• By Ken Perrotte

‘Come to the light’ – Ice Fishing: the Cold, Windy and Surreal on Lake Champlain

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Some of my southern outdoors brethren think I’m nuts to love ice fishing, but the affliction is genuine. Growing up in northern Vermont, the frozen windy bays of Lake Champlain often offered fun-filled days sitting on a bucket or in a wooden “shanty, feeding monofilament from a handline down through a 6 to 8-inch hole in the sometimes 2-foot-thick ice.

When the water was clear - the usual situation – you could often watch the fish eyeballing your eyeball before slurping it in and taking the hook. The eyeballs of yellow perch were our preferred baits. I still remember the first time I saw my neighbor from across the street, Mervil Coolidge, deftly pop the eyes from a frozen perch. He put one on the hook and popped the other into his mouth, to soften it for when he needed to rebait, he said. I’m pretty sure the maneuver was designed to simply elicit an “Ewww” from us youngsters.

From one end of the lake to another, the ice fishing can be grand. At the southern end, crappie can often be found in abundance. To the north, yellow perch are the primary quarry. A couple years ago, I had an interesting experience fishing with guide James Vladyka in an area called Lapham Bay near Shoreham. It was a most memorable trip to Vermont on a lot of counts.

“Come to the light,” Vladyka (www.fishhounds.net) jokingly murmured, delivering a line from the movie

“Poltergeist.” Vladyka, was encouraging crappie to congregate near holes in the ice where he had placed Hydro Glow Fishing Lights. The lights attract baitfish which attract bigger fish. Beyond the hookups, it also creates a surreal fishing experience with the green light illuminating the ice from the bottom up, creating an eerie, soft backlighting for the fishing.

That was my first time fishing that area, joining Stafford County, Virginia, resident and longtime ice fisherman Doug Chyz and some buddies on an expedition. Chyz is a retired Navy employee who likes to make his own custom fishing rods, including ice fishing rigs. He grew up in western Massachusetts and enjoys ice fishing or, as he calls it, “hard water.” His pitch went something like, “We catch so many big crappie, we throw back the 10-inchers.”

Chyz, his cousin Joey Sojka of Massachusetts, and any number of family and friends of camp owner John Chmielewski, gather annually to celebrate winter fishing traditions, swap stories and, generally, hang out on the frozen lake. Chmielewski, a retired insurance executive and a longtime leader in Ducks Unlimited, graciously shares his camp and relishes in whipping together some of the finest camp grub you’d ever find, much of it laced with Polish culinary flavors and techniques.

The water down at the southern skinny end of the lake can be challenging. The best fishing is closer to the deeper channel near the lake’s center. It almost starts behaving like a big river there, with considerable current at times. Shallow bays without a lot of moving water were generally safe to fish, but the main lake channel near Shoreham, almost in the middle between Vermont and New York, had soft, unsafe ice. When it’s cold (with good ice), fishing can be hot. When it’s not, that’s when you have to work shallow water, such as near Lapham, and hope things happen.

Cold is good. When you’re in the wind, in single-digit temperatures, having a nice portable shelter, such as many of the great models made by Clam and others, are a godsend. Chyz has a nice pop-up ice fishing tent. My brother Dana also has a spacious shelter. Ice anchor screws tether the shelters and keep them from blowing away. These shelters, along with a propane heater can make for comfortable, take-your-parka-off fishing and at least provide a warm base of operations from which to monitor tip-up rigs. When you’re fishing outside, a good, high-quality ice fishing suit, such as the I5 Series jacket and bibs from Frabill, cuts the wind and keeps you warm.

Master the Flasher

Many anglers, including Vladyka, use a Vexilar flasher, a sonar system designed for ice fishing. It reveals when fish are near your bait. Learning how to read it takes practice. Vladyka was teasing plump crappie into biting just 3 feet away from me while I kept missing bites. It’s finesse fishing. Deciphering the near-hypnotic light display on the flasher can be challenging, especially in a weedy, extreme shallow water scenario. Chyz uses a Lowrance sonar unit and can configure it so that it works much like a flasher, displaying his jig movement and fish activity on the right side of his screen. My brother’s Vexilar-18 unit lets you split the screen display, zooming in on the bottom six feet on one screen while watching the entire water column on the other. It’s great in 8-20 feet of water. You can actually watch your jig rise and fall and see a fish rise from the bottom to take it.

