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Ice Fishing in Northern New York and Vermont

Before trying his luck on the sixth largest body of fresh water in the nation, Evan Kivlen first stops at Gander Mountain to buy $10 worth of fishing bait. He drives his ATV-Yamaha past dairy farms, cornfields and a historical plaque where Benedict Arnold planned his defense of Valcour Island during the American Revolution. Home to more than 90 different species of fish, ranging from pike to trout, Lake Champlain encapsulates every angler’s dream. But this fishing trip isn’t like most people’s. Kivlen’s going fishing — on ice. Growing up in the North Country during the brutally cold winters instills…

ice fishing

Before trying his luck on the sixth largest body of fresh water in the nation, Evan Kivlen first stops at Gander Mountain to buy $10 worth of fishing bait. He drives his ATV-Yamaha past dairy farms, cornfields and a historical plaque where Benedict Arnold planned his defense of Valcour Island during the American Revolution.

Home to more than 90 different species of fish, ranging from pike to trout, Lake Champlain encapsulates every angler’s dream. But this fishing trip isn’t like most people’s. Kivlen’s going fishing — on ice.

Growing up in the North Country during the brutally cold winters instills a kind of gritty passion in locals. This is especially true for ice fishers who spend hours smack dab over the holes they’ve drilled into the lake’s ice hoping to bring home a catch.

“As long as I can remember, my father took us fishing as children,” Kivlen says. “The Adirondacks will always hold a special place in my heart, but the Champlain Valley has really become home.”

Once he’s far enough onto the ice, Kivlen gets off his ATV and points to the spread-out shacks miles away on the crystal ice. He takes a deep breath before placing eight tip-ups into the ice. “And we’re off.”

About 40 minutes pass. One flag flicks up, indicating a fish has taken the bait. He walks to the spot and reels his hook in. No luck. Another hour passes. Another flag flicks up. He reels his hook in. Once again, no luck. His mood remains unfazed.

“That’s just the game of ice-fishing,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.

Ice fishing is a relatively inexpensive sport to get started in for visitors. Equipment, including a rod and reel and bait, will cost roughly $20. Prospective ice fishers need a license, but New York State has options ranging from a one-day pass to weekly passes for those who don’t want a full year license. Kivlen prefers Rouses Point and Whitehall in New York, and the islands in Vermont to catch a trophy-caliber fish — and lots of them.

“My best recommendation would be to seek out a local professional guide service in the area that you want to visit ahead of time and arrange a trip,” Kivlen says. “They will know the local hot spots, the best bait, the time to go, and will have all the gear to do it safely, effectively and enjoyably.”

Nearly three hours have passed now, and all bait remains untouched. Suddenly another flag rises. The Vexilar fish finder turns red as it senses a fish’s presence around the hole. His patience rewards him an 8-inch yellow perch. Third time’s the charm.

Written by Claire Durham and Ja’Pheth Toulson

Issue 4: Winter/Spring 2014

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