- Safety First!
Niagara River Anglers Association Inc.
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FISHING SAFETY AND TIPS
FOR HARD WATER ANGLERS
PLUS WINTER STEELHEADING THE NIAGARA RIVER
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IF YOU'RE GOING ICE FISHING DON'T TAKE ANY CHANCES
Mr Ognibene has been covering the Outdoor Scene in his weekly column for 46 years
This article was reprinted from one of his recent winter articles.
During a normal winter, most outdoor columns would be filled with information on the best ice fishing locations and how to take limits of perch and other fish. Not this year. There is very little, if any, safe ice to be found around Western New,, York. If it's ice fishing you want, then northern Canada is the place for you.
Many wintertime fishermen head for Lake Simcoe for perch and a few white fish, but call ahead. So far this yea2~ Simcoe has been iffy at best. Considering how the weather has been, going from cold to warm with snow changing to rain a common occurrence, ice conditions change rapidly. If you feel you just have to get out on the ice, there are a few things you want to do to
assure you're going to come off the ice safely.
Don't venture out on the ice if no one else has gone before you. Lots of footprints in fresh fallen snow on an ice covered lake or pond usually means it's safe to walk Don't you be the first to test the ice to see if it will hold you. Remember, the ice testers are found in the
If you plan on using a snowmobile to get out to a favorite spot, be absolutely sure the ice is thick enough to support the machine. In Minnesota so far this year, nine snowmobilers have lost their lives because they crashed through what they thought was safe ice. in New York, Lake Oneida leads the list of lakes snowmobiles crashing through with resulting loss of life. Some of
the smaller inland lakes ‑Cayuga, Otisco, Little York and a few others might be safe to fish on, but check first. You can find charts that list safe ice thickness and they are generally right, but don't bet your life on them.
A simple but very effective device that can be made at home could save your life if you happen to break through the ice. I've mentioned it before in columns throughout the years, but it's worth mentioning again. Cut off about six inches from an old broom handle and pound a large nail in one end. Grind the nail to a point. Drill a hole on the other end of the handle to accept a
cord that is long enough to run from the end of the handle up your arm, across your shoulders and down the other arm. Thread this through your jacket sleeves and let the ends dangle. If you break through, these devices will let you dig into the ice and pull yourself out. Otherwise, you will not be able to haul yourself out with just your hands on slippery ice. [see diagram below]
There are all kinds of advice given to assure safety on the ice, but the primary rule is to use common sense and let someone else take the chances.
Ice Safety Tips From New York
State DEC: Ice conditions can change quickly over short distances and in
short periods of time. Here are some rules that will make your ice fishing
safer. Always keep at least 3-4 inches of good, solid ice under you at all
times. New, clear ice is usually stronger than white ice that has thawed and
refrozen, or black ice that is deteriorating. Go with a friend, walk in single
file, spread out, wear flotation gear, and check ice conditions often. Tell
someone where you're going and when you'll be back. Shore ice usually melts
first during a thaw so head back early on warmer days when the ice is marginal.
Carry 50 feet of throwing rope in case a rescue is necessary. Avoid areas around
moving water, springs, roads, where plants or objects protrude through the ice,
and other areas where the ice may be thinner or weaker. Don't take
chances. USE COMMON SENSE!
HERE'S AN OLD TRICK FOR KEEPING
Submitted by John Eddy
For those that like to rough it out in the open come hard water, here is an old trick I'd like to share with you. Take a one pound coffee can and drill a ¼ inch hole ½ inch from the bottom of the can. Take 8 feet of ¼ inch copper tubing and stick about 8 inches out of the hole in the can and wrap the tubing around and around the inside of the can with the last foot or so sticking out the top, aiming down. Throw a couple of handfuls of self-starting charcoal in the can and light it. Set the can next to your hole, with the lower end of the tube in the water. The heat from the charcoal will suck up the water, heat it and spit it back into the water from the top tube, keeping your hole ice-free no matter how cold it gets and the charcoal will burn for hours. You can fashion a handle from a coat hanger or whatever.
ICE FISHING AHEAD
Joe Ognibene is a local Outdoor Writer and has done a
weekly newspaper column for over 46 years, and has hunted and fished for
more years than a lot of us has been alive!!
