Bolton Landing in the Winter – Outdoors

Quite a bit, actually – aside from the various winter carnivals, including Lake George, and nearby ski resorts like Gore Mountain, snowmobiling and other sport vehicles – a lot of people enjoy individual winter sports, and there is plenty of open space to indulge in those. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are favorite activities. The Lake George Land Conservancy trails are perfect. When the snow is too deep to walk easily, the lower hiking trails become winter wonderlands for cross country and snowshoeing. Stop by the Lake George Land Conservancy or Bolton Chamber of Commerce to pick up a map. Ice skating is also popular. In Bolton Landing, the Conservation Club keeps its pond partially plowed so that residents and visitors can enjoy all three sports anytime they choose. Many thanks to Doug Underhill, one of Bolton’s residents who does the plowing almost every day as a gift to the community. And there is a new twist on sledding: one of the white water rafting companies advertises snow tubing for anyone from the age of three up – great fun for the family – no skills are required!  You can use regular sized tubes that can be hooked together, a family-sized raft that will hold 4-6 people, and “Tiny Tubes” for smaller snow hills and play areas for the children. There is even a Tube Tow – you can ride, not walk, to the top of the hill! Ice fishing seems to take the prize for the most popular activity – possibly because it is the most visible. There are a lot of ice fishing contests in towns all over the North Country. Depending on the weather, ice fishing season can begin as early as October and go through March. The smaller lakes and ponds freeze over first – four solid inches of ice is safe, and a crust of snow does not count in that measurement. I drove by Trout Lake in Bolton Landing early in the season this year and it looked like a truck convention along the shore! Watching the men moving around on the lake brought back fond memories of ice fishing with my Dad. I figured my information might be out of date by now so I asked one of my sons, who used to fish with his grandfather and still goes out on the ice with his friends, “Has the sport had changed over the years?” “Not much,” Bill assured me. He even uses some of his grandfather’s tip-ups – he said that the fish don’t care how old the equipment is. He still packs everything on a sled to bring out on the ice.  Starting with equipment, you have to have an ice auger to make holes in the ice.  A gas auger is great, but the hand ones still work. Then comes the fishing equipment – tip ups and bait. Five gallon buckets hold the tip-ups for transport, and then become portable seats when they are turned upside down.  A different bucket is used for the live bait. You’ll need a dipper to clear out the ice out when it re-forms in the hole. To cut down on the time it takes to make holes, you can look for holes left by other fishermen. Watch out or “bubblers”when you are making your way to your fishing spot – those automatic pump machines that keep the water from freezing around docks. Even if the general ice surface is safe, the ice around docks may be thin to non-existent. The safest thing to do is follow the trails other fishermen have created – as long as there are no gaping holes along the way! I am told that it is best to check for emergency vehicles along the shoreline before deciding to fish in any particular place.  Each year a few fishermen, trucks, recreational vehicles and snowmobiles go through the ice, usually at the beginning or end of the season, so please be careful and check conditions before venturing out. Then there are the ice fishing luxuries: a folding chair if you don’t find a bucket the most comfortable thing on earth, ice skates or cross country skis if you want something else to do while waiting for the fish to bite. And of course, wood to make a fire to cook lunch. Bill has the preparations down to a science. “Stop at one of the Stewart’s Shops, buy a bag of wood, light the paper to start the fire.” How does a fire continue to burn on the ice? “The fire makes a layer of ashes, which insulates the fire and keeps the ice from melting.” Oh. Lunch is usually Spam on a stick, roasted in the fire – hot dogs and Kielbasa work well, too. (Yes, you have to remember to bring the sticks!) Hard rolls and hot mustard are optional. Now, what to drink? If it is a relatively warm day with not too much wind chill, beer is popular. Frigid weather conditions turn beer into a slushy. Well insulated thermoses for coffee are a good backup. If you are not going to be out on the ice long enough for cooking lunch, buy a couple of hot sandwiches and coffee when you stop at that Stewart’s Shop. The best ice fishing days are when the weather is sunny, above freezing and with no wind chill. Some fishermen claim that the fishing gets way better in “turnover time” – when the water starts running back into the holes. Turnover means that the water bring nutrients to the fish – colder water sinks to the bottom of the lake, and the fish come up with the warmer water – fish bite like crazy then, or so the story goes! Perch are the liveliest – a good fisherman can pull in 50  in a day. (On Lake George the limit for perch is 50 per day. Make certain you have your New York State fishing license, and are knowledgeable of all the NYSDEC fishing regulations per lake: There are occasionally salmon, lake trout and Northern Pike. To find out the “hottest” fishing spots call the local bait shops like Ann’s Bait and Tackle, they usually know what’s happening. If you are already out on the lake, look for the holes with blood on the ice – fish blood, not human! Some of the lakes have ice shanties on them for avid fishermen – sort of like a “permanent” camping spot – at least until the ice rises in the spring. Having a shanty cuts the wind chill factor, so serious ice fishermen love them. These building can be simple to fancy, some with windows and gingham curtains, and some even have propane heaters. The shanties are towed out on to the ice at the beginning of the season, and have to be removed by March 15th. Do you have any ice fishing stories to share? Tell us about some of your favorite winter sports – Penelope Jewell      ]]>