Early Ice Fishing Recommendations in STLC
Local Tips from Area Fishing Guide Bobby Helms
As open water season winds down, early ice fishing season is upon us! While just about every lake, pond, and bay of the St. Lawrence River freezes every winter, there are a select few locations that have the water characteristics to allow them to freeze a bit earlier than others. Depth, size of waterway, and current present are generally the determining factors when it comes to early, safe ice.
While Bobby's recommendations are by no means a guarantee of early safe ice, they can help you make a decision about where to go, what you'll want to fish for in these various waters, how to target them as well as where the access sites are located.
Early Ice Fishing: Lake Ozonia
An early ice spot that offers something for most ice anglers is Lake Ozonia. Tucked into the northeast corner of the county, Ozonia offers a mountain lake feel just inside the Adirondack Park. Lake Ozonia has a pretty diverse fishery. The species present in Lake Ozonia are Splake, which is a lake trout/brook trout hybrid, landlocked Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, and yellow perch.
Not many lakes offer the chance to catch some beautiful and aggressive Splake or reel screaming Landlocks but these are a possible main attraction when fishing Lake Ozonia in the winter. Splakes can be an interesting species because they behave and feed like a Brook Trout up in the shallows or behave like a Lake Trout living and feeding out in the deep water areas of the lake. When fishing for Splake with tip ups, you should cover the shallow water (5-10’) as well as the drop offs that run into the deep areas of the lake (15-35’). Use small 2-3” minnows suspended 1-2’ off of the bottom in the deep water areas and up in the shallow areas a small minnow or even a nightcrawler just off the bottom will do the trick. Jigging can also be a productive technique. Finding active fish is very important while jigging for Splake. “Hole Hopping” will help you cover water quickly, so drop your jig into a hole and work the water column with 3”-4” white tube jigs or minnow style jigs tipped with a minnow head or spikes (maggots). If the hole doesn't work out after a few minutes, move on to the next one until you find some actively feeding fish.
Landlocked Salmon can be very elusive. They’re either all over your gear or you don’t see one for a week. However, when you do tangle with one you’ll know right away. Salmon are very fast and can turn on a dime like a European sports car. The best way to target Salmon is to fish a minnow 6”-3’ under the ice. The Salmon are always actively searching just under the ice for food. Every so often you’ll catch one jigging for Splake which is always a heck of a time. Fighting them on a small ice jigging rod is something you’ll never forget!
Where to Access the Lake
The access for Lake Ozonia is on the northwest end of the lake. It's a very small access and doesn't really have room for a bunch of trucks and trailers which keeps the fishing pressure at a minimum.
A Few Ice Fishing Tips to Consider
Remember, to check the condition of the ice before you head out onto it. If you don't feel comfortable with the amount of ice, do NOT go out onto it. Ice sheets are never uniform across a body of water and can change in one step. Always have safety gear and use the buddy system early on.
Originally from Tupper Lake, NY, Bobby Helms relocated to Canton this fall. An avid outdoorsman, Bobby has been a fishing guide in the Adirondacks, the Lake Ontario Tributaries, and in Alaska for many years. He also spent some time as a “trout bum'' in the Greater Yellowstone area of Idaho and Wyoming. When he’s not out on the water he can be found spending time with his girlfriend, Brittany and playing with his Yellow Lab, Cutty.