Tag Archives: Vermont

3-29-14 – Getting Near The End

With a late winter storm hitting the area for the second half of the weekend I decided to journey to a bay I had only fished once this season with hopes that the crappie and sunnies had gathered for their pre-spawn ritual.  I picked my buddy up and we headed out no knowing what to expect.  The weather has finally broke out of it’s freezing cold spell which it seemed like we were in all winter and I knew it was only a matter of time that things started to heat up, no pun intended.

We arrived to the bay and was greeted by a good friend that had been fishing for a few hours already and the prognosis didn’t look good.  The fish seemed to be scattered, being a large bay we had our work cut out for us.  After talking with my buddy we made our way to one of my waypoints and began to drill.  After working through the first series of holes and only managing four keeper perch and a bass we headed to another waypoint in hopes to find a few more fish.  As we were getting close I realized that my mark was smack dab in the middle of about 30 tip-ups.  I approached the fellow fishermen and asked if they minded if I fished around their set-up, like most Vermonters they didn’t mind and after a few short stories I began to drill the area out.  With a lot of time left in the day I had decided that if we didn’t stumble upon the fish quick we were going to make a big move down to a bay that I had fished a few more times this season.  I worked this set of holes without marking a fish, I knew this fish were around but time is everything when you don’t have a lot of it, especially to fish so we packed up and headed out.

The second stop would prove to be worth the trip.  We met a few buddies out there who had found some fish, all the credit goes to these guys.  The area was all drilled out so we had our greeting and got to work.  The crappie had moved into the area within the past few weeks and they were thick.  I have actually never seen it like this in this bay.  This particular bay had very thick weeds at the beginning of the ice season, they had now died of for the most part and the fish were cruising the tops of them, and when I say cruising, I mean cruising.  The fish were on the move and it was to our advantage to have a few of us there to stay with them.  The good bite lasted for a solid hour or so and then turned into a slow pick.  It was a great time with good friends and as it would turn out, a great way to end my season on the ice.  It was time to head home, pack the ice gear away, and get tied up for spring walleye and crappie, till next time…….

 

 

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2-8-14 – Round 3 VSHTS

Saturday Febuary 8th brought us to round 3 of the Vermont Sportsman Hardwater Tounament Series at Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain.  Conditions weren’t ideal at all, with temps in the teens and a wind chill around zero.  Besides the weather, the bay was going to present it’s own challenges.  The portion of Mallets Bay where this event was held, had ample room for fishermen to move around and fish plenty of water, but the fish seemed to be located on one particular weed bed which meant the fishing was going to be close quarters.

At 6 am, we were given the go ahead to start drilling holes and use our electronics but no lines in the water until 6:30.  Most of the 36 fishermen all headed for that one weed bed and started drilling their holes.  In hind sight, I think we drilled all the fish out of that area,  as we started fishing the action was slow.  Those that made slight adjustments in location were able to stumble upon the larger groups of fish that had been drilled out at first light.  Dylan made a slight but significant move east and was able to connect on nice crappie that ultimately won him big fish for the day.  Funny part was it was the same hole that his crappie came from yesterday! The bite was tough to say the least for the better part of the day.  The fish were scattered and easily spooked when we would punch a few new holes.

Towards the end of the day, Dylan figured out that the crappie were suspending about half way down the water column and they were cruising, which means you didn’t always mark them on your electronics. Jigging at four feet would often bring a cruising crappie in and make them bite.  This was a major adjustment made, as we had been fishing in the weeds for the better part of the event.

At the weigh-in Dylan checked in his 6 fish limit with two seeds, two crappie, one bluegill, and a perch giving him a weight of 3.68 pounds and good enough for first place along with his big fish prize.  Bobby struggled all day to say the least not catching any crappies and weighing in a limit of seeds and dink perch for a weight of 1.78 lbs.  At the end of the day, the win for Dylan was a major boost in the points moving him up to first place from 6th.  Bobby’s weight caused his to drop a few positions down to 6th from third but he’s still in the hunt.  The final points event for the season will take place at Laphams Bay in Shoreham on Febuary 22nd.  It’s going to be a shoot out!

11-30-13 – Freezers Are Stocked For Winter

Well the blog has taken a backseat the last two months while Vermont’s deer season has run most of its course. Neither of us filled a tag during bow season but we had numerous opportunities at small bucks and doe with fawns. With nearly 2.5 months to hunt, the urge to shoot the first deer we see isn’t very high. During the past few weeks both of us were able to put a buck on the ground. Although any deer is special, we both had months of history with the deer we shot. Now that winter is on its way, action on here will pick back up. Check out below for stories of our success!

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These voles were a couple of friends that I made while sitting on the ground.

