Ice fishing…..not the frost bitten misery I thought it would be
Ice fishing has been a huge winter activity among anglers all along the Adirondack coast since the first settlers landed here. I had never taken on this adventure because something always told me that Fishing on a frozen lake in the cold of winter waiting for a fish to bite while freezing off my digits was never on my list of things worth trying. This year I decided that Ice fishing might actually be fun.
Of course I chose to go ice fishing during one of the Adirondack Coast’s mildest of winters when finding ice to fish on is just as difficult as finding a live palm tree growing outside. Every morning I wake up and stare out over Cumberland Bay thinking it should look more like a vast open field of blowing snow. Instead it never froze over. All winter long we could still see the waves breaking on the shore. I considered going out for some fishing from the shore and even putting my kayak in the water for a mild winter fishing trip. I had it in my mind that I was going to ice fishing this year even if it required a trip higher into the mountains.
A friend of mine and I had discussed going out ice fishing many times prior to our actual trip out. We drove out in search of a solid field of ice all over the coast. After many miles of searching and my uneasy feeling over the length of time the fuel light had been on in my car, I finally suggested we check on Deep Bay at Point Au Roche State Park. Deep Bay is my favorite summer fishing spot on Lake Champlain and my favorite Kayaking place along the lake as well. I had noticed anglers out on the ice back in January and figured it must still have enough ice to fish on. My fuel light had been on now for about 30 minutes and twenty miles. This was going to be our last-ditch effort before fueling up and heading into the mountains.
It was as if the ice fishing gods had opened a door. There at the moment when we had begun to lose hope, sitting under a perfectly blue sky was a securely frozen deep bay peppered with fishing shanties and anglers drilling holes for their days catch.
Our excitement took over the fact that I was running my car on fumes. We quickly dragged our shanty from the back of my car and loaded it with gear. There were shanties far off from the shore so we knew the ice must be thick enough. As a first time fisher on the ice, I was rather concerned about the safety of such outings. We dragged our shanty a mere 100 feet into the bay before I heard the first loud pop from the ice under our feet. I froze in place waiting to see if I was going to start my first fishing trip taking a dip in the frigid water. The ice was visibly cracking under our feet. I should have taken note that my fishing partner had disappeared from the scene and left the shanty (and me) standing there.
Disaster averted, we moved on another 100 feet and took up camp. The beating sun on this 30 degree day was warm and inviting. I was way over dressed for the occasion, but I had it stuck in my mind that Ice fishing was more of a mildly rewarding, limb freezing task, and less of a truly enjoyable hobby. We drilled a pair of fishing holes to put our shanty over. It was so calm and warm on the ice from the clear skies above that the shanty was not really needed. It was explained to me that the shanty will make it so you can see clearly what is biting at your line. I’m more accustomed to fishing from my kayak on open water or fishing from the shore where you never know what is biting your line.
Securely seated in our cozy shanty, we dropped in our lines baited with live maggots purchased at a local fishing supply store and started wiggling the bait. with the shanty blocking out some of the light around us, it was perfectly clear all the way to the bottom. We were probably in a rather shallow part of Deep Bay because it appeared to be a six-foot drop to the bottom. I could see the fish watching my bait, I could see a cray fish walking by, and I could see that first Perch swallow my bait! This was fishing like never before! Frozen digits are no concern to me anymore! This is awesome! I may have experienced my first Adirondack Coast ice fishing trip on a perfectly beautiful day and landed our shanty on a perfect spot, but this was truly a fishing thrill ride!
We only brought up about ten Pearch in our four hours, but it was four hours quickly passing. I have always found fishing to be a relaxing and rewarding past-time where one can be truly immersed in what they are doing. Time always flies by, but the memory always stays with you.
I’m definitely not going to make my first ice fishing trip my last. I have added one more notch to my winter activity along the Adirondack Coast cap. With so much to do here, I may begin to find it harder and harder to fit it all in with my regular work schedule. Even after such a fantastic day on the ice, I am still longing for the day that I can get my Kayaks and Canoe back out on the water again. Adding ice fishing to my list can only curb my appetite for outdoor activity for the time that kayaking is not recommended
So in the end, go fishing! Deep Bay has ice of about two feet thick and spread over a good mile from the shore. It may be the last solid place to go before it’s time to get your boats in the water. I hope anyone who goes feels the same enjoyment I did while they are out. Frozen or not, The waters of Lake Champlain will always have something to offer.