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February 25. 2013 6:32PM

First-time ice fishing nets fun...and fish

UNITY - Experienced to novice ice fishermen took to Crescent Lake on Saturday afternoon for the state Fish and Game's free Let's Go Fishing class.

Volunteer instructors Walter Ryan of Newport and Bud Tate of Claremont have been teaching the Claremont-area class for years.

Ryan has been ice fishing since his childhood, Tate for the past 15 years.

It's a sport that is often passed down from grandfathers and fathers to their children, but some people just find it interesting and start, Ryan said.

"I love fishing and I was only a fisherman during the summer," Tate said. A friend got him to start ice fishing and "I was hooked. . You can go out and do what we're doing now and talk with your friends, it's more of a social thing."

The Let's Go Fishing classes are free. Saturday's class was offered in conjunction with the Claremont Recreation Department.

The class of about 17 adults and children started the day at the Claremont Community Center for the indoor instruction part of the class before going to Crescent Lake in Unity to put what they learned into practice.

"We teach safety on the ice. We teach a little bit about hyperthermia. Safety is a part of any of the course that we offer. We do an ice fishing course. We do basic fishing, fly fishing and salt water fishing," Ryan said.

Ice fishing safety tips given Saturday included waiting for your instructor to go out onto the ice and test it for thickness before venturing out yourself, Ryan said. "We need a minimum 6 inches."

Ryan used a chisel to test the thickness of the ice by striking the chisel on the ice and listening. Crescent Lake had about 16 to 18 inches of ice on Saturday, he said.

A gas-powered auger was then used to create the holes for fishing.

The students were then given simple wooden tip-ups with a spool of fishing line and a small orange flag that shoots up when there is a tug at the line.

This type of ice fishing is simple and inexpensive, but often serious ice fishers invest in a lot of new technology, Ryan said.

"This is fairly simple. Some guys go out with several thousands of dollars of electronics and put a camera down the hole and if they don't like what they see make another hole," Ryan said.

Normally a setup like this would yield 30 to 40 fish in a few hours, Ryan said, but on Saturday, "Unfortunately the fish aren't biting."

Tate said it might just be "lazy" fish.

"Toward the end of the year, when you get a lot of snow-cover, what happens is a lot of the plants on the bottoms die and when they die it eats up a lot of the oxygen in the water so the fish get a lot lazier," Tate said. "The first part of the year is usually the best part."

Tate said ice fishing has grown in popularity over the past 30 years, when electric and gas-powered augers made it easier to create the ice fishing holes.

Without a modern auger, Ryan said he doesn't think he would ice fish.

"I think if you wanted fish you would have caught them during the summer and salted them down to keep them over the winter," Ryan said of ice fishing before modern technology.

Saturday's class was predominantly children including a 4-H class and several parents who brought their children.

"I went ice fishing as a kid and I loved it. And I thought it would be a good experience being outside in the fresh air for a day. Fresh air is always good," said Sarah Delaney of Claremont, who brought her three children, 7-year-old Emily, 10-year-old Josh and 13-year-old Nate Treadway to the class.

Amanda Wittemann of Claremont was the only one to catch a fish, a pickerel. But everyone had a great time hanging out and talking on the ice.

For Alan Poirier of Londonderry, who brought his daughters Sarah, 17, and Lauren, 14, it was a great day outside connecting with his children.

"For me I'm behind a desk all week so it's nice to be outside even though it's not Florida. It's nice," he said. "It's been fun. We've talked, spent some time together."

Lauren agreed, "It's cool to spend some quality time with my family."

"I think her toes are cold though," said Alan Poirier, laughing.

mpierce@newstote.com


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