You know the deep cold of an Upper Valley winter has truly set in when the ice shanties start showing up on local lakes and ponds. They seem to come from nowhere, like mushrooms after a rainstorm, except these are manmade physical structures, which can make their sudden arrival seem even more mysterious.
Ponds and lakes dot the landscape of the Upper Valley, and no doubt folks are ice fishing on bodies of water that are tucked out of sight of the casual observer. But you’ll always find communities of ice fishers popping up in the obvious places. There’s Mascoma Lake, Canaan Lake, Crystal Lake, Pleasant Lake, Post Pond, Lake Sunapee—among others—in New Hampshire, and Lake Morey and Fairlee Lake—for starters—in Vermont.
Ice fishing is a short season. It usually lasts from about the third weekend in January through mid-March. So bundle up and join your neighbors on the ice while you can. But follow these tips, and go prepared!
- Get a License. Don’t head out on the ice without one. You can get a license the old-style way, by going to the town offices and purchasing one in person. But you can also purchase them online through your respective state Fish and Game departments.
- Many town recreation departments offer free ice fishing lessons that include classroom time and ice time. Taught by Fish and Game folks, most classes take place in early February and require preregistration sometime in January. Check with your local department for details. And if your town doesn’t have a program, you can always sign up with another town.
- There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Whether you’re new to the sport or an old hand, there are three things you ought to do.
- Ask about ice conditions from someone with the appropriate knowledge. Bait shops are a good source of information, as are town offices, fish and game departments, and fire departments.
- Don’t go on the ice alone. Independence is an admirable quality, but if you can’t find a buddy to go with you, don’t go. It’s that simple.
- Tell someone where you’re going. The same rule applies to hikers, and for the same reason—accidents happen.
- If you get serious about ice fishing, this can be a long list, including everything from an underwater camera to a portable fish house! But any local sporting goods or general store can supply you with the basics.
- Rods and reels
- Tackle box
- Live bait
- Bucket/chair to sit on
And, of course, dress warmly!
Not in the mood to fish? Try another winter recreation on the ice: ice skating! Check out our blog post on where to find great skating in the Upper Valley.