When the chill of winter descends on upstate New York, it’s time for us diehard anglers to break out the augers, tip-ups, and ice sleds for some excellent hard water action.
From Champlain to the Finger Lakes, there are plenty of great options to chase jumbo perch, slab crappies, tempting trout and more.
As someone who has spent many winters from here all the way down to Corning and into the Northern Tier of PA, I understand that ice fishing itch. If you’re looking to scratch it, these are the lakes you want to check out.
You can’t mention ice fishing in New York without bringing up Lake Champlain. This massive body of water offers 120 miles of fishable area along the state’s eastern edge. We’re talking over 400 square miles here – it’s huge!
I like to focus my efforts on the southern end and the Inland Sea up northeast. The perch grows massive in Champlain, with two pound slabs being the norm. I’ll spoon-feed the slabs wax worms or spikes on little tungsten jigs right along the weed lines in 15-30 feet near Ticonderoga.
The walleye fishing can also be spectacular if you know where to target them. I use big chub minnows on my tip-ups in the deeper holes and bumps around Crown Point. There’s some real slob ‘eyes in the 8-10 pound range!
Saratoga Lake is another gem, with over 4,000 acres of ice fishing opportunity right outside Saratoga Springs. Most of the lake runs 25 feet deep on average.
I drill a lot of holes up on the shallow north end in 6-12 feet chasing those jumbo perch. They gobble up waxworms on small tungsten like candy up there! The creek mouths are almost a sure bet for slabs too.
When I’m targeting walleye, the rocky points and steep drops on the east shoreline are prime real estate. I run my tip-ups in 18-28 feet with big shiners near Snake Hill and more often than not I’m getting bit.
If you want a change of pace, fish near the public launch for landlocked salmon with Swedish Pimples and rattle spoons in 25+ feet. Fun fish on light tackle!
Oneida gives up tons of yellow perch, walleye, and panfish each winter. It’s a big lake spanning three counties and over 50,000 acres.
I catch a lot of chunky perch along the southwest shoreline in 15-25 feet. Little tungsten jigs tipped with spikes absolutely slay them on the deep weed edges. Some real jumbos over 15 inches!
For walleye, Shackleton Shoals and Mary Island are go-to spots. I run big lively shiners or glide baits under tip-ups in 25-35 feet near those sharp breaks. Lots of nice 4-6 pound fish.
If panfish are your game, drill holes along the north shore in 10 feet or less. The bluegills can’t resist wax worms on tiny tungsten jigs or small tungsten flies when fished near those shallow green weeds.
Cayuga is famous for its steep drop-offs and great trout, salmon, and perch fishing through the ice up north by Cayuga Lake State Park. That’s one of the few areas that freeze over on this deep lake.
I target perch along the weed edges in 10-15 feet with small tungsten jigs tipped with spikes. You’ll also run into pike and walleye mixed in there.
In 20-40 feet near the big 80 foot hole, I’ve caught lots of hard fighting lake trout on small spoons and lipless rattle baits. Fun on light tackle!
Last but not least is Lake George in the southeast Adirondacks. This crystal clear lake offers 32 miles of ice fishing opportunity – plenty of space to spread out and find active fish!
I mainly target yellow perch here along with some nice sized northern pike. The perch gobble up tiny ice flies and tungsten jigs tipped with waxworms or spikes. I focus on 15-25 feet along weedlines near Bolton Landing and Hague.
For pike, I use 5-6 inch slide baits like Slo-Pokes or Jawbreakers. Tip-ups placed along the dropoffs and flats near Wiawaka Holiday House is a good bet for slob northerns. I’ve seen them over 15 pounds here!
Key Tips for Ice Fishing
I’ve spent many winters ice fishing and here are some main tips that I’d like to send you away with:
- Make sure the ice is at least 4-6 inches thick before you consider walking on it. Many lakes will have this information posted somewhere nearby.
- Consider investing in an ice fishing flasher to help improve your chances of catching something.
- Keep a chisel or scoop to help clean the hole if it freezes over after you’ve drilled it.
- Use a sled to pull your gear out onto the ice whether you’re driving with an ATV or walking.
- Always let someone know where you are if you’re going out on the ice in case of an emergency.
- Wear bright clothing and be sure to mark your holes using a neon colored flag to help you track the holes during snow squalls.
So there you have it – just some of my personal favorite lakes and tips for chasing after fish through the ice here in upstate New York. Grab the gear, layer up, and be safe out there this winter when venturing out on the hardwater. Good luck out there!