By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — PORT HENRY — Moriah resident Thomas Baker checked the tip-ups in front of his wooden ice shanty and predicted a busy weekend on the lake.
“It’ll be jam-packed this weekend. The ice is a good 11 inches thick. It’s good ice fishing for a change.”
As of Tuesday, five ice shanties had been moved on to the ice on Lake Champlain’s Bulwagga Bay, but anglers say dozens more are coming if the temperature stays below freezing.
The weather has been too warm the last few years for the ice to freeze thick enough, Baker said, but this year, sub-zero temperatures have finally given them a season.
“We just need the fish. I’ve caught three perch so far today. But it’s early in the season.”
The weather warmed up for a couple days, with rain predicted, but it’s supposed to get cold again.
“The rain won’t hurt the ice,” Baker said Tuesday. “It’ll melt the snow on top.”
He used his four-wheel all-terrain vehicle to pull his ice shanty out.
“I wasn’t the first out here with a four-wheeler. I wouldn’t bring a truck out, but the ice will support a four-wheeler.”
Baker has two poles out and seven tip-ups, which are ice-fishing rigs made of wood, plastic or metal with a line spool and hook and bait. They are lowered into holes drilled in the ice.
His two-hole ice shanty not only has a heater but an AM-FM radio, cellphone and some fish models hanging outside.
“I wanted to get artistic with my shanty. I like to be out here. I was born and raised on the lake.”
The fishing isn’t just good in Port Henry and Moriah but all the way to Ticonderoga and south, Baker said.
Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said ice anglers are finally getting to catch some fish.
“There are more and more out there every day. They’re having a great time. It’s good to see ice fishing return.”
The parking lot at the Moriah’s Bulwagga Bay Town Campground has been nearly full almost every day, as fishermen park there and walk out with collapsible ice shelters.
In past years, hundreds of ice shanties have been set up off shore in Moriah, so many that ice-shanty “cities” formed and were given names like “The Hole” and “Bryantville.”
An ice taxi and delivery service even ran between the Port Henry State Boat Launch parking lot and the ice cities.
But warm weather the last few years made the ice either too thin or the lake didn’t freeze at all.
Lake Champlain has not completely frozen over since 2007. But the lack of ice only affects parts of the lake, since the northern end is somewhat shallow and regularly freezes over completely.
It’s unknown how much of a part global warming plays in the lack of a complete freeze-over, but researchers say it’s probably only one of several factors involved. Another may be treated wastewater discharges — from more communities with treatment plants — that are warmer than the rest of the water in the lake.
Whatever the reason, cold temperatures this year were welcomed by ice anglers, Port Henry resident Jan Morin said as he used an ice auger to drill holes near his sled in Bulwagga Bay.
“Some people are catching fish out here, but they’re not biting for me today,” he said, taking a pole in hand at one of the holes he’d drilled. “I’ve tried all kinds of lures. Some guys have filled buckets with fish.”
Most fishermen are catching perch and lake trout, he said, and he did catch a bunch of yellow perch last weekend.
“I’ve caught two bass near Ticonderoga. But not many perch.
“I am having a good time, though.”
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