By Vermont F&W Scientists Shawn Good and Jud Kratzer
Ice fishing is a mysterious thing to the uninitiated. Many who have not experienced its joys hold the mistaken notion that ice fishing consists primarily of peering through a hole in the ice, waiting for a fish to bite, all while attempting to maintain feeling in one's fingers and toes. But ice fishing offers significantly more than that for those who are brave enough to trade their spot on the couch for the wide open expanses of a frozen lake. Beyond the obvious fact that being outdoors in cold weather is still an opportunity to get outdoors, there are other benefits. From a recreational perspective, ice fishing allows those who may not have regular access to a boat the opportunity to move beyond shore fishing and the ability to choose any number of locations. And then there is the quiet. How many can say they have experienced the stillness of a winter morning, overheard owls calling to each other across the empty sky or caught a glimpse of wildlife moving through the snow? If more people had the opportunity to give it a try, they might realize what an enjoyable, affordable, and rewarding sport ice fishing can be.
In order to encourage more people to try their hands at ice fishing, the Fish and Wildlife Department is asking the Vermont legislature to amend 10 V.S.A. §4251(b) to create a free winter fishing day, during which anyone would be able to fish Vermont waters without a fishing license. Free fishing days allow people who are not regular anglers to reconnect with the outdoors, and to experience the enjoyment, relaxation, and thrill of angling. These days also represent a great opportunity to encourage families to engage in fishing, and to introduce young people to a sport that they might not otherwise be exposed to.
Hopefully, the winter free fishing day will be as popular and successful as the decades-old summer free fishing day, which has typically taken place on the second Saturday in June. Because ice fishing requires some specialized gear and techniques, the winter free fishing day will be most successful if experienced anglers share their expertise with newcomers. If you are new to ice fishing or fishing in general, don't let your inexperience stop you from trying something new. Think about who you might know, and reach out to those folks for a helping hand. Alternately, if you happen to be an experienced ice angler, be sure to invite your non-ice fishing friends along. They may just find that ice fishing alone, with friends or with their families becomes a highlight of the winter and something that they look forward to all season long.
Image Credit: Gordon Alexander