Slow, foggy day on the ice
Dennis Jensen Photo
James Lynch III of Castleton jigs for perch during a recent afternoon. Ice fishing on all of Vermont waters should improve dramatically following the recent, below-zero, bone-chilling cold spell.
Itís a good 400-yard drag through deep snow before I reach the edge of Lake Bomoseen.
There are plenty of convenient places to put in on the lake, but I select this spot on this day because the difficulty in accessing it also means far fewer anglers will venture forth here to fish through the ice.
Itís just after 2:30 p.m. as I slip on my ice creepers and step out on the ice. Itís surprisingly warm this afternoon, 34 degrees, and I can see where an ice fisherman, probably earlier this morning, used his auger several times while making his way out, to check the thickness of the ice. I stoop down, slip my fingers into the water through one of those holes and feel the thickness of the ice. Thereís a good 5 inches of it.
Pulling my sled, loaded with a fishing bucket with three jigging rods and reels, a hand auger, an ice skimmer and a pack with hot coffee, extra gloves and head gear and additional tackle, I make my way out some 500 yards.
It was in this general area, a year ago, that I, son Matthew and several fishing pals, had a tremendous day on the ice. We arrived at this place just before daylight. Jim, Bob and Matt began drilling holes while I sat and watched, a torn rotator cuff putting off any possibility that I would be using an auger at any point on winter ice. Fishing with a line, rigged with two jigs and with spikes pinned on the small hooks, I dropped my first line that day into about 32 feet of water.
I immediately hooked into a yellow perch and, within minutes, the four of us were all into fish.
But this is a year later and, at least so far this season, the fishing has been far from ideal; there have been a few days when I caught only one or two. But that doesnít keep me at home and on this afternoon, I feel confident. I drill eight quick holes, bait my jig and hurriedly drop a line down into about 30 feet of water. Itís just after 3 p.m. and I figure things might be real slow until, say, 4 or 4:30 p.m.
I move to another location and can see where an angler earlier that morning drilled a good 15 holes into the ice. Thatís a lot of holes for one small location and I suspect an ice fisherman may have gotten into a school or two of perch hereabouts. It is so warm that I donít even have to skim any fresh ice from the holes. They are open and inviting and I fish them.
Nothing yet. Then I can see the fog drifting in. It is quite eerie, to say the least. After only minutes, I canít see the shoreline. I canít see the lake front homes, far off in the distance. All is thick fog. I am enshrouded by it.
Then, I wonder. Could this sudden darkness, mimicking the darkening of the day which is often marked by the sudden feeding of perch, actually fool the fish? Might they begin to feed, an hour before pre-dark? I reel in and remove the old spikes from my two jigs, replace them, move to yet another hole in the ice and drop the line in.
Now itís near 4:30 p.m. and the combination of a thick fog and approaching sunset make it even darker than normal. Iím moving from ice hole to ice hole now, every five minutes, but I canít locate the fish. Itís almost completely dark now and the fog and the encroaching night block any form of shoreline.
I pick up my gear, load the sled and begin the trek back to the truck, going by instinct. Then, a slow smile comes to my face. OK, I say to myself, not a single hit this afternoon. Still, I reason, there is an upside to all of this.
I donít have to clean any fish tonight.