3-26-13 – Went Out With A Bang

After a great day on the ice yesterday, it would have been nearly impossible not to get back out today. The weather was going to be similar to yesterday with a little more wind and still lots of sun. As we drove up in the dark, our biggest concern was what the shores would look like. We knew the ice out on the bay we knew would be fine.

Getting on the ice was not an issue and neither was finding the fish. They hadn’t moved from the day before and they were biting well. From 7 am until about 2 pm, we worked over a large area trying to stay on active fish. Throughout the day, I put on a few miles and was able to put some real nice fish on the ice in my travels. Quite a few colors were tied on but the last two days have had the same pattern; light in the morning and evening and dark during the day. White was the best color during low light and maroon/white was the best daytime color. With the water being so clear, this is my usual theory.

The day of fishing, if it was the last one, was a great on to go out on for the winter. Walking off the ice, the top layer was getting soft but as we neared the edges, we knew the end of the ice was very near. One of the access points has a small pipe running in with only a trickle of water coming in but in front of this was a large, wet, honeycombed area. After getting off the ice, the walk back to the car was a bittersweet one but in no time we will be out in our boats!



3-25-13 – Days Are Getting Longer

Even with the weather that we have had recently, there is still some decent ice out there. I had made plans with a buddy to get out in the dark and see if there would be a morning crappie bite. We met in the parking lot at 5:30 and packed up our sleds for the walk in.

We didn’t have to punch any holes but kicking them open took a few thuds. Overnight the temperature was cold enough to put a nice coat on all the holes. With a bit before the sun would start showing over the horizon, we got to work. The fish took a bit to find but when we did, if became apparent very quickly that they were in a very small area. Using glow jigs and maggots, working the crappie took patients and steady jigging action.

As the sun grew higher, the bite went away completely. We had decided the night before that our best bet was to head out when this happened to another spot that had been producing well lately. Just to make sure we were making the right decision, we looked around with our underwater cameras for a bit to make sure the fish weren’t there and just not biting. As our suspicions were confirmed, we knew what our best option was.

When we got to the second spot, the walk in took a short bit. The ice was still solid but the sun beating on it had to be taking a toll. We started off in a spot that was decent a few days earlier. As we fished through the afternoon hours, we found a better concentration of fish migrating towards the swamp. The more holes we punched, the better the fishing got. We ended up having a large area covered and as everyone else cleared out, we had the ice to ourselves.

The rest of the night was spent walking in circles looking for active fish. We found quite a few holes that were more productive than the rest so we used that knowledge to benefit. With productive holes in the back of our mind, we worked these holes in circles so they would have a chance to replenish. As the sun sunk in the sky, the bite slowed more and more. We ended up packing up our gear a little before the sun set, concluding our 13 hour day on the ice. A long day with an even longer drive home!



3-20-13 – Day After The Storm

I met up with a buddy before the sun came up hoping for a crappie bite in the dark. The snow that was predicted to come came on the lower end of the spectrum and about 9″ was laying on the ice. It was a calm morning with very little wind. The fish started off slow but picked up as the sunrise came closer.

The fish that we found in the dark were curious. It wasn’t very hard to find crappies that were willing to check out a jog but getting them to commit was a different story. I was running a white glow tungsten jig tipped with maggots. I was pulling fish from the top of the weeds and getting them to bite 5′ off the bottom in 9-10 feet of water. When the crappie bit in the dark, they bit hard. As the sun started to rise, the quality of bites decreased but the number increased. More fish started cruising the lighter it got but they were mostly bluegill and pumpkinseed.

The rest of the day after the morning bite went downhill fast. I caught some really nice pumpkinseed and bluegill but the numbers weren’t great like they had been. I worked around and around up until about 11:30. I started using my underwater camera today quite a bit. I found it necessary in order to find fish. In most cases, if I could see a fish on the camera I would catch it. In reality, there weren’t many fish in the small isolated weedbed that I was on.

Having to work at 2, I made sure to leave in time so that I wouldn’t be late. My truck is still packed and ready just in case the ice is still solid when my work week ends. If the ice is too thin, well… the boat is ready!



