Page 27 - WCM 2019 Winter
P. 27

 One difference between ice fishing and open water fishing, is that you can fish with multiple lines sus- pended from tip-ups or “traps.” The line is stored on a spool and bait set at various depths where the fish should be. Most often, you’ll use live bait like smelts or shiners, checking several depths until you discover where fish will find your bait. When the flag pops up, after a quick set of the hook, you’ll hand-pull the fish to the hole, and pull it gently through the ice. If you are not fishing for food, you’ll need to quickly release the fish before freezing. In the extreme winter cold, it only takes seconds for a fish to flash freeze.
Fishing with children is action-packed, and seeing them catch their first fish is a delight. I often say that ice fishing can be best defined as hours of boredom followed by one brief moments of panic! When the flag pops up, it’s usually a little bit of chaos, followed by the excitement of seeing what’s at the other end of the line. “Flag up!” is generally the phrase that gets the adrenaline pumping, and you never know quite what is pulling your line out. “Is it a nice brook trout, or another pickerel?” You just don’t know! If you are looking for fish to put on the table, you may want to target perch, black crappie, or brook trout. The state stocks plenty of brook trout, as well as browns, rain- bows, splake, and salmon, in “put and take” fisheries, meaning that they are stocked for you to catch and keep. Others enjoy catch and release, which ensures plenty of fish for others to enjoy.
One overlooked species is Cusk or “Burbot.” Cusk
are a fresh water cod that can be fished for at night, offering a very unique experience. This fish is excellent in chowders, and fairly easy to catch, with either live or dead bait placed on the bottom, and almost always at night. Only certain water bodies have them, but locally, Bryant Pond, Sebago Lake and Hancock Pond hold good numbers of decent sized fish. They often don’t trip the flag, and lie on the bottom after eating the bait, so you need to frequently check your traps.
Being comfortable on the ice is key, particularly with children. An ice shack will provide reliable shelter from cold breezes. Styles vary widely from elaborate stick- built shacks with wood stoves, to portable pop-ups with propane heaters. Snacks, including hot cocoa, are also vital to staying cozy. You can never have enough snacks to keep your crew happy and content. One of our favorite ice fishing meals is a nice moose stew or chili, warmed on our Coleman stove, and served in a bread bowl. It never fails that as soon as you serve hot food, you will get a flag! It’s just how it goes.
I also make sure that I have plenty of other activi-
ties to keep kids busy while we wait patiently for the fish to bite. Sleds, snowshoes, and a football are all good ways to keep everyone active and moving ... and warm! If you plan accordingly, dress accordingly, and have plenty of food, then it doesn’t matter if you catch fish or not - it’s still going to be a fine day on the ice!

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