For many fishermen ice fishing and watching paint dry are about equal in appeal. Sitting on a patch of frozen water is not everyone's cup of tea. You have to be really desperate for something to do to go out and try for a fish through the ice is what a lot of fellows think about ice fishing. True, ice fishing can be boring unless you decide to try something new and different in the fishing department.
One very appealing thing about ice fishing is the cost of equipment is nowhere near what it costs to do some trolling or casting for bass, salmon, trout or walleye. A rod can be bought for a couple dollars or you can make your own. All the rod does when ice fishing is to have something to hold some line over a hole in the ice. Usually an ice fishing rod is about 18 to 24 inches long with a handle to take a simple, and I mean simple, reel and maybe two guides and a tip. A lot of fellows use a broken rod to make an ice fishing rod.
The reel is simplicity itself. You can use just about anything that is round to store line on as you aren't going to be fighting a fish with the drag of a reel. Fish during winter tend to be very sluggish and the fight they put up isn't much. An old fly rod reel that has seen its best days will work or you can buy an ice fishing reel complete with rod for a couple dollars. The line is usually monofilament and some line makers tout an ice fishing line, but plain old mono will do just fine.
Instead of using a rod and reel to fish through the ice a lot of ice fishermen use a tip up. This is simply a stick balanced on a pivot point with line, bait and small sinker hanging in the water through the hole. The idea behind a tip up is to stare at the thing and when it starts bobbing you know a fish is fooling around with the bait. Some fellows make tip ups that are things of beauty while others are satisfied buying one or two. Check your regulations on how many holes you are allowed to fish through at the location you're fishing at.
Bait choice is up to you. Many ice fishermen use mousey grubs, oak leaf worms, cider worms, cut bait, cheese balls, yarn balls or solid lures they jig. The choice is yours as all will work. The time honored Swedish Pimple is a great ice fishing jigging lure and there are those who swear by it. If you are inclined to jig so time passes faster and you feel like you're doing something useful just about any bright colored lure will do.
Most ice fishing is done in shallow water and the fish many go after are perch. Around home Beaver Island State Park at the southern end of Grand Island is a popular spot as well as Big Six Creek Marina on Grand Island or the harbors at Wilson or Olcott.
There is no ice fishing on the Niagara River, either upper or lower. Our inland lakes, once they freeze, are popular spots for perch, walleye, Tiger muskies and northern pike. Check your regulations booklet for closing dates. If you decide to fish any of the inland lakes, Cayuga, Seneca, Otisco, Canandagua, Skaneateles, Oneida, Chautauqua or any of the other smaller lakes, be sure you are aware of where you may or may not park. Some of the cottage owners associations on some lakes feel they and they alone have rights to the water of state owned lakes. They make a lot of money by enforcing parking bans and other restrictions such as a stated distance from someone's lawn. A few years ago deputies were seen measuring to be sure a car was parked the proper distance. A half-inch could cost you money. On some inland lakes windbreaks are not allowed. Check the particular lake you're fishing. The cottage owners want you to be so uncomfortable you will leave their lake to them.
Reprinted with permission of uclick.
All rights reserved.
ICE SAFETY AND COMING
BACK ALIVE......"Ice testers are found in the spring"
Probably the most important thing about ice fishing many writers leave until
last. I'm talking about ice safety and coming back alive. There is an old saying
that claims the ice testers are found in the spring. The smart ice fisherman
goes out on the ice after he has seen many others go first. The ice fisherman
who expects he might have some troubles prepares for them. Falling through the
ice is not the most pleasant thing to do on a winter's day. In most cases the
water isn't deep, but it's cold!! Let's say you went through and you're standing
in water up to your waist and there's no one around to give you a hand climbing
out. Trying to get a grip on the flat surface of ice is next to impossible. To
forestall failure in attempting to haul yourself out you can make a life saving
device in a few minutes. Take an old broom handle and cut off two pieces about
six or eight inches long. On one end of each, drill a hole through the top so
you can run a cord through. On the bottom end drill a pilot hole and pound a
nail that has the head cut off into it. Now run a cord that is long enough to go
through the sleeves of your jacket so the wooden handles dangle from each hand.
