You many have seen them on your drive to and from work if you happen to commute along waterways in the area. Those little huts, scattered like puzzle pieces on the ice. Winter is here and the Western New York region is thriving with those that take advantage of a good vortex and spend some time ice fishing!

From Lake Erie to farm ponds, ice fishermen are popping up or rather "tipping up" all over. I spoke with a few of them that used the holiday to get outdoors on Martin Luther King Day.

I counted 40 or 50 huts in the Small Boat Harbor late afternoon Monday and as one angler informed me, there was more like 150 over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday. With mini heaters, anglers stay toasty warm while "perched" on the ice that is around 7-8 inches thick behind the break wall. A far cry from the thickness of last year's ice that stacked up during the Polar Vortex that brought below zero temps for days over Lake Erie.

I spoke with Matt, an angler from Alden, who said that the ice in 2014 on Lake Erie allowed them to travel as far as 8 miles from shore to fish. The beauty of going out so far is the ability to hook in to larger fish like steelhead trout and even walleye on occasion.

Most of the fish that are caught in the water along Route 5 are perch, smelt and even blue gill, one of which caught on the holiday weekend measured 9 inches.  Matt tells me that he and some friends scored as many as 75 perch last year during one outing on Lake Simcoe.

So what are the rules and regulations? According to the NYS DEC...

 In New York State, general angling regulations limit anglers to two jigging lines (or hand lines) and five tip-ups in most waters. Each tip-up must be marked with the operator's name and address; the operator must be in immediate attendance when the lines are in the water. Since special regulations apply on many waters, review the current fishing regulations guide when planning an ice fishing trip - and don't forget your current year's fishing license.


So what about the ice? When do the anglers head out? Andy Parker, Meteorologist for Channel 7 tells WYRK that these are the depths when ice is safe for humans...

2 inchesone person on foot
3 inchesgroup in single file
7.5 inchesone car (2 tons)
8 incheslight truck (2.5 tons)
10 inchestruck (3.5 tons)
12 inchesheavy truck (7-8 tons)
15 inches10 tons
20 inches25 tons


One of the anglers I spoke with told me that "it's a little freaky when the ice cracks. The sound is rather eerie but when the ice is thick enough there really isn't anything to worry about." Although safe at certain depths, even the veterans will tell you that they are always paying attention to the ice conditions while they are fishing and ready to pack up quickly if they need to.

The earliest ice fishing of the season, at least on Lake Erie, occurs normally in the Small Boat Harbor and Canals along Route 5 inside the break wall. The ice really has no chance to move and forms quickly.

Ice fishing is one of the few outdoor sports that I haven't tried. However, the older I get, the more I like the idea of kicking back with a few beers, some friends, some fishing and a toasty warm hut ...of course.

With temperatures expected to dip to single digits at night and mid 20's during the day over the next week, the conditions should be just about perfect. If the fish cooperate and make their way toward the huts, a fresh fish fry may be in store this Friday!

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