Updates on Fresh Catch & Peak Ice Fishing Spots
Once Lake Champlain starts firming up with the cold weather, local fishermen start thinking ice fishing. Jigs and tip ups are rousted out. Shanties cleaned and prepared for their annual trip out onto the ice. Sub- zero ice making temperatures are wished for like the pre-Christmas sugarplums. Not a lot of the colorful wood constructed shanties have appeared as yet, but some recent artic temps have been encouraging; to the southern end of the Lake Champlain Region.
I've watched the "clam shelters" pop up overnight like mushrooms. Often gathered in clusters, I wonder if that is social, or because of the catch. I ventured to the local bait and tackle shops to " get the scoop" on how our ice fishing season was shaping up and find out just what was happening out there on the frozen tundra.
Port Henry was once known as the "smelt capital of the northeast". I'm told huge blocks of smelt filled ice were shipped in crates from the local railroad yard south to the city where they were snatched up by gourmet restaurants and considered a delicacy. Everyone in this region got their fill of "ice fish". Fish-fry fund raisers were plentiful and there were even competitions about the best batter in which to fry. Those days appear to be behind us as I am told by the locals that the smelt have practically vanished....some blame the infiltration of alewives, others blame lake sediment. Yet fishermen here tell me that there still is considerable excitement at what is being caught.
According to John Bezon at FMB Bait and Tackle, South Main Street, Port Henry,perch, bluegill and an occasional brown trout are being snatched up in abundance in Bulwagga Bay. This large sheltered bay lies directly south of the village of Port Henry. An easy access is through the town of Moriah's Bulwagga Bay campground. The gates have reopened post camping season to accommodate lake access.
Norm St Pierre, of Norm's Bait and Tackle, Bridge Rd, Crown Point, tells me they are pulling huge lake trout from under the ice near the Crown Point Bridge and NYS DEC’s Crown Point Campground. He has weighed a few at 10-12 lbs and was told larger fish were there...they just “got away”. Fishermen were using tip-ups with medium sized suckers and “pike sized” shiners. Access this part of the lake from the NYS DEC’s campsite boat launch.
Norm also informed me that between Bulwagga Bay and the bridge some salmon were being caught just under the ice...2 to 6 feet down. He recommended using 8-10 lb monofilament line in a fluorocarbon. Across the lake, closer to the Vermont shore, perch, northern pike and lake trout were also being caught on large shiners.
A little further south near Monitor Bay Park in the hamlet of Crown Point, Norm recommended using fathead minnows on tip-ups to pull in some large perch and pike. Continuing even further south near the Ticonderoga boat launch he claims pike, perch, bluegill and crappie are readily available. The Ticonderoga boat launch area is at the end of Route 74, adjacent to the Ticonderoga Ferry dock. It has plenty of parking and easy on/off access.
Everyone I spoke with recommended caution when venturing onto an ice covered lake or pond as it is never without some risk. What appears to be a uniform surface can mask actual ice thickness. One should always avoid the mouths of creeks, dress appropriately for cold weather and always be equipped with ice picks. These draped over the neck tools could help you extract yourself from an unexpected plunge.
It is wise and prudent to consult a guide and seek out local knowledge like that of John and Norm. They can provide plenty of advice as well as the gear and bait needed. FMB Bait and Tackle is open daily, 5:30-8:30 AM, and then again from 3:00-5:00 PM. Norm’s Bait and Tackle is also open daily from around 6:00 AM until 5:30 PM.