Now if you break through you simply jab the nail ends into the surface ice and
pull yourself out. Going out onto the ice can sometimes be a thrill too. You
might have thick ice when you start out and suddenly the ice thins out and you
could go through. That's why when two fellows are going out they tie themselves
together with a long rope. If one goes through the other can pull him out. A lot
of ice fishermen wear skis when heading out. Skis distribute your weight over a
larger surface and chances of breaking through are lessened, not
There are those who will tell you if you hear a loud cracking while you're on
the ice to not pay any attention. Don't you believe it. Ice cracking is one of
the scariest sounds you can hear. It means the ice is under stress and could
break so pressure is relieved. It could break under you or a mile away and there
is no way to know. Around home on Lake Erie if you're out on the lake a goodly
distance from shore and you hear cracking my advice is to haul out of there.
There have been many cases of ice fishermen trapped on floating ice floes and
having to be rescued by helicopter. The most notorious lake in the state for
fatalities is Oneida north of Syracuse. The lake is an attraction for
snowmobilers who break through regularly.
Ice fishing can be one way to help pass winter that is inexpensive and you can
meet some very fine fellow fishermen. If you're new to the sport the old-timers
on the ice will be more than willing to give you a few tips to make your outing
a success. Dress warmly and take no chances on ice you aren't sure of and you
could discover a new way to catch a fish and that's the name of the game.
HERE'S A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HYPOTHERMIA
of body heat to the water, is a major cause of deaths in boating accidents.
Often the cause of death is listed as drowning; but, often the primary cause is
hypothermia. It should also be noted that alcohol lowers the body temperature
around two to three degrees by dilating the blood vessels. Do not drink alcohol
around cold water. Keep in mind, wind and rain can also cause severe
hypothermia. Good raingear is a must. The following chart shows the effects of
hypothermia in water:
TEMPERATURE / EXHAUSTION / SURVIVAL TIME
degrees............................Under 15 min........Under 15 TO 45 min.
32.5 to 40................................15 to 30 min.........30 to 90 min.
40 to 50...................................30 to 60 min.........1 to 3 hrs.
50 to 60...................................1 to 2 hrs..............1 to 6 hrs.
60 to 70...................................2 to 7 hrs..............2 to 40 hrs.
70 to 80...................................3 to 12 hrs............3 hrs. to
PFD's (personal flotation
devices / better known as life jackets) can increase survival time because of
the insulating value they provide. In water less than 50 degrees you should wear
a wet suit or dry suit to protect more of the body.
MORE ON PFD’s. Go to our
picture page on our website and look there to see fishermen wearing the
survival suits most smart winter steelhead fishermen wear. There may be
other places where they are available, but the Niagara River Anglers Association
have TWO advertiser/supporter’s that carry a complete line of cold survival
suits. One is Peter’s Tackle and Bait in St. Catherine's Ontario.
Peters is located on 22 Secord Drive just off Lake Street.  934-2512. The
Dory in Youngstown NY carries a great supply also. They are located right on
Main Street in the Village of Youngstown.  745-3335.
These suits are basically the same
worn by Coast Guard Personnel and were developed up in the sub-zero temps of the
ocean oil drilling fields in the far north.
POINTS TO REMEMBER: While in the water, do not attempt to swim unless to
reach nearby safety. Unnecessary swimming increases the rate of body heat loss.
Keep your head out of the water. This will increase your survival time.
Keep a positive attitude about your rescue. This will increase your
chances of survival. If there is
more than one person in the water, huddling is recommended.
[see picture below] Always wear your PFD. It won't help if you don't have
to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia.
Here are the symptoms in order of severity:
2. Bluish lips and fingernails
3. Loss of feeling in extremities
4. Cold, bluish skin
5. Decreased mental skills
6. Slurred speech, blurred vision
7. Rigidity in extremities
CHECKED YOUR MAGGOTS LATELY?
While visiting a
Tackle Store in Buffalo one day Hoppie wondered about what the best temperatures
for storing maggots, wax worms or spikes.
Here’s what he found out. For wax worms the favorite temperature is 55
degrees. You can store in the basement next to an outside wall. The temp will
remain steady there.
and spikes should be kept at temps in the low 30’s, 34-35 degrees is ideal.