3-19-13 – Snowstorm Panfish

The snow was falling today. Overnight, we had gotten 3-4″ of heavy snow and another 3-9″ was on the way today. Throughout the day, the snow steadily fell but at times it came harder. The only time the snow was a pain was when the wind was swirling and hitting me in the face. The ice we were on today was better than most around. 10-11″ of good hard black ice reassured my mind that the heavy snow wasn’t going to fold the ice under my feet.

We weren’t on the ice until about 7:30 am because we didn’t want to rush around on the roads that were slick. Walking out, we had trouble finding the old holes in the white out we were in. We started off punching holes too close to shore and not on weeds. Once we did find what we were looking for when the snow let up, it was on!

After the holes were punched, it didn’t take long to get on some fish. We caught pumpkinseed and bluegill mainly with a mix of perch and crappie randomly. At the start of the day, the fish were holding tight to the bottom in the weeds. For me, as the day wore on, I couldn’t seem to connect with any fish in the weeds. I was working my jig above the weeds with the occasional drop a few inches down in to them. I found that most fish were aggressive and rose up to quickly snatch up my presentation. The crappie today were easily identified before even biting. They have a way of charging a bait like no other. You could see them come up as a bait was  with most bite coming 5 feet off the bottom.

As the day went by, we both noticed a decrease in the fish activity. Around noon, any one who was watching us fish probably thought we were lost. We walked in circles with no luck. Surprisingly, we put up with very slow fishing thinking that they would turn on for an early afternoon bite. We were wrong. When the clock hit two, we were done. A short day on the ice produced some very nice fish but not a consistent flow of fish.




3-18-13 – Is It Late Ice Or Early Ice?

The plan was for a few of us to meet up on the ice around 10:30. I planned on going up alone and hoping that people were on the ice so I wouldn’t have to go out alone. Upon my arrival, I got hit with the fact that no one was on the ice and I might have to drive elsewhere to get out. I told myself that I should wait around for a bit to see if any one showed up. About ten minutes later, as I was thinking it was a good time to head out, some one pulled it. It was an older man who was ready to go! After a short conversation about the recent bite that had been going on and about how we felt the ice would be, we figured we could give it a shot. We packed up with safety gear and all of our fishing supplies and headed for the ice.

The shoreline was the worse part from what we could see but it only went for a few feet. One real hard whack with the spud bar went through but knowing the bay, we knew we were only in a foot of water. Once we got on the old ice, we used the spud bar and common sense to avoid potentially bad ice. Mainly, we stayed away from dark ice and snow patches. After walking out a ways, we figured that we were in 4-5 feet of water. After punching some holes to find out how much ice there was, we found 6-7″. It seemed like the majority of this ice was formed in the current cold snap that we are experiencing. Working our way out to where the fish were took a while but we knew after a drop of the camera that they were still there!

Fishing started off pretty decent. The fish were around and relating heavily to the thick weeds that were sparse at best. The best holes that we found were the ones that exploded with weeds when the auger was pulled out of the hole. Mainly the fish came out of 7-8 feet of water and were sluggish. I found that when jigging, getting the fish to come up didn’t take much effort but in general getting them to bite required the bait to be still.

As the day wore on, the fishing action slowly declined. We worked in all directions but found that the fish thinned out no matter where we went. The one part of the day that got interesting was as we worked more south, the ice got thinner. Around 4:30, the fishing was too slow to stick it out any longer. Anyway, the wind was picking up and the temperatures were steadily dropping as the snow storm was rolling in.

The end of the day was welcomed and I was home before it was dark. With some good fish in the bucket, it was a great way to spend a day!



This fish was nick named stubby!


3-13-13 – Ice Is Going Fast

As the title states, things aren’t looking good for us ice fishermen. Just yesterday, I was on the same body of water and saw no indication that the ice would be as it was today. Getting on, the shores were lined with open water and the color of the ice had changed quite a bit. Regardless, I was happy to see a fellow fishermen a few minutes ahead of me on his way out to perch fish.

After catching up with the other guy, we both went off and started looking for fish. Many of the holes we fished were open from days ago whenever the last people were out. It looked like it had been a few days since any one had been out too. From the 2.5 hours we spent out there, we knew why no one was out. The fishing was terrible! I caught a dozen perch and only three were keepers. As disappointing as it was, I knew that the bluegill would bite!