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Dylan’s Buck

When rifle season began, the weather wasn’t great. Warm, rain, and crunch are the factors that we have come to expect in recent years. On the positive side, my girlfriend started hunting this year and she was excited. With my work schedule, I  wasn’t able to hunt at all opening day. She was able to get out with her father and brother for a few hours on Saturday. When Sunday morning rolled around, I was excited because of some of the recent activity on my trail cameras.

We hit the woods early but ended up pushing deer the entire way to where we intended to sit. We were both feeling a little down on our luck thinking that we had forced the deer out the small area that we were in. Fortunately, the deer were just staying ahead of us. As the sun started to rise, the woods came alive. As we sat watching over a scrape line, I heard something coming in behind us. As I turned a buck chasing a doe sped their way through behind us. Unfortunately, the deer never offered a shot and made their way out. We switched up where we were sitting thinking that they might come back through. About 45 minutes later a doe with two fawns came through. Having some errands to take care of mid day, we left the woods.

I went out alone for the evening and had another encounter with a nice buck. Around 4, I checked to see what time legal shooting hours ended. Being in the softwoods it seemed to be getting dark early. A few minutes later I heard a grunt over the hill from me. I got ready but ended up having a deer come into the side of me. Not being able to identify it for almost a minute, I had a feeling that it was a buck when I could hear the dirt hitting the trees as it made a scrape. When it poked its head out I had no shot at its vitals but was impressed with its head gear. It was on a trail that would cross about 20 yards in front of me. With the base of a large spruce in front of me, I waited for the deer to come out. As time went by I thought it should have came out by now but it hadn’t. I poked my head back out and could see its hind quarters still flickering his tail. Back into my position I waited again. Still nothing. I turned back and he was standing broadside, staring at me 25 yards away. Not being able to turn, we had a stand off. I told myself that I would turn when he moved. As his head dipped, I turned and he disappeared into the raspberry thicket nearby. Bummer! A few minutes later A doe came in to check things out. No bucks was following though…

The next morning I tried to convince Mary to come back out with me but she couldn’t because of work. She told me that I would shoot one though. I returned to where we had sat the previous morning. It was pouring rain but I felt like I needed to be out there. As the sun rose I noticed a rub made since the morning before only a 15 yards away. I knew the buck would be back. At 8am the rain stopped. Eight minutes later the doe with twins came right into me but got spooked by activity at a house nearby. The deer worked out slowly. Twenty minutes later, I caught a flash where the doe entered my area. Before I could get my gun up I saw antlers. Game on. He worked through with his head on the ground. It was the buck that I had seen the morning before.

Through the birch slash I couldn’t pick a shot as he moved quickly. He ended up chasing the doe with twins back into view and split them up. The twins went down by me and the buck and doe disappeared again into their bedding area. About 45 minutes later he came in on a string and turned broadside at 4o yards. I took a small window for a shot and he hunched up. My second shot was on a dead run a 20 yards. I dropped him in his tracks. What an exciting morning! He ended up weighing 136 and was a 5 pointer with a 14″ spread.

Although I wish Mary could have shot him or at least been there, I am certainly happy to put some meat in the freezer!

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Bobby’s Buck

After a limited bow season due to the baby, I was ready to get back in the tree with my rifle.  While moving stands a week before the season I came upon a fresh scrape under the tree of one of my rifle stands.  I decided to hang a camera over the scrape to see what was going on there.  Within the first four days I have three different smaller bucks on camera hitting the scrape with a number of doe frequenting it as well.  On days five and six I had pics of two really decent central Vermont bucks which just stoked the fire even more.  Even after seeing a larger number of decent bucks on camera there was still one that I had been getting pictures of all summer that I was after.  His name was “Crabby”,which was given to him after the first time I got him on camera, he seemed to have had a bit of a crab claw on his right side.  Along with the numerous pictures I also had this deer under me at 18 yards during bow season but was unable to get a shot due to a few branches that he seemed to know where there.

The first two weeks of rifle season were frustrating.  Both me and my father were seeing a ton of deer but only smaller bucks, and those that were legal all seemed to have busted up the racks.  The second Saturday I had 16 deer within 30 yards of me at once, one small 4 point that didn’t seem to care to much about the doe, I chose to pass on him.  Where I hunt the flood gates seem to open when the rut kicks into full swing.  We have a lot of doe on our property and there have been days when we’ll see multiple racked bucks cruising the pastures in search of our hot does.  This year was different, it just hadn’t happened.  The second week of the season brought us not so ideal conditions for hunting and deer movement.  The temperatures were very cold, we did have a few inches of snow which helped some.  Deer seemed to be moving only at night as I had very few tracks by my stand on the hardwood ridge behind my house.

