Winter in New England makes it easy for many to slip into hibernation, take shelter inside, and relentlessly crave those long summer days that seem to never be coming. It’s also just as easy to find the adventure seekers who adore the winter, bundling up and facing the tundra head on. Whether it’s skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing or hiking, there are plenty of winter friendly outdoor activities that can keep the stir crazy feeling at bay. With a little coaxing and the right gear, winter outside can be more fun than imagined! The month of February brings plenty of sports that are unique to the season to the Monadnock region – one of them being ice fishing. Ice fishing derbies are taking place across the Granite State and beyond, and they hardly constitute being missed out on.
Ice fishermen comprise a rather large portion of the fishing community. That may come as a surprise to many – the sheer thought of weathering Mother Nature’s coldest season to trudge out on a frozen pond, cut a hole in the ice, and drop bait in the perfect spot may seem extremely ambitious, if not next to impossible. However, with some practice, patience, and knowledge, it can come unexpectedly easy and be extremely fun!
The biggest ice fishing derby in the state of New Hampshire is the Meredith Rotary Tournament on Lake Winnipesaukee, on the weekend of February 8th and 9th. Cash prizes are rewarded to the anglers with the largest fish. Everyone is eligible to enter, as long as they follow the rules and regulations NH’s Fish and Game has in place. For those interested in giving ice fishing a try for the first time, there are smaller, more local derbies taking place the same weekend (in Marlow) as well as the weekend prior (in Jaffrey). However, first timers should be reminded that there are crucial steps to follow before spending a day on the ice.
Ice fishing is unique in that it requires a lot of perseverance, as well as several vital tools. When it comes to spending the day on the lake, make sure to bring hot beverages and bundle up with only the warmest of gear; cold weather apparel and compact comforts like portable heaters, shanties, and sleds to efficiently move belongings on and off the ice will very much come in handy. Some of the other ice fishing essentials include but are not limited to:
- ice rods and reels
- pliers for removing the hook from the fish
- ice augers for drilling the fishing hole
- a seat or bucket for a good viewing angle of the fishing hole
- ice skimmers for scooping out slush from the fishing hole
- chisels or “spuds” for chopping holes when the ice is thinner
- a tackle box to hold all the essential
- rods, hooks, lures, and lines
- tip ups for when the fish hits the line (a flag will “tip up” when the fish strikes)
Once properly geared up, it’s time to fish! Most ice fishing calls for very subtle movement of the bait, or periods of active bait movement followed by a length of pause. It’s important to have different lures and baits to choose from; sometimes it takes as long as an hour to find the right combination that will attract the fish. Patience goes a long way with this sport!
During the winter months, fish go into a hibernation mode – the fish’s body slows down so as to require less oxygen. This helps make the catch and release process easy for ice fishermen. When catching a fish, make sure to handle the fish quickly and gently, and ease the fish back into the water. If planning on eating the fish, make no mistake that it will hinder any doubts as to why ice fishing has gained so much popularity over the years. The taste of a fresh crappie or perch caught through the ice is unlike any other.
Try something new this winter and become a member of the ice fishing community. There’s nothing a little crisp fresh air and fresh fish can’t fix!