The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department encourage newcomers to ice fishing to give the winter sport a try — and offer up tips on how to angle safely.

People spend more than 400,000 days each winter fishing on Vermont ice, the department said.

“Ice fishing is generally more accessible than open water fishing,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist. “Almost anyone can walk out on a frozen lake or pond and fish through the ice. And once you’re out there, there’s lots of room to spread out.”

It’s not just about the fish, he explained — kids can run around on the ice and snow. People at times bring grills and have food and hot drinks to beat the cold.

It’s inexpensive and simple to get started, Good said.

Plus, he added, “I think fish taste better in the winter. There’s something different about pulling a tasty perch, bluegill or bass from ice cold water. They tend to be firmer and have a milder taste than in the summer.”

A healthy dose of common sense can keep the experience safe and enjoyable, Good said. Clear black ice needs to be a minimum of 3 or 4 inches to safely walk on and bait and tackle shops’ staff can help determine the depth.

Smaller ponds and those at higher elevation often have the best ice in mild winters like this year’s Good said.

“Many large lakes still have not developed thick, solid black ice. Some haven’t frozen over at all yet. Anglers looking to get out should focus on smaller waters and make the effort to check ice thickness frequently as you venture across the ice,” he said.

Anglers should remember that ice isn’t always uniform in thickness and should carry a set of ice picks, bring a buddy and let others know where they are fishing, for how long and when they plan to return home.

Good said dressing properly is key to a great day of fishing.

“On a calm