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A Popular Destination

February brings with it ideal conditions for ice anglers. Twenty inches of ice has formed on Mascoma Lake, allowing anglers to drive trucks onto the lake, hauling their bob houses behind them.

Snowmobilers can also travel to all areas of the lake searching for “honey holes” that will produce a variety of species.

Tyler Hughes of Cornish ventured out recently on a beautiful sunny day. He used a gas-powered augur and then set up just off shore near the Shaker Bridge. He wasn’t employing tip-ups, however.

“I prefer jigging,” Hughes says as he drops his lure into a nine-nch hole in the ice.

“I like the feel of having the fish hit. I like to try different colors.”

His usual choice of color is pink, but today he has tied on a yellow jig and tipped it with a piece of nightcrawler, a technique that I have often used for bass and perch during the summer season.

So far, Hughes has landed a small pickerel and a few yellow perch. In past years, he has caught Mascoma brown trout as big as four pounds, but his favorite target is the white perch because it provides the best table fare.

“Nothing tastes better than white perch, especially when it comes out of cold water,” he says.

Ice fishing can also be a family affair.

I found Ross Hastings of Grantham in his bob house along with his two children, Jack and Faye. His parents, Wanda and Rick, were also visiting.

Hastings had driven his truck onto the ice, towing his bob house into a deeper section of the lake. The house was set up with a wood stove, a gas grill and two benches that offer repose during the long waits that often come between strikes.

The house seemed bigger than some of the apartments I had in New York City.

The Hastings family had also opted for jigging instead of tip ups. While I was watching, something began to nibble on the meal worm below. The end of the rod quivered with a tell-tale tap-tap-tap.

Hastings set the hook, but the fish was gone.

“It’s a real light bite,” Hastings says, “so you have to be on your toes.” At thjat moment, Jack also seems to have a bite. He quickly reels in the line, but there’s nothing there. His dad confesses that Jack just likes to bring up the line and drop it again.

Moving toward the Shaker Bridge, I ran into Jim Monmaney of Canaan, who was fishing with his 15-year-old daughter, Briana.

The sunshine and milder temperatures had inspired Monmaney to venture out for his first winter fishing trip this year.

“I didn’t even come out last year,” he said. “But today is perfect. This is a lot better than sitting home and suffering from cabin fever.”

Monmaney had set two tips-ups with shiners. He was fishing for anything that bites, though, like the other anglers on the lake, he prefers perch for the table.

The toughest part of the day for the father and daughter team was cutting the holes in the ice — Monmaney used a non-powered augur.

“We went old school,” he says. “It’s the best workout I’ve had all winter.”

Setting their lines, they were fishing in the channel that runs under the bridge, giving them a good shot at perch, pickerel, rainbows or browns.

Dan Magoon reports that Lake Morey has been producing lots of pickerel which are almost a sure bet through the ice.

The toothy critters will hit jigs, live minnows, grubs or cut bait. Though Pickerel have reputation for being too bony, they are tasty. My favorite way to prepare them is in a fish stew that’s akin to Manhattan Clam Chowder.

After removing the head and skinning the pickerel, drop it whole into a crock pot full of canned diced tomatoes, cubed potatoes, chopped onions, green peppers and a strip of bacon or salt pork.

Allow the concoction to simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. By then, most of the fish will have fallen off the bone.

Because the bones are in one piece, you can grab the tail and easily remove them from the stew. Stir and then serve with crackers.

In an unrelated development, reports of albino deer have been coming in from Lebanon to Plainfield.

Norman Shaw of Lebanon spotted twin fawns last spring, one of which was white over half its body. Later in the year he saw them crossing the road, heading for an apple orchard.

The partial albino had grown into a spike buck.

Steve Sanders of East Plainfield corroborates Shaw’s story.

Sanders not only saw the albino deer this summer, he documented a half-white spike buck on video.

Though albino deer sightings are a rarity, it’s surprising there aren’t more of them.

Every time a deer breeds, there is a one-in-four chance of recessive genes producing a white or partially white offspring.