Snapshot: Ice Fishing

Ice fishing, late afternoon, Friday, March 13, Kingsland Bay. Last week’s thaw took care of most of the snow on Lake Champlain, but the ice remains.


Lake to table: Lots of good eating in fish from Champlain

Great show this week on VPR Cafe, about making meals with fish from Lake Champlain. Candace Page, longtime journalist with the Burlington Free Press, talks with host Ric Cengeri about how most people needn’t worry about eating fish from the lake, and how there is plenty of good eating to be found in the various species that one can catch, either from a boat or through the ice.

The emphasis is on catching it yourself, because there is no commercial fishery in Lake Champlain and it’s illegal to sell most gamefish caught in the lake. So the fish available in stores, and to a lesser degree in restaurants, are mostly pan fish, such as white and yellow perch.

Definitely worth a listen.

Spiny water flea arrives in Lake Champlain

Not good news for the lake, but pretty much inevitable, given the proximity of affected waters: the spiny water flea has arrived in Lake Champlain, according to researchers at the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

The non-native aquatic organism has been in the Great Lakes for decades, and was discovered in Lake George in 2012. It had also been found in recent years in the Champlain Canal, so researchers have felt that it was just a matter of time before it was confirmed in the lake.

Scientists are worried that the spiny water flea could disrupt the food chain in the lake. It’s also said to be a nuisance for anglers, since it fouls fishing lines. But it is not believed to pose a health threat to humans.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources now says that the focus has to be on keeping the spiny water flea from spreading to other bodies of water in Vermont, by making sure that water is not transported between Lake Champlain and other lakes and ponds.

What lies beneath, set to music

There’s a nice multimedia piece with photos and video in the Burlington Free Press about Ben Maddox, a musician who videos fish and other underwater life in Lake Champlain, and then sets the videos to his own music and posts them to YouTube. He calls the series “I See Fish People.”

The Free Press website also has some of his videos available.

Makes you want to grab your mask and snorkel and go see what you can find.

Study looks at effects of tournaments on fish

Bass fishing tournaments are catch-and-release affairs. With live wells on their boats, anglers bring live fish to weigh-ins, and release the fish as quickly as possible. Tournament rules have evolved over the years, and anecdotal evidence is that they do a pretty good job of protecting fish, and the fishery.

It’s a given that these tournaments, more and more popular every year in the Lake Champlain basin and elsewhere, can be boons, economically. But some folks thought it would make sense to study the fish, to see what the effects actually are.

Among them was Mark Malchoff of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program, a joint program of the University of Vermont and the State University of New York-Plattsburgh. Malchoff talked with North Country Public Radio:

Malchoff and his team wanted to know more about what happens to fish during and after a tournament, questions such as: “How far are bass being transported? Do they disperse once they’re released from the tournament venue?”

Malchoff started hanging around Bass tournaments based in Cumberland Bay, right near Plattsburgh. The team tagged more than 2,000 fish.

* * * * * * * * *

[Based on their research] Malchoff’s team laid out a series of recommendations to guide tournament organizers, like measures to promote shorter time in the live well, plenty of shade and water pumps at the weigh-in site, and choosing a release site further from the shore.

You can read the research report at the Sea Grant website.

Listen to or read the NCPR story at their site.

Grant funds Maritime Museum teacher workshops

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh will be offering workshops for up to 100 fourth- through 12th-grade teachers in the Champlain basin, with the help of a grant the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From an LCMM press release:

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is the first Vermont recipient of a grant from New England B-WET. The grant will support teacher training workshops in on-water ecology. “B-WET” stands for “New England Bay Watershed Education and Training.” The Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded B-WET grants to support nine educational projects in New England to provide hands-on learning experiences for K-12 students to foster greater understanding of and connection to local watersheds.

“Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is honored to be New England B-WET’s first Vermont grant recipient, said Erick Tichonuk, LCMM’s Executive Director. “The grant will enable us to offer professional development training in our On-Water Ecology Program to Champlain Basin teachers, providing them with new methods to engage students in math, science, ecology, and technology concepts using local watersheds as their classrooms.  Teachers will learn the skills and knowledge that will enable them to conduct outdoor watershed experiences themselves, and perform experiments and data collection that will complement their own classroom-based curriculum.”

Thanks to B-WET grant funds, in the next two years, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum will offer 4th through 12th grade teachers On-Water Ecology workshops in two Vermont and two New York counties. Registration is now open for the first all-day workshop, to be held at LCMM on Friday October 25. The second workshop will be held in Chittenden County, VT later this fall. For information and to register, please contact Ben Mayock at LCMM, 802 475-2022 or email

Chasing bass, at 40 mph-plus

Pro fisherman Tommy Waltz of Georgia. -- Andrew Nemethy photo.

Pro fisherman Tommy Waltz of Georgia. — Andrew Nemethy photo.

Great story on professional bass fishing on Lake Champlain from Andrew Nemethy and Maple Corner Media, via the “In This State” column at

Welcome to the world of professional Vermont bass fishing. It’s less than a world, really, more like a sub-sub-culture or small but avid, odd and insanely addictive niche in the angling world. Addictive as in hook, line and sinker, rods, reels and lures, boat and massive motor, trailer, truck and human brain and body, all laser-focused on a silvery big-mouthed, badass-fighting fish with a voracious appetite that grows so big – five, six, seven pounds – they’re called “hogs.”

“Its hard for people to understand,” admits Waltz about his passion. “Most of the time I don’t really even try” to explain it, he says.