BARNARD – The northern walleye, pumpkinseed and largemouth and smallmouth bass resting idly on the bottom of Silver Lake could not have anticipated the flood of ice anglers that gathered above them on the surface frozen slush covered saturday afternoon.
More than 350 people showed up at Silver Lake State Park to participate in Vermont’s free ice fishing day, hosted by Vermont Fish & Wildlife and open to residents and non-residents alike. Those who registered for the event had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of ice fishing from Fish & Wildlife employees posted at six different tutorial kiosks set up on the frozen lake before heading out on their own and its own ice hole.
Tall colorful flags, flapping back and forth in the strong wind, highlighted each training section, of which attendees had to attend at least three before they could borrow their ice fishing gear and get started to fish Tutorials covered knot and lure making, ice safety practices (including what clothes to wear on the ice and using a stick to check how frozen the ice is), how to identify fish , like making holes in ice with an augur. and of course good practices for ice fishing itself.
Austin Galinat, a Fish & Wildlife employee manning the ice fishing tutorial kiosk, said patience was key to catching the slow-moving fish lurking on the bottom of Silver Lake, which he said was about 15 feet deep in the place under his kiosk.
“The fish are moving more slowly, less aggressive (than at other times of the year),” Galinat told a group of attendees gathered around his two holes in the ice. “You’ll feel more delicate bites on your line.”
Ice fishing, unlike regular fishing, Galinat said, uses small rods so the angler can feel those delicate tugs on the line made by curious fish swimming in the waters below. “Jigging,” the act of gently flicking the wrist while holding the fishing rod up, helps draw the fish’s attention to the shiny bait and hook (Galinat also attached midge flies to the ends of lures for a little more motivation).
However, even a skilled angler still needs good luck; Galinat said he had yet to capture anything of note on Saturday. In addition to the foot-and-a-half-long northern pike that a Fish & Wildlife employee had caught in the morning (and which was now being used in the fish identification tent as an example of the good things that can come from patient ice fishing), most of the catches throughout the day were quite small.
Scenes around the lake on Saturday showed groups of families, bundled up in heavy winter jackets and snow pants, trudging through snow and slush to open spaces in the ice while children (and a few dogs) jumped on banks of snow or dragged the full sleds. of teams behind them.
One family, Paul and Julie Shay and their 3-year-old son, Paxton, dutifully huddled around their ice hole as Paxton bobbed his rod up and down in the water.
Julie said her family, who live in New Hampshire but were in Vermont visiting Paul’s sister, said they are always on the lookout for educational programs like this. At one point, Paxton lay on his stomach so he could look straight down his ice hole into the watery abyss.
“We haven’t caught anything yet,” Paxton said. “We’re trying.”
When asked if they thought patience was an important skill to have in an activity like ice fishing, Paul agreed.
“It’s like I told Paxton earlier, ‘Ninety-nine percent of fishing doesn’t catch fish,'” Shay said.
A few holes down, University of Vermont student Grant Woods was discovering the same thing. Standing stiffly in a red parka and holding his short rod a few feet above the water, Woods, 21, said he had “lost track of time” while fishing and hadn’t realized they had more than 45 minutes have passed since it started. launched
Woods moved the rod a few times, before mentioning that he wasn’t sure how he would know if a fish bit his line. He had never ice fished before, but said he found the look appealing.
“It seems like a good activity to cure a hangover,” Woods said. “Just stand and wait for it to cool down.”