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Anglers brave cold, strong winds to ice fish on Chaumont Bay (VIDEO)

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CHAUMONT — Chilling temperatures and ice across the region have set the stage for an encouraging ice fishing season.

On Monday morning, many anglers took advantage of those frigid and windy conditions, along with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, to fish on Chaumont Bay.

About 40 to 50 people dotted the expansive ice, stretching out to points beyond where the ice faded out of view.

About 10 a.m., an hour after walking their gear out more than a mile from shore, Andrew T. Clark, a resident of Cincinnatus, Cortland County, and his grandson Tanner M. Raymond, 16, had found little success.

“You’re not going to make much of a meal out of this,” Mr. Clark said, pulling a small perch from his hole in the ice, quickly tossing it back in.

No matter. The key, Mr. Clark said, was patience.

“You come out with low expectations,” he said. “If you do well, you should be happy.”

Down the bay, Mark M. Honsinger and son Joseph M. had more luck, filling about half of the small plastic tub in their tent with perch, the largest 13 inches long. Compared with Sandy Pond, where they usually go, Joseph said, the bay has more and bigger fish.

“It’s fun. It’s fish to eat. It’s good,” the elder Mr. Honsinger said.

Many were drawn by reports of increased yields early in the season.

Chaumont Hardware owner Gregory M. Netto, who produces fishing reports for the Chaumont Bay area, estimated an approximately 25 percent increase in the number of fish caught at this point in the season compared with last season, a total that includes an increase in walleye caught. He attributed the improved season in part to the December ice storm.

“We’ve kept our ice,” he said. “This year we’ve got it and kept it.”

Gerald S. Fitzgerald, Alexandria Bay, co-owner of Thousand Islands Fishery, said he thought perch counts are about level with previous years, but also noted the walleye increase.

The conditions and catches have brought people to the area, Mr. Netto said. A derby on the bay Saturday drew about 140 people, he said, with some traveling from as far away as Rochester and Binghamton.

The success of the village’s derby gave him hope other events will have high turnouts. This weekend, ice fishing competitions are scheduled at Alexandria Bay, Cranberry Lake and Black Lake.

A small-scale competition was under way Monday at the tent of Daniel H. Mergenthaler and James D. Warner. Though Mr. Mergenthaler said he usually lags behind his friend, he found himself pulling the larger fish, including an 8- to 10-inch perch.

Despite his success, Mr. Mergenthaler downplayed his role in the catch.

“The secret is just getting out and fish,” he said.

Some success also could be attributed to perseverance.

Walking back to shore about 1 p.m. with his gear, Mr. Clark said he was heading home with a few small fish and a couple of “keepers.”

“We got a few, so I’m happy,” he said.

Video from fishing at Chaumont Bay on Monday can be found at http://wdt.me/icefish-chaumont.

Ice fishing in Chaumont
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