Angling for winter fun
Why some are hooked on ice fishing
Taryn McDonough, 6, of Erving watches as Brian Guerin, also of Erving, checks a line at one of their ice-fishing holes at Barton Cove on Sunday. Taryn's father, Peter McDonough, can be seen farther back. This fish got away but the group of friends caught several others.
Water splashes through the ice as Steve Kalinouski drills a hole for ice fishing at Barton Cove on Sunday.
Jaden Whiting, 10, with friend Josiah Little, 6, in hot pursuit behind him, skates at Barton Cove on Sunday while their families set lines for ice fishing. Recorder/Trish Crapo
This yellow perch was one of just a few fish caught at Barton Cove Sunday morning. Cloudy days are better for catching fish, one fisherman said, but grown-ups and kids alike came out onto the ice on this "bluebird day" (not a cloud in the sky) to enjoy time together in the sun and milder temperatures. Recorder/Trish Crapo
GILL — “It’s like a picnic anywhere else, just on the ice,” said Jeremy Goudreau of Wendell. “A cold picnic,” adds brother Brandon Goudreau of Ware.
A few hundred yards from the Barton Cove picnic grounds, the picnic is on the cove itself, where the cold has transformed the surface to a lunar beach cratered with the remains of old fires and rings of ice built up around the edges of frozen-over fishing holes.
The Goudreau brothers and Sarah Genereaux of Wendell, Jeremy’s wife, have a small shelter pitched on the ice and are tending to a series of fishing lines suspended in holes around the camp Sunday morning.
The three aren’t the only ones on the ice
By 9:30 a.m., there are about 25 people on the ice, mostly grouped in threes and fours by the small plots of fish traps. Numbers are substantially swelled by noon after the arrival of a group of 16.
The Goudreaus and Genereaux said they were there for the day, with the shelter, a grill and provisions.
“It’s a good way to get rid of cabin fever,” said Jeremy Goudreau. The Goudreaus say the sport is probably more enjoyable in winter than summer, with less people on the water and no power boats or jet skis.
Jeremy Goudreau and Genereaux joined Brandon Goudreau outside the shelter, which he had left to walk the lines with a bucket of live Shiners, the small silver fish used to bait the tip-ups, crosses of wood holding reels of fishing line in below the water and rigged to release a spring-loaded flag when disturbed by a bite.
Elsewhere on the ice, Bob Mimitz of Northampton and Jaime Santos of Easthampton are introducing co-worker Shane Adams of Greenfield to the sport.
The three work at Temp-Pro in Northampton and Mimitz and Santos said hey have been ice-fishing since other co-workers introduced them to the sport five or six years ago.
“This is what we do, it beats sitting around the house,” said Mimitz. “We can’t be crazy because all of us that are out here can’t be crazy.”
The group has so far caught nothing, but agree it doesn’t really matter; Turkey sausage is cooking on a small gas grill and Santos said they practice catch and release only.
A slightly unreliable thermometer gives a reading of about 25 degrees at 10 a.m. but there is not a cloud in the sky and in the short-term sunburn proves more likely than frostbite. Mimitz and several others on the ice say the temperature is perfect, but less sun or the pressure change of an impending storm might bring more fish.
So far, Adams’ impression of the sport is that there are no fish and coffee doesn’t stay warm long.
Nearby, Brian Guerin and Peter McDonough, both of Erving, and friend Erik from the central part of the state are introducing another first-timer to the sport.
McDonough’s daughter Taryn, age 6 1/2, catches her first semi-frozen fish with the help of the three.
“Seeing her catch a fish,” responds McDonough, asked to describe the sport’s attraction.
McDonough said he has not been ice-fishing in about 20 years, since an Elks Lodge fishing competition on the same spot, and came out briefly Sunday to see friends.
Guerin is a fisherman and said he likes to ice-fish because there’s nothing else to do in winter.
“It’s just a fun recreational sport. You get to maybe catch a little dinner, plus ... it’s a good social event,” Guerin said.
This time around, the fish doesn’t get eaten. Guerin said he would keep bluegill, crappie or perch, but the morning’s catch, a pickerel, is known for bones and goes back into the water.
Nearby, a group of children put the ice to other use.
Five children attached to a group of 16 people skate in the patches where the light covering of snow is thinnest.
Opinions of the fishing conditions after this week’s forecasted temperature increase are mixed. Mimitz said he and Santos don’t fish if the ice is less than six inches thick, and it is already only five or six inches thick where they have drilled.
Erik of the McDonough and Guerin group, who declines to give his last name, said he is sure it will freeze again, and says only a couple of inches are needed to support one person.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife recommends not venturing onto ice less than four inches thick and warns that the thickness will vary across a body of water.
At Barton Cove, the edges are thin and cracked and fishermen have put down plank bridges. The ice creaks and pops as the temperature changes and occasionally cracks underfoot.
You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257