The winter of 2009-10 is now officially five weeks old and I'm pleased to say I think the deer have had it fairly easy so far.
I did a little post-season scouting the other day and found deer to still be in their natural patterns - moving around freely and feeding with little trouble. I saw no real signs of yarding yet and even some late season breeding activity. Hope the mild weather keeps up for at least a few more weeks.
In the meantime, I've been out on the ice probably a dozen times and have to say I haven't personally seen the treacherous ice conditions the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have warned about.
In fact, conditions are not at all unlike the past few years.
That's not to say dangerous ice doesn't exist, I am just saying ice fishing opportunities are out there for those who use their heads. I've seen upward of two feet of ice on some of the smaller ponds already, and popular fishing destinations like Lake Eaton, Long Lake, Raquette Lake, Indian Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Eagle Lake, Paradox Lake, Brant Lake and most of Schroon Lake all hold fishable ice.
Many of the bays on Lake George and southern Lake Champlain are also buttoned up - with about a foot of good black ice on Port Henry's Bulwagga Bay.
Obviously, these conditions change daily, so be sure and call a local bait shop before planning a trip.
Ice fishing derbies on tap
There are a number of fishing tournaments upcoming. The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation Tournament is today, Jan. 23, from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. with $1,500 in prizes. Also, today is the Dunham's Bay Fish & Game Club's annual Stanley Yurgatis family fishing derby on Glen Lake. Perhaps the region's largest derby - the Tupper Lake Challenge - will take place this year Feb. 6 on Simon Pond just south of the village of Tupper Lake. This is a $30,000 tournament and attracts hundreds of anglers. For more information, call 359-9715. The Bolton Classic, sponsored by the Glens Falls Kiwanis Club and the Chinga-Classic, Camp Chingachgook's annual fund-raising derby, take place on Lake George the weekend of Feb. 20-21.