Conditions Are Ripe for Ice Fishing Adventures

  • Kylie Rogers hoists a fish she recently caught on Goose Pond Lake.

  • Kaden Rogers, of Orange, N.H., holds a laregmouth bass he recently caught on New Hampshire's Little Goose Pond.

  • Karson Rogers, of Oramge, Nh.H., hoists a lareg mouth bass he recently caught on Little Goose Pond in New Hampshire.

Special to the Valley News
Saturday, January 27, 2018

Thick ice, a sunny weekend and milder temperatures have propelled anglers onto the ice. Early on, the sub-freezing weather and heavy snowfall kept ice fishing enthusiasts at home watching the NFL playoffs. For most of December and January, there were only two lonely bobhouses sitting on Mascoma Lake but, on Jan. 20, the crowd at the lake resembled a winter carnival.

Though bobhouses are still around, more and more portable ice fishing structures appear each year. Made from the same kind of materials used in camping tents, anglers can easily assemble these huts in minutes. If the fish aren’t biting in one area, they can be moved to another spot without a lot of hassle.

They also allow anglers to fish multiple bodies of water so they aren’t relegated to one lake or pond during the season. And there’s no need to worry about getting a bobhouse off the ice at the end of the March — it’s already packed up in the garage at home.

Some anglers don’t need a bobhouse to enjoy dropping a line in winter.

Rob Martin, of Newport, travels light when he ventures onto Mascoma Lake. His most cumbersome piece of equipment is the gas-powered augur he uses to drill holes in the ice.

Since Martin prefers jigging to using tip-ups, the rest of his gear fits into a wooden carry-all that resembles a carpenter’s tool box.

“I prefer to fish outside,” Martin said. “Really cold days can keep me off the ice, but when it’s sunny and there isn’t much wind, I’m ready to go.”

Martin likes the variety of fish that can be found in Mascoma: yellow perch, white perch, sunfish, bass and pickerel.

But his main quarry is the freshwater smelt, a species that is more heavily pursued during winter.

Martin tips a small jig with a grub and uses a tiny rod to give the bait, an enticing life-like movement.

He fishes the area to southeast of Shaker Bridge but is cautious not to get too close to the mouth of the river, because flowing water can make the ice thin and unsafe.

Mascoma is a popular destination for ice fishing, but it’s only one of many venues found in the Upper Valley.

Orange, N.H., resident Christina Rogers has had great success on Little Goose Pond. When she takes off on an outing, it becomes a family affair and a picnic. Her children — Kylie, Karson and Kaden — come along, and they aren’t just spectators. All three kids tend the tip-ups, which have produced some beautiful largemouth bass.

Kylie, Karson and Kaden will be fishing in the Canaan Street Lake Ice Fishing Derby from 8 a.m. to noon on March 8.

Lake Sunapee is a prime spot for two species that aren’t found anywhere else in the local area, lake trout and cusk.

David Titus, of Sunapee, hasn’t been out much this year, but his two forays onto the ice have been productive.

“I wouldn’t say it has been great,” Titus explained. “I did get three lakers, all of them small. Usually you catch bigger ones in the winter, but so far I haven’t hooked any lunkers.”

Titus was deterred from going out earlier in the season because of the heavy snowfall. He doesn’t use a snowmobile to get to his favorite spots, preferring to pull a sled with all his equipment in tow. The brief spell of warmer temperatures melted most of the snow and turned it into ice, making it easier to traverse the frozen surface.

Titus also pursues the elusive cusk, a tasty freshwater cousin of the codfish. Cusk require cold, deep water to thrive. Lake Sunapee is one of the few bodies of water in New Hampshire that can support the cusk.

Cusk fishing is unique in that anglers may set their traps and then leave them overnight, a technique that is illegal for any other species.

Titus set his lines on a Sunday and then came back the next day to harvest five fish, one of which was a two-pounder that measured 20 inches.

Across the Connecticut River, Windsor resident Dan Magoonloves to fish the Connecticut in the summer but he stays away from the river in the winter. “I’ve gone through the ice too many times, so I fish Lake Morey,” he said.

Magoon is pursuing the Vermont state record for smallmouth bass (6 pounds, 14 ounces), which he believes will come out of Lake Morey. Every year, he gets a fish over six pounds, but has yet to surpass the record.

Magoon also catches big yellow perch, his favorite fish for the frying pan.

Conventional wisdom holds that fish caught out of icy water taste better, so get out the tip-ups and fish for supper.

Coleman Stokes can be reached at stokescoles@gmail.com.