The last weekend was more of the same, however this time I had come up with a plan.  From what I could see for tracks it looked like a lot of our deer were spending the day bedded on a thickly covered ridge with ceder and pine trees.  I knew that there was a decent buck in there as I had seen his tracks heading there for the past couple of days.  All I needed to do was to get them out of there and on their feet.  I dropped a buddy off to sit and circled up and around to the top of the ridge.  Hoping that having two hunters on the ridge would get the deer on their feet.  I wasn’t in my spot for more than a minute when I heard some deer coming.  The second deer I saw had good bone on his head!  Once I was able to see that he was for sure a legal buck I had to find a way to make a shot.  I took the only shot he gave me as he stopped facing straight away from me.  It was close but I made it count as the deer piled up.  Walking up to the deer I realized that it was Crabby, the same buck that out maneuvered me during bow season and that I had so many pictures of.  I am very pleased with the outcome of a lot of hard work scouting and the patience I had early in the season.

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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.

2-9-13 – Tail End Nemo

The end of the work week brought the people of the Northeast winter storm Nemo.  Most schools were closed and Boston was bracing themselves for two feet of snow, we went fishing. . .

We arrived to our setback early and found that the snow totals in this area were not as much as home.  Encouraging this was but the long walk down a steep hill and the longer walk back up it killed that excitement.  The plan for the day was to set up a few tip ups in hopes of getting a Walleye to take the bait.  We drilled our holes, our buddy Mark cut some more holes while I set the jacks.  Once we were set up we began jigging for panfish.  Using the electronics we “trolled” around looking for fish.  There was no shortage of fish! (but)  I’ve never, in all my years fishing seen fish so lethargic.  I would pull up to a hole that was literally stacked with fish, 6-7 suspended in the water column.  The fish would either not move, or swim back down and disappear.    This gave me the chance to refine my cadence and try some different things to try and entice these fish into biting.  Two cadences seemed to work better than normal.  The first was to pound, literally pound the jig.  I made my jig violently bouncing through the water column as to almost upset the fish into biting.  These fish seemed to become agitated with my bait as it worked down towards them, often times leading to a strike.  The second pattern that worked well was a slight bounce, which was interesting since the aggressive tactic worked.  There was not happy medium.  It was pound or close to dead-stick that triggered the fish on this day.

We followed the fish as the slowly moved through the channel trying to pick out the aggressive ones.  Mark was able to land a nice Crappie that actually got stuck in the 6-inch iced up hole.

After a few hours and no luck on the flags other than wind flags we made a move into shallower water.  Shortly after re-setting Mark landed this little Northern.

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I was able to find a few fish for the frying pan as we worked thro0ugh the day.  All and all the day was a struggle but we made the best of it.  I did manage to catch this great Bluegill suspended in 20fow.  The fish was at least 10 inches and I would say close to a pound.

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1-26-13 – Cold Day To Be A Crappie

Having been tied up with other responsibilities for the past two weekends and not able to fish I was excited to get back on the ice.  I decided to make a day trip to a spot 2 hours away.  We arrived at our location with decent conditions.  The mercury was finally above zero for the first time in five days, and the wind at this point wasn’t an issue.  I loaded my shack and made the 80 yard walk to where I would be fishing for the day.

I drilled out an area, shallow to deep.  It’s always a good idea to cut your holes first thing, one it will save you time later and two, it will spook the fish only once if the fish are sensitive to sound.  I started fishing the deep hole to begin with.  The vex was marking fish in 16 feet of water all through the water column.  First drop produced a small crappie, second drop, small crappie.  One thing that I have noticed about this spot is that these fish school in relation to size most of the time.  If you’re catching small fish you’re in a nursery school of fish.  I made a move to the next hole working my way out of the deeper water up towards the shallower shelf.  Right off the bat I hooked into a heavier fish, bass.  OK; well now I know the bass are set up waiting for those small crappie to make a mistake, I made another move, this time more drastic.  I found ten feet of water, fish were stacked on the bottom four feet.  First drop was a beautiful 13″ crappie.  Next few fish were all decent in size, bigger than before.  We continued to work the 10 foot range and were able to produce several decent fish through out the course of the next few hours.

As the morning went on the wind picked up and it became difficult to fish outside of our shacks.  As the sun went higher the fish slid shallower.  This is something we have noticed before while fishing setbacks off the main river.  The fish tend to seek out more cover even if it means going shallower when deep holes are present.  Large weed flats are great places to find active fish during high light conditions.  Another important thing to note was that the fish were not tolerating a presentation for long.  I was constantly changing my jigging cadence and my Maki Plastic to keep the fish interested.  These plastics teamed with a Bentley gold colored tungsten jig worked well for both the deep and shallow water applications we used today.

All in all it was a good day, unfortunately I wasn’t able to “fish” the way I wanted to as was confined to my shack for comfort.  It was a good day learning a few new tricks and applying some older ones to be successful.