Coming into the weedbed that I wanted to fish today, I was only able to use the spud bar to open up four old 10″ holes. With those holes open, I decided to be effective, I needed to punch another two dozen holes across the weedbed. With all the holes open, I baited up my jig with maggots and started fishing.

I found the fish to be aggressive. They were scattered throughout the water column with the majority of them cruising 4.5 – 5 feet below the ice. I found that if the fish were not showing on the flasher above the weeds, dropping down into the weeds produced more pumpkinseed than anything. Although fun to catch, they are grubby in this lake and bluegill is what I wanted to bring home for dinner. After about 30 minutes, I had a dozen fish on the ice and I switched gears to all sight fishing.

Mainly, I stuck to the larger 10″ holes from someone else. These holes allowed me to see more of the area surrounding my jig. A little bit into the new technique, I pulled out my underwater point and shoot camera and started recording videos of these fish coming in and working the bait. I ended up with two pretty cool videos that I have uploaded on our YouTube page. The first video is Late Ice Sight Fishing with a few of the better catches on camera. Getting in focus videos was tough today because of the particles that were suspending in the water column. The second video is Bluegill Blowing On Bait. Anyone who fishes for bluegill has seen how finicky they bite. This video shows you just what they are up to!

This might be our very last post on ice fishing this winter. Although the ice will be missed, ditch fishing and getting the boat out will be very welcomed!



3-12-13 – Mixed Bag In The Rain

With all the reports of people going through the ice lately, Venturing out alone after deer water perch on a warm, rainy day wasn’t sounding too ideal. I arrived at the lake a little before sunrise hoping to see some other rigs parked. Unfortunately, I was alone and having not been on the lake for a bit. I couldn’t go out yet and feel safe. I sat around for a bit waiting and ended up taking a nap. I woke up after a bit and still no one was around. I changed gears and decided to spud out to the bluegill grounds. Shallow water had me feeling a bit more at ease.

As I arrived out to where I intended to fish, I found a solo trip was still in store for me. Luckily, the ice felt safe and the holes out there only had about an inch of ice on them. I had gone out without my auger so I used my spud bar to open a dozen or so holes before starting to fish. To get a better sense of how much ice there was, I reached down the hole which revealed 13″ of ice.

The fishing today was better than it has been. I found that the fish were cruising high in the water column and feeding aggressively. I was fishing an orange Bentley Stinger tipped with maggots. This lake seems to produce more and better fish when fishing strictly meat. While fishing, I would start high in the water column and if no fish showed on the flasher quickly I would work down until I had a mark come in. In general, the fish were biting without much working but the longer I stayed in a hole the more finicky they became.

I tried sight fishing today but was unable due to the rain hitting the water. It rained so hard at times that I went back to the truck to escape getting too wet. Because of the warm temperature, I wore blue jeans, an old water-absorbing raincoat, and mud boots. When I finally decided to go home it was because I put on an extra 20 pounds of water weight. I guess some days are just too much!





3-11-13 – Perch And Crappie

We were on the ice for sunrise looking for some deep water perch. The bite lately has been decent and we were hoping that this late ice would have the fish trying to put on some weight for the spawn.

The bite didn’t start off hot nor did it ever turn. We cut out a large area and worked through all the holes over and over. It seemed like there was fish in every hole but many were either small or inactive. The fish that were willing to bite charged the bait as it dropped. The fish were decent size on average but very finicky.

Mainly I was using vertical jigs that had glow paint. When the sun was still rising, white glow produced the most reaction but as the sun got higher the fish shunned away from it. The color that I caught the majority of my fish on was a football jig with glow green/blue. As far as a jigging technique, it seemed like each fish wanted it different. In general, I would drop down and stop 3 feet off the bottom and wait for a reaction. If a fish wasn’t already charging I would wait for a reaction and then work them up. None of the fish that I caught were higher than 8 feet.

After a few hours of slow fishing, we packed it up and headed to fish pumpkinseed, bluegill, and crappie. The wind on Lake Champlain was suppose to be strong out of the south, but variable so we kept that in mind with our spot selection. There has been a good bite on a southerly exposed bay. Upon arrival, the door hit me when I opened it. Easy decision not to go out there!

