It has been a weird year so far as far as the weather is concerned. Finally it has been cold enough long enough up north to provide safe ice for fishing on most of the lakes. Ice fishing is one of those sports that requires a very minimal investment in gear and is fun for the whole family.
The Maine and New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife Departments have, over the past few years, really worked hard to try to provide winter fishermen with a good experience. They have been stocking more and more waters in the late fall specifically to promote ice fishing.
Seth Legere, who works in the fishing department at the Kittery Trading Post tells me that this is especially true of brook trout.
“Some of these ponds, both small and large, could be called marginal waters for brook trout survival,” he said. “ But because of the number of them and the often great access, this ice fishing has taken off and could very well be more popular than the open water-fishing that these ponds experience.
“The question of how to ice fish for brook trout is not an easy one to answer,” he continued. “For one thing, it’s natural for wild brook trout to be very territorial, especially the older and larger fish. They also usually prefer shallow water shorelines with a lot of cover for both baitfish and trout to inhabit. Unlike rainbow trout and salmon, they don’t usually suspend near the surface. Brown trout also will suspend off bottom but their reason is following schools of baitfish to wherever they are.”
Seth feels that in New England “...brookies are not exclusively bottom feeding fish, but they do much of their feeding on bottom dwellers such as crawfish and other bottom living critters such as insect nymphs. But, here comes the rub. Freshly stocked brookies have been taken out of moving water troths at the hatcheries so they are often acclimated to running water. So, until these brook trout adapt to their wild cousin’s choice of staying along the shoreline in cover, these freshly stocked trout will often gather around moving water like streams and brooks that dump into a pond. And to make these places more attractive to brook trout anglers, some of the larger wild trout also share these “stockies” choice of feeding near moving water. Their name, brook trout, has to reveal this tendency.”