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The Sport Of Ice Fishing

Tuesday February 5, 2013

By Cookie Steponaitis

    Winter signals for some Vermonters yet another season of outdoor activity. There is skiing, snowboarding, hunting, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and for the diehards there is the draw of frozen lakes and the season of ice fishing. It is easy to see how this love of fishing and winter combine together in the next generation of Vermonters. Ryan Valiquette shares his passion for the Vermont tradition of enjoying the winter months and having just another reason to grin when talking about Vermont.

    Ryan’s face simply lights up as he breaks into the litany about ice fishing. “We started the weekend on Monkton Pond,” remarked the teen ice fisherman. “We were sitting on about a foot of ice and we used a pop up shanty.” Without breaking stride Ryan goes on to elaborate about the twelve tip-ups, bibit rods and the fish they were after which included Perch, Bass, Crappies and Northern Pike.  The weekend for Ryan and his family included going to multiple sites and careful consideration of many key locations known to locals for good ice fishing. “Perch Pond in Orwell is another of our favorites,” shared Ryan. “We mostly used minnows for bait there and were again looking for Perch and Bass. We had really good luck and it simply is just a lot of fun.”

    While the fun part may be a mystery to those Vermonters who like bear tend to hibernate in the winter months there is little arguing with the statistics. The 2/21/2013 Wright’s Northeast Kingdom Ice Fishing Derby is listed by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and WCAX TV as one of the top ten events of the winter focusing attention on this beloved winter activity. Annually, ice fishing is a growing part of the winter sports that engage Vermonters and tourists alike.

    Most devout ice fishermen seem to start early and Ryan was no exception. “I learned when I was about eight,” remarked Ryan. “My father taught me about ice fishing and took time to show me what to do. We usually were out there and built a shanty that we could move with a snowmobile or ATV. I learned on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury.” In addition to the fishing component Ryan talked at length about learning how to measure the thickness of the ice, how to attract the fish and how to work with different types of poles and baits.

    “We cut a hole with a hand auger and use the ruler or ladle to clean out the hole and measure the thickness of the ice,” shared Ryan. “We usually go out on no less than six inches of ice.” Whether catching Perch, Pickerel or Northern Pike Ryan pointed out that there is a lot to learn about how to attract fish and the different forms of bait. Hooking the minnows on the back dorsal fin allows a swimming motion and when doing Tip Up Fishing you have a slag that signals when the fish pops up. You crack the ice around it and you can see the way the fish is running and pull it our carefully or if need be give it slack and then set the hook.
When this reporter suggested that ice fishermen must have ice in their veins or freeze Ryan simply smiled and explained it is the layering of clothing that keeps people warm. The shanty also has a propane or buddy heater that warms it up enough to be comfortable and not melt the ice.  So, for those who have not tried this time honored Vermont tradition this is the winter to give it a try. Ryan concluded the interview with a memory of his first fish and the feeling that not only keeps him ice fishing today but serves as a link between him, his family and his Vermont home featuring the best of the outdoor four seasons a year. “I was up by the islands,” recollected Ryan, “and I had never done it before. My first fish was a small Pickerel and I still remember the fun of being outside, being on the lake with no boating equipment, being with my father and setting the hook. The fish was hooked and so was I.”

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