We checked one more bay with limited success before settling in for the night. The bite was slow but the fish were everywhere. We picked at some nice fish up until close to dark. The fish here were picking at the bait but not committing too well. It was easy to bring the fish above the weeds but I found that they bit better in them. We were all beat from the long day on the ice and in the car so we ended up packing up a little early.



The Vermont Master Angler Program

The Vermont Master Angler Program is gaining quite a following throughout the state. From young to old, anglers are contributing some incredible catches to display the top notch quality fishery that Vermont has to offer! The program began in 2010 with 200 entries and has since grown to just shy of 800 from across the state! The diversity of species being entered has grown the curiosity for anglers of many species that are not usually targeted. Bowfin, freshwater drum, and several panfish species seem to be the most popular while bass, pike, and walleye have steady following.

The program is described by the VT Fish & Wildlife as: “Vermont’s wealth of waters and abundant fish populations provide the opportunity to experience outstanding fishing. An excellent way to enhance the Vermont angling experience is by challenging yourself to catch “exceptionally-sized” fish of various species. The Vermont Master Angler Program is designed to recognize the achievements of anglers who catch exceptionally-sized fish from Vermont waters. This program recognizes the accomplishment of the angler in catching a large fish and the fish’s accomplishment in surviving and growing to such an admirable size.”

There are two categories to the Master Angler Program. They are:

Trophy Angler – Anglers catching a fish exceeding the minimum qualifying length in any of the 33 species categories. Their names and catches will also be included in the new Vermont Trophy Fish Report, posted annually on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website.

Master Angler – Anglers demonstrating the skill necessary to catch multiple species that all exceed the minimum qualifying length outlined in this program, in the same calendar year. To qualify for the annual Vermont Master Angler Pin, an individual angler must submit qualifying entries for 5 or more species categories within a calendar year.

We contacted VT F & W Fish Biologist Shawn Good through e-mail with some questions concerning the program.

-are there any plans to make separate categories for seasons? tackle? harvest vs release?

We’re still in the early years of the program, and we don’t want to make too many programmatic changes at this point.  There’s a lot of potential with the program and many ways to make it interesting and fun with extra categories.  We’re certainly open to changes in the future.  One thing I think is on the books, though I think it will be very difficult for someone to accomplish, is a special award category for an angler who completes the entire 33 species list – kind of a “life list”.  Obviously, this would be cumulative over the years, and not need to be accomplished in a single year!

-is there any use of this data biologically or just to promote quality fishing opportunities in vt?

This is definitely one of the benefits this program provides to the Department.  Through our regular sampling activities, we have a pretty good handle on the status of fish populations in most waters, but some of the entries that have come in have surprised even us.  Having angler submissions on trophy fish catches can give the Department information on things like what waters are producing more

-have you noticed an increase in enthusiasm towards the program?

Defintely. In 2010, we had 200 entries from 90 different anglers.  In 2011, we had 481 entries from 181 different anglers – a doubling of participation in just one year.  2012, the third year of the program, is shaping up to be another record.  To date (as of January 4, 2013), there have been 772 entries from 273 different anglers.  So, not only have the number of trophy fish entries increased every year, so have the number of individual anglers participating in the program.  What’s even more encouraging is that the number of youth anglers entering fish has increased as well.  In 2010, 19 of the 90 (21%) individual participating anglers were kids; in 2011, 47 of the 488 (10%) wre kids.  In 2012 so far, 34% of the participating anglers are kids (93 of the 273 anglers).

-most people go fishing to catch fish. Do you think this makes people go out and target bodies of water that hold fewer but larger specimens?

I definitely think they do.  While this sort of fishing is not widespread, there is definitely a core group of anglers in Vermont that seek out “trophy” fishing opportunities, and that’s one of the things this program is designed to showcase.  Despite its small size, Vermont has some fantastic waterbodies that hold some true trophy fish.  All you have to do is look through the Master Angler Program website at all the entries that have come in over the last 3 years.  There are some truly gigantic fish being caught out there.  For example, who knew Otter Creek could produce a 16-lb wild brown trout!

-what species are the most reported? fewest?

