Ice Fishing opportunites abound throughout the St. Lawrence County. For the most part, anglers will find safe ice from December through March. Although the fishing remains steady all winter, the very best action occurs at first-ice and last-ice. Regulations allow anglers to use five tip-ups and two handlines.
Northern pike are the most popular winter gamefish. Anglers target them by suspending live minnows below tip-ups. All of the St. Lawrence River bays from Chippewa to Massena offer good pike fishing as do the bays and weedbeds at Black Lake. Other good bets for icing pike are Grass, Pleasant, Yellow, and Cranberry lakes. Since pike populations can be subject to over fishing, anglers are encouraged to practice selective harvest.
Walleyes are also a possibility during the winter. Again, the St. Lawrence River and Black Lake rank as the best spots, but walleyes are also available in Pleasant and Grass lakes as well as in the Oswegatchie and Grasse rivers.
Jigging is the primary technique for winter panfish, and preferred tippings include small minnows or grubs. Black Lake is especially popular among panfishers who target crappies, perch, bluegills, and pumpkinseeds. The St. Lawrence has quality perch fishing, and some bays have crappies. Lake Ozonia and Yellow Lake, too, yield panfish during winter.
Three lakes are open to year-round trout fishing, and they are Trout Lake, Star Lake, and Lake Ozonia. Trout Lake contains lake trout and rainbows while Star Lake has rainbows. Lake Ozonia has brown trout, rainbow trout, and splake. In addition, Ozonia offers landlocked opportunities. Anglers who use live minnows have the best results.
In a typical North Country winter the ice fishing season is a long one. Often ice conditions permit December fishing and in most years the season continues well beyond the end of northern pike and walleye season on March 15th. Of utmost importance to the ice angler is condition of the ice. When deciding if ice is safe, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Always test the ice before setting forth. It is also a good idea to talk to the local people about areas that traditionally have thin ice conditions due to springs or moving water, i.e. the mouth of a tributary.
The mainstay of ice fishing in Northern New York are panfish, yellow perch, walleye and northern pike. A good place to fish for these species is where you see others already fishing or where they have fished. Some opportunities for catching other species does exist including a few waters where anglers are allowed to take trout and salmon through the ice. To be sure what species are open for ice fishing, size restrictions and bag limits, be sure to check the fishing regulation guide and look at the special regulation section.