I'll have to admit, the first time Steve asked me to go ice fishing with him, I was a bit skeptical.
It wasn't even a passing thought when we lived "down south." Once the waters buttoned up, so did we for the most part, spending the winters dreaming of the next fishing season. Not that there weren't ice fishing opportunities; we just didn't take advantage of them. Maybe that's because creature-comfort advances hadn't been made just yet.
Even in the early years here in the Adirondacks, portable shelters were still in their infancy and building a massive hut to drag onto the water was out of the question.
But determined to live the Adirondack life – and perhaps to keep from going stir-crazy during the long winter – he set out for the ice.
I watched with a mixture of apprehension (please don't let him fall through) and pity (watching him shuffle home after sitting on a bucket all day) and, admittedly, a little bit of jealousy (I was fighting my own cabin fever demons).
This went on for several years. Until he brought home our first portable shelter. And a Mr. Heater Buddy.
Now, I can't wait to pile things on the sled and haul them out on the ice. This winter's wait has been painfully long, but it's looking more and more like we'll salvage some good ice time this month (and hopefully into March).
I'm still not particular about what I catch, although it's good to see a fillet-sized perch come up through the hole. And that's one of the neat things about Lake Champlain; it's like fishing over a box of chocolates. Certainly, you can target specific species by hitting specific parts of the lake – perch in and around Bulwagga Bay in Port Henry, head south toward Ticonderga if you're looking for pike. Smelt can be difficult to find, given the explosion of the alewife population, but your best bet is still Bulwagga and, if it freezes over, Westport Bay.
When we head to the lake, it's usually for perch – nature's own fish sticks when they are pulled from the depths of the lake. And that's where you'll find them, schooling just off the bottom in water just below 40 degrees.
And you have to be quick about it. This is where impatience pays off. Once you're on top of a school, you've got to get the fish on the ice and get your jig right back down. I tend to take too much time between trips down the hole – just ask Steve.