In the first year of the program the highest number of entries was for bowfin!  These are caught pretty regularly as incidental catches while fishing for other things in Lake Champlain like bass or pike.  We realized however when SO many bowfin were entered that we probably set the minimum length a little too low for that species.  Our minimum lengths for each species was based on biological data on length distribution collected for each species from waters all over the state.  The intent was to set the minimum length to represent the upper limits of size for each species – basically the largest 5% out there – to truly represent trophy sized fish for each species.  For some species, like bowfin, we didn’t have a lot of good biological data, because it’s not a species we typically collect while sampling.  The first year of the program showed us that we clearly didn’t have a handle on just how big bowfin can get in Lake Champlain (which gets back to your second question you asked earlier).  We’re learning from this program just as much as anglers are!    Aside from bowfin in the first year, the numbers of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass far outnumber any other species.  That’s just a pure reflection of how great bass fishing is in Vermont.  We have so many hidden gems – small ponds and lakes all over the state – not to mention Lake champlain – that offers phenomenal bass fishing.  I think Vermont has the best bass fishing in the northern US!  There are definitely a few species that could be entered more.  We’ve only had a few muskellunge entered, and small numbers of cisco, smelt, suckers, gar.  So far, of the 33 eligible species, only three don’t have entries – American eel, American shad, and lake whitefish.  I think eel and whitefish should be the easiest of the three for people to catch and enter, if they take the time to learn about the species first, and understand where to find them and how to catch them.  Another objective of the program!  Educate Vermont anglers on fish biology, behavior, feeding preferences!  It’s all about learning and having fun!

At the end of every year, we put together an annual report that lists every fish entered into the program, and summarizes the catches in table format, so you can see what species had the most entries, what waters produced the most entries etc.  These reports can be downloaded from the Department website here: http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/MasterAngler.cfm

-has this program drawn attention to any species that were previously ignored?

Again, this was another BIG objective of the program – to profile many of these lesser known fish species that can offer fun, exciting fishing opportunities that no one thinks to target.  I’d really like people to start getting outside their comfort zone and fishing for species that aren’t traditionally thought of as “sport fish”.  Things like carp, freshwater drum, gar, suckers – they can be a ton of fun, very challenging.

The majority of fish on the list of eligible species is reasonably obtainable to those who are willing to put their time in. Both of us have been following the quality and quantity of fish that are coming in from around the state. We have also been able catch several specimens from across the state. We put together a collage for each of our entries. Bobby entered six species and Dylan entered nine.

3-6-13 – Perch Before Work

On the way to the lake this morning, I was on 302 between Barre and Montpelier, and I tagged my first deer of the year. I had one come out on the road in front of me so I slowed down to about 20 miles per hour. As she cleared the road on the other side, another one run out and into the side of my car. Luckily, I was driving my forester and it hit the rear quarter panel. No damage was done except for a little hair smeared on the side and my gas tank lid was popped open. When I got out to inspect the scene, I watched the deer run off. I would assume with a headache.


I was on the ice as the sun came up. It was a great day to be on the water as there was very little wind and it was fairly warm. There was only four people out jigging today and two groups of tip up fishermen. The lake was quiet and so were the fish…

The first hour and a half that I spent on the ice produced no fish. It wasn’t until 7:20 that I caught a few fish in an area and had a clue as to how they were moving this morning. The fish were spread thin but if you could find them, they were aggressive. I looked all over for fish. It seemed like I was having my best luck through the middle of a large mud flat. Most times, I was only able to catch one fish out of a hole but there was a few exceptions where I got three or four.

This was the first trip that I changed up my perch fishing colors. All winter long I have been running orange/glow and purple/glow over a red flasher. Because I was having such trouble locating fish and getting them to bite, I figured this was the best decision. The purple/glow was still somewhat productive so I upped the size and then changed the orange to a green/glow. Being in 30 feet of water, I think that the glow helps attract and entice them.

Before hitting the ice this morning, I filled the gas tank on my auger so I didn’t have to carry my spare tank. I have never even come close to emptying my tank while perch fishing but today I did. The number of holes I cut today is more than I have all winter in a single day.

Even though the day was slow, the fish that I did catch were quality and I was able to bring home a few good meals.