years, including 2019, ice is safe enough to fish on smaller waters by late November and early December. Other years, it’s early January before there is enough hardwater to safely venture out.
Rest assured though, winter always comes to the Lake George area, and there hasn’t been one yet where the vast majority of Warren County’s top lakes and ponds haven’t frozen to allow ice fishing.
For most local sportsmen and women, attention turns to ice fishing when the big game hunting seasons end in early December. The venison is back from the butcher, and the tip-ups and jig poles come out to put some trout or perch in the freezer with the venison.
One of the big attracting factors of ice fishing season is that some of the region’s best fishing spots become accessible to anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of a walk.
Granted, that walk can be through snow, slush or on slippery ice, but all it takes is a pair of health legs and some gumption instead of the boat that is often needed to get to the better landlocked Atlantic Salmon and lake trout spots on bigger lakes during warmer months.
In the winter, those prized coldwater game fish come out of the depths and can be caught in bays and near shore, evening the playing field for those who don’t have the money or time for a boat.
Gearing up for ice fishing can be fairly inexpensive. To cut a hole in ice, you need an auger, and people-powered versions start at around $30, while motorized ones run significantly higher. Ice anglers use smaller rods, or tipups, that can cost under $10.
There are a few other pieces of gear that will help keep your hole-in-the-ice open, and your day more comfortable; any of our local bait-and-tackle shops can help outfit you with what you need. Safety is paramount; wear a life vest, and carry a spike to help pull yourself out of the water if you get dunked. Ice conditions change rapidly, and can vary greatly within a few feet based on springs and currents.
The same baits that work in the summer can also catch fish in the winter, with minnows, grubs and even nightcrawlers good enough to lure a steady stream of action.
While trout and salmon are prime quarry in the winter, ice fishing season is also when those who love to eat fish can load up on yellow perch, one of the tastier fish we find in the Adirondacks.
Here are some of my favorite publicly accessible Warren County ice fishing waters:
Trout Lake, Bolton – Public access to Trout Lake is limited to a path off Trout Lake Road, but that path is all you need to walk out onto the ice, and Trout Lake is popular in winter because the boating public has limited access. It yields many nice rainbow trout in the winter, and offers underrated bass fishing as well.
Glen Lake, Queensbury – A small lake that gives up some big fish. It is home to rainbow trout, bass, perch and pickerel, and there is a nice public access spot through the town of Queensbury boat launch on Glen Lake Road.
Brant Lake – A state boat launch on the lake’s west end in the town of Horicon allows plenty of anglers to hop on, and Brant Lake rewards them with some big brown trout and rainbow trout. It’s also an underrated yellow perch fishery.
Schroon Lake – The south end of this big lake sits in Warren County, where there is also a big state boat launch for access. Landlocked Atlantic salmon, lake trout, northern pike and perch are most sought after on Schroon.
Lake Luzerne – This small lake in western Warren County has a sneaky good rainbow trout and pike fishery, as well as bass and plenty of perch. Public access can be found at the town boat launch off Route 9N.
Lake George – Lake George is known as the “King” in the local ice fishing community. When it freezes, anglers come from all over to get after the lake’s big lake trout (10-plus pounders are common) and improving salmon fishery, and yellow perch that can be caught by the bucket. But the steady winds that steadily whip the lake hinder it from fully freezing some years. The bays in the south end (Dunham, Harris and Kattskill) and Northwest Bay almost always freeze regardless, so anglers can still get on the periphery. And lake trout, pike and even the occasional salmon can be found in the shallows of these bays in the winter.
For more information on ice fishing, check out this New York State Department of Environmental Conservation link, which also includes a list of Warren County ice fishing waters. Please note that not all waters are open for ice fishing, and the DEC has its rules listed here at this link.