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Hunters Corner: Bitter cold winter good news for ice fishers

Global warming and climate change have largely been debunked and now comes polar vortex. Polar vortex has never been on my Rolodex, but it is certainly for real and makes for an interesting discussion as to how it went awry from the normal years where the vortex is confined to the northern polar regions.

This is the first winter that I can remember that we have not had an influence of El Nino or La Nina. The only influence will be the Atlantic multi-dectal oscillator. Most of us have been doing well to survive the cold temperatures, but there are some beneficiaries. If the cold can keep up, it just might put a dent in the winter tick population; additionally, it might put a dent in the beetle population that is harming our forests.

Heating fuel companies are making a mint. And the real beneficiary is the ice fishing community.

Basically what is needed to safely ice fish (sans ATVs and snowmobiles) is five inches of ice. As more inches are added, the additional weight will be supported. Even with the best of all possible ice conditions, I would still not drive a vehicle on the ice, but that is me. I have been out on the ice in the past when it was a challenge to get off and I distinctly remember when all of the vehicles have been parked too close together on Alton Bay, but to me it is just not worth the risk given the ice thickness is not uniform.

My favorite deliveryman (UPS) – he is the guy that delivers all of those care packages from Cabela’s – recently showed me a picture of a ginormous brook trout he caught through the ice. The brook trout appeared to be five-plus pounds with beautiful coloration. What is most interesting is what he caught it on. Are you ready for this … a dry fly! From the coloration he described, it sounded like it might have been a Royal Coachman. A non-toxic split shot weighs it down and it remains stationary. The fish are moving and the ice acts as a perfect background when the fish looks up and sees something out of place and attacks it.

My brother has been successfully using beaded woolly buggers for catching rainbows through the ice for years. My choice will be the venerable 88. The 88 comes in a long hook shank and a short hook shank. I think the short shank is the better choice. Probably the most popular bait is the salmon egg, followed closely by the shiner. Power bait, worms, maggots and wax worms also are at the top of the list. Jigging is also a popular option.

Where to go has an easy answer: Delorme’s New Hampshire Atlas & Gazetteer, also Fish and Game’s website. Delorme’s has a listing of warm water and cold water ponds and lakes that lists species contained in each water body. If your target is rainbow, brook or brown trout, the consensus is to fish the shallows. Trout are cruising the shallows in search of food. The best known shallow spot is Ellacoya State Park. The water remains shallow for a great distance from shore and is a top pick for rainbows under the ice. For more ice fishing information, go to wildlife.state.nh.us.

As a last note on ice fishing, Adrien Lavoie is having a talk on ice fishing techniques at Fish and Game headquarters this Wednesday at 7 p.m. with no pre-registration required, but to get a good seat, the earlier you get there the better.

In his talk, Lavoie shares his secrets for successful ice fishing, including tactics for targeting lake trout and white perch by jigging and tip-up fishing. He will demystify the new gear that’s available to make ice fishing more comfortable and productive. Learn what a guided ice fishing trip is all about, plus get tips for your own winter ice fishing adventures.

Also on Wednesday, the Wildlife Heritage Foundation presents “An Evening with Ben Kilham” at Red River Theatres at 7 p.m.

Kilham has been studying bears for more for more than 20 years and is the only licensed bear rehabilitator in New Hampshire. The subject of numerous documentaries on his work, he has authored two books on bears. Be you a bear hunter or just someone curious about this fascinating mammal, this event should be both educational and entertaining. Tickets are $20 and the proceeds will benefit the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

Hike Safe

The house recently passed an act that would establish the Hike Safe program that would allow for a voluntary annual payment of $25 per person and $35 per family for those who are already contributing to Fish and Game search and rescue operating costs. In essence, this is a “get out of jail free” card for a hiker who is in need of Fish and Game rescue. If, per chance, you have not paid the fee and you need rescue, you could be libel for the entire cost. This appears to me to be a good option.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)

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