Fishing Focus: Ice Fishing Follows the First Freeze

Written by Don Lehman 


Some winters it takes longer than others for cold and ice to arrive. But winter never fails to arrive in the Southern Adirondacks at some point, and with it comes a favorite part of the year for many anglers — ice fishing season.

Recent cold nights have allowed for many of the small to mid-sized waters in Warren County to freeze enough for access on the ice. As of the third week of January 2023, Lake Luzerne, Brant Lake, Fourth Lake and Loon Lake in Warren County had fishable ice, though there were more weak spots than usual because of warm weather.

One of the big attracting factors of ice fishing season in the Adirondacks is that some of the region’s best trout and salmon fishing spots become accessible to anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of a walk when ice becomes safe.

With a vibrant trout and salmon stocking program through Warren County Fish Hatchery and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, dozens of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams in Warren County are home to rainbow, brook and brown trout and Atlantic salmon.

Ice Anglers on Lake Vanare

In the winter, those prized coldwater game fish come out of the depths and can be caught in bays and near shore, leveling 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 jigging rods, or tipups, that can cost as little as $20.

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.

The same baits that work in the summer can also catch fish in the winter, with minnows, suckers, grubs, and even nightcrawlers are good offerings 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:

Glen Lake – This small lake in Queensbury has public access at a town park on Glen Lake Road, and offers up some lunker rainbow trout and largemouth bass in the winter. It also is home to an underrated pickerel fishery.

Loon Lake – This 563-acre lake in Chester has good public access from its south end off Route 8. It’s known for yellow perch, northern pike and an underrated walleye fishery.

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 a solid yellow perch fishery, with the occasional walleye found as well.

Schroon Lake – The south end of this big lake sits in Warren County, where there is also a big NY state boat launch for public access. Landlocked Atlantic salmon, lake trout, northern pike and perch are most sought after on Schroon.

Lake Luzerne – Lake Luzerne 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.

Ice Shanty on Lake Luzerne

Lake George – You can’t talk ice fishing in Warren County without starting with Lake George, known as the “King” in the local ice fishing community. The big question in recent winters is whether the bulk of the lake will freeze. When it does freeze, 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 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 bays almost always freeze at some point regardless, so anglers can still get on the lake’s periphery. And unlike the summer, lake trout and salmon can be found in the shallows of these bays in the winter.

Ice Safety

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. Checking ice thickness as you move from spot to spot is important.

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.