The clock is ticking on winter 2018, but I still hope to yet make a Vermont pilgrimage to once again see old friends and tackle the fun and sometimes finicky cold-water denizens of Lake Champlain.

Frabill Ice Hunter Combo Rod and Reels

During my most recent ice-fishing trips, I got to try some of Frabill’s (www.frabill.com) newer, affordable ice

fishing combos. The rods vary in length from 27 to 38 inches, each designed for different types of ice fishing, from close quarters work inside a shelter to jigging deepwater for suspended fish. The rods are made from a solid graphite blank and sport stainless steel ice guides. The handles are tapered cork. The reels have a machined aluminum spool and 4 bearings. Combos are selling for about $40 at many retailers.

#Icefishing #LakeChamplainfishing

Subscribe for new stories, reviews, and more. 
(Don't worry, we won't spam you)

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

© 2017-2021 Kmunicate Worldwide LLC, All Rights Reserved. Outdoors adventures, hunting, fishing, travel, innovative wild game and fish recipes, gear reviews and coverage of outdoors issues. Except as noted, all text and images are by Ken Perrotte (Outdoors Rambler (SM). Some items, written by Ken Perrotte and previously published elsewhere, are revised or excerpted under provisions of the Fair Use Doctrine


Privacy Policy:

What type of information do you collect? We receive, collect and store any information you enter on our website. In addition, we collect the Internet protocol (IP) address used to connect your computer to the Internet; login; e-mail address; password; computer and connection information and purchase history. We may use software tools to measure and collect session information, including page response times, length of visits to certain pages, page interaction information, and methods used to browse away from the page. We also collect personally identifiable information (including name, email, password, communications); payment details (including credit card information – although the site does not currently engage in any type of e-commerce), comments, feedback, product reviews, recommendations, and personal profile.

How do you collect information? When a visitor to the site sends you a message through a contact form or subscribes to receive updates and other communications about new stuff on the site, we collect that subscriber’s email address. That address is used only for marketing campaigns or other information we send regarding site updates or changes. Site usage data may be collected by our hosting platform Wix.com or by third-party services, such as Google Analytics or other applications offered through the Wix App Market, placing cookies or utilizing other tracking technologies through Wix´s services, may have their own policies regarding how they collect and store information. As these are external services, such practices are not covered by the Wix Privacy Policy. These services may create aggregated statistical data and other aggregated and/or inferred Non-personal Information, which we or our business partners may use to provide and improve our respective services. Data may also be collected to comply with any applicable laws and regulations.

How do you store, use, share and disclose your site visitors' personal information? Our company is hosted on the Wix.com platform. Wix.com provides us with the online platform that allows us to share information or sell products and services to you. Your data may be stored through Wix.com’s data storage, databases and the general Wix.com applications. They store your data on secure servers behind a firewall.

How do you communicate with your site visitors? The primary means of communicating with site users is via email for the purposes of marketing campaigns, promotions, and update. We may contact you to notify you regarding your subscription, to troubleshoot problems, resolve a dispute, collect fees or monies owed, to poll your opinions through surveys or questionnaires, to send updates about our company, or as otherwise necessary to contact you to enforce our User Agreement, applicable national laws, and any agreement we may have with you. For these purposes we may contact you via email, telephone, text messages, and postal mail.

How do you use cookies and other tracking tools? Our hosting platform Wix.com and our analytical services providers such as Google Analytics may place cookies that facilitate their services. To be perfectly honest, Kmunicate Worldwide LLC, the owner of outdoorsrambler.com, never looks at cookies or any other tracking/data collection tools, only the aggregated reports provided by the hosting service or analytical services providers.

How can your site visitors withdraw their consent? If you don’t want us to process your data anymore, please contact us using the “Contact Us” form on the site.

Privacy policy updates: We reserve the right to modify this privacy policy at any time, so please review it frequently. Changes and clarifications will take effect immediately upon their posting on the website. If we make material changes to this policy, we will notify you here that it has been updated, so that you are aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we use and/or disclose it.