With plenty of warm weather and a lack of snow in the Northeast, last year's ice fishing season was one to forget. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, with winter nearing its close, this year, fishermen are singing a different tune.
SARATOGA LAKE, N.Y. – As he's done about two to three days a week all winter, Brian Miller spent Monday morning on Saratoga Lake in search of his dinner.
"Not a bad day,” Miller said. “Would've liked some more crappy, but we'll take the blue gills. Food is food."
Miller was one of more than a dozen ice fishermen on the lake by late morning, an unlikely site considering this week marks the official end of New York's ice fishing season.
One year ago, when winter acted more like spring, the scene would've been near impossible.
"It's 100 times better,” Miller said. “A lot more ice, a lot safer ice. I was out a few times last year fishing local, but this year is much better."
"Last year's ice fishing season was almost non-existent,” said Tim Blodgett, owner of Saratoga Tackle on Saratoga Lake. “I like to refer to last year's winter as the winter that wasn't because it was so un-winter like."
Blodgett said last winter was one of his store's worst in 20 years. This year, he's on the tail end of a successful season.
"We did have a little bit of warm weather, but by that time, we had so much ice, it had little effect on the quality of ice. It actually improved the quality of the ice once it got cold," Blodgett said.
While most have already been removed, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has set this Friday as the deadline to have all permanent shanties removed from the ice. Anyone who fails to do so risks a fine of $100.
"Typically, every year we do have some last-minute ice shanties out there and they have gone through in the past,” said Robert Higgins, a DEC conservation officer. “It becomes difficult to get them out once they do go through the ice."
While rain is expected for the middle of the week, Miller said he still plans to make the most of the season's remaining few days. After last winter, he learned the following season brings no guarantees.
"I'm going to try to get out a couple more times,” Miller said. “Most people have already hung up their shoes, so to speak, but I think we'll be able to get out a couple of more times."