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Where to go ice fishing on LI

David Lengyel, of Manorville, drills a hole for

David Lengyel, of Manorville, drills a hole for ice fishing at Deep Pond in the Schift Scout Reservation in Wading River, NY, Jan. 9, 2010. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Sure it's cold, but for some Long Islanders, fishing on a frozen lake is a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family and break the monotony of winter. But remember, with ice fishing, it's always safety first. Here are some things you need to know before you drill your hole.

THE SEASON

* Ice fishing season generally runs from late December to mid-February on Long Island. Waters with depths of at least 8 feet produce best; morning and late afternoon are prime times.

* A freshwater fishing license is required for ages 16 and older (see www.dec.ny.gov for full fishing regulations).

THE ICE

* As is the case with skating, thick ice is the safest ice. The golden rule is to stay off the ice until it is at least 4 inches thick. Never drive a motor vehicle onto the ice and never venture onto unknown ice alone. Beginners should fish near other anglers.

* While a lake does not have to be frozen fully across for ice fishing, stay well clear of open water and be wary of thin ice that can develop where rivers and streams enter or exit a lake.

* When initially stepping onto the ice, anglers should stand several feet apart to spread their weight. All groups should carry a safety line that can be tossed to someone who falls through.

* The maximum diameter for ice fishing holes is 8 inches. Before leaving, be sure to mark each hole with a pile of snow so its location will be obvious to skaters, ice-boaters and others.

GEAR

* JIG POLE ($10-$20). Tiny ice fishing rods can be purchased, or make your own using duct tape by attaching an ultralight spinning reel to the rod tip section of a two-piece panfish or trout rod.

* TIP-UPS ($10-$12 each). This simple device allows the angler to set a small spool of line in the water below the ice with a spring-set flag. When a fish bites, it pulls the line and the spool rotates to "tip up" the flag.

* ICE AUGER (About $70). Used to drill fishing holes through the ice, hand augers are fine for most Long Island spots.

* ICE SCOOP ($10). Basically slotted spoons, they're used to keep fishing holes free of new forming ice.

* SLED. Pile your gear into a 5-gallon bucket and place it on a sled. Add a towrope and slide it along.

* BAIT. Live minnows are preferred, but wax worms and pieces of night crawler also work. Popular lures include small teardrop jigs, tiny soft-tailed jigs and Swedish Pimples.

HOW TO DRESS

* Before venturing out, dress in layers as you might for skiing, including thermal underwear, a sweatshirt or turtleneck and a coat that blocks the wind. Top off with a knit hat, insulated, waterproof boots, thermal socks and water-resistant gloves. Dry rags to clean hands after handling the catch or baiting hooks are key to staying comfortable.

PREFERRED DESTINATIONS

* Anglers are allowed to fish through the ice on many Suffolk County lakes and ponds, but ice fishing is prohibited in Nassau and Suffolk county parklands. The following spots make great starting points.

ARTIST LAKE, ROUTE 25, MIDDLE ISLAND

WHAT YOU MIGHT CATCH Crappies, bluegills, yellow perch, pickerel and largemouth bass.

* Perfect for beginners and those with kids. This lake freezes easily and is likely to attract other ice fishermen from whom to learn. Set up at mid-lake, in front of the parking area, so it's just a short hike to the car. Panfish provide action, while pickerel and bass offer trophy possibilities.

LAUREL LAKE, ROUTE 25, LAUREL

WHAT YOU MIGHT CATCH Brown and rainbow trout, yellow and white perch, bluegills, largemouth bass and pickerel.

* Cold, deep and buffered from the wind, this lake freezes for at least a few days most winters. It's a 100-yard hike from the parking area to the ice. Drill holes along the south side, 100 to 200 feet from the shore. Space the holes at least 10 feet apart. The trout, especially, bite best before 10 a.m.

LAKE RONKONKOMA, DEC VICTORY DRIVE LAUNCH RAMP, RONKONKOMA

WHAT YOU MIGHT CATCH White and yellow perch, walleye, crappie, bluegill and largemouth bass.

* It's not often that Long Island's largest lake freezes over, but when it does, smallish perch, crappie and bluegills feed aggressively. The walleye and bass, if you find them, can top 6 pounds. Fish near the Victory Drive Ramp, in the northwest corner, or in front of the Islip and Brookhaven town beaches.

OTHER LOCATIONS

* You also can try these other destinations. Call 631-444-0280 for information or visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24155.html.

CAMAANS POND, Merrick

FOREST CITY PARK POND, Wantagh

FREEPORT RESERVOIR, Freeport

GRANT POND, Hewlett

HEMPSTEAD LAKE, West Hempstead

MASSAPEQUA LAKE, Massapequa

MASSAPEQUA RESERVOIR, Massapequa

MCDONALD POND, Hempstead Lake State Park

OYSTER BAY MILL POND, West Shore Road and Lake Avenue, Oyster Bay

SMITH POND, Rockville Centre

UPPER TWIN POND, Wantagh Parkway and Old Mill Road, Wantagh

WANTAGH MILL POND, Merrick Road, Wantagh

AGAWAM LAKE, Southampton

ARGYLE LAKE, Babylon

BELMONT LAKE, Belmont Lake State Park, North Babylon

BIG FRESH POND, North Sea for Town of Southampton residents only

BIG REED POND, Montauk

DEEP POND, WADING RIVER, Schiff Scout Reservation, Wading River

FORGE POND, South River Road, Calverton

FORT POND, Montauk

HARDS LAKE, Southaven County Park, Yaphank

HOOK POND, East Hampton

KAHLERS POND, north of Merrick Road, East Moriches

KELLIS POND, south of Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton

LITTLE FRESH POND, North Sea

MARRATOOKA POND, Mattituck

MILLERS POND, Smithtown

MONTAUK FRESH POND, Montauk

PATCHOGUE LAKE, Patchogue

POXABOGUE POND, Bridgehampton

SAYVILLE MILL POND, Sayville

SHELTER ISLAND FRESH POND, Shelter Island

SOUTHARDS POND, Babylon

SOUTHOLD GREAT POND, Southold

TWIN PONDS, Centerport

UPPER MILLS POND, Calverton

WATERMILL POND, Water Mill

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