They should be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door! Be
careful, they will freeze quick if you are not careful!
when you buy these little guys, they are packed in sawdust. Every few days you
should remove the dead ones and change the sawdust often. Never use plywood dust
or pressure treated dust as they can kill your little treasures in a hurry.
you peek in the box at them they will be dormant and playing dead on you. Take
some in your hand and warm them up. They will start wiggling quickly. The guys
that don’t wiggle, toss ‘em. If you don’t pay attention to them, they will
turn black and then you have to go and buy some more.
can see some of you wigglin’ right now. Put them in your hand you said? Yup. A
maggot is harmless and has no teeth. In fact the Inuit people ate live maggots
as a delicacy in their diet. They are full of fat and protein. They are harmless
and for centuries it is known maggots have helped heal open infested wounds on
people. It is known as Maggot Therapy.
The worm in the tequila bottle is not a maggot it is a caterpillar. A
caterpillar is the larva of a moth or butterfly. Also, the
maggots we talk about is a fly larva. One other thing, most grubs are
larvae of a beetle. E.g. the “mousee” grub we like to fish with doesn’t
come from a mouse. It’s the little guy with the tiny tail and looks similar to
with all of these creatures, fish just love ‘em and is the favorite bait for
ice fishermen and bluegill fishermen year round.
NIAGARA RIVER WINTER STEELHEAD FISHING
Captain Frank Campbell
waters vs. stained waters or discolored waters and what type of lures and baits
to use is an asset to anyone fishing the Niagara River.
are some tips to work with to make your chances better of latching into a nice
“steelie” this winter.
Use smaller diameter line. Steelhead in clear water tend to be shy.
Use longer leaders. Sometimes up to 8-10 ft. in length.
Use smaller baits. Weather it is eggs skeins or minnows.
Best to use the new fluorocarbon as leader material.
Use softer colors. Pink and yellow are both good. Weather used with egg
sacks or yarn.
It is important to fish deeper waters. 20 to 35 feet will generally do
Using an electric trolling motor vs. the main engine. With an electric
you can control your drift better.
1. Use Kwikfish lures in place of eggs or skein. The lures
give a more visible target.
2. If using egg sacks, run bright colors such as chartreuse or
3. Fish shallower
water. Usuall 4 to 15 ft. is good.
4. Always run your
electric trolling motor because you can spook your fish at shallow depths.
"Always wear PFD's"
Locally we don’t
get too many opportunities for good hard safe ice and the Niagara River never
freezes except in small bays. The most popular bay being at Beaver Island state
Park marina on Grand Island.
Wilson Harbor offers
some perch action as do some of the smaller frozen ponds in the area. Oak
Orchard is an area favorite too.
A lot of our locals head for the Finger Lakes and Oneida Lake just north of
Syracuse. Great ice fishing can be found in the Buffalo Harbor and is a popular
spot for Western New Yorkers as well as Chautauqua Lake.
Tons of Canadian
Lakes offer excellent Ice fishing opportunities and the one you hear of our area
fishermen heading to the most is Lake Simcoe, just north of Toronto. Yellow
Perch and Whitefish is the usual table fare. There are many Ice hut Operators
there that cater to U.S. fishermen.
Lake Erie freezes
over pretty nice after prolonged cold spells and fishing the harbors are
relatively safe. If anyone can tell us if there are any Ice Hut operators on the
U.S. side of Lake Erie, let us know. You can post it on our website forum page.
On Lake Erie on the
Canadian side there are some at St. Williams and around the Turkey Point area.
There, that’s just
a quick analysis of area ice fishing opportunities that are within short driving
distances and in most cases you can get there and back in a day for a day trip
including Lake Simcoe.
REMEMBER: if there
is current under the ice you want to travel on,
it can be extremely dangerous
ice. Be EXTRA careful.
[We hate losing Members that are not careful!]
If you a hard
water angler or a fisherman of any sort, you will want to check the following
sites. All site recommended and submitted by member John Eddy.
FISHING FORUM: http://forums.fishontario.com/
FISHING LAKE SIMCOE www.fishinglakesimcoe.com
The Ice Shanty site
lists lakes from different states
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