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Ice Fishing Festival Draws Hundreds Onto Frozen Lake Champlain

People stand on frozen Lake Champlain.
Bayla Metzger / VPR
Hundreds of people walked out onto frozen Lake Champlain in North Hero for the sixth annual Ice Fishing Festival on Saturday.

More than 500 people walked onto frozen Lake Champlain in North Hero for the Ice Fishing Festival on Saturday. During the annual event, held by Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, residents are allowed to fish without a license.

Henry Wisloski, 7, was bundled up in a hat and scarf. His face was barely visible as he watched his dad, Steve Wisloski, drill a hole through the ice. The Wisloskis attended with Cub Scout pack 678 out of South Burlington. A group of boys and their parents spread out over the frozen lake, drilling holes and dangling fishing lines below the surface. Many of them were trying ice fishing for the first time.

“What we’re doing is jigging,” Steve Wisloski said. “You basically let the line go all the way to the bottom of the lake. And you sort of get the bait right up off the bottom. And then you kind of slowly wind it back up out of the ice, bouncing it as you go. And if you get a fish, real quickly pull ‘em up out of the hole.”

"Really [ice fishing is] just about being with friends and doing something to get away from the hustle and bustle." - Lexi Boudreau from Milton

Lexi Boudreau, from Milton, has been ice fishing with her father since she was young. She brought two friends to the Saturday event to teach them the sport. They dragged a sled piled high with supplies onto the lake, and used big cat litter bins for chairs.

“Really [ice fishing is] just about being with friends and doing something to get away from the hustle and bustle,” she said.

Fish and Wildlife set up a fry station, so anyone who caught a fish could eat it.  Boudreau caught a six inch perch that kitchen volunteers fried into crunchy bite-sized bits of  breaded fish.

“Tastes like fried food,” says Boudreau approvingly. “But it’s very fresh, it’s not like when you go to the restaurant and you get something frozen. It’s soft, crunchy, and kind of salty. It’s really good.”

After eating, they headed back onto the lake for more fishing.

Bayla joined VPR in 2018 as the producer for Morning Edition. She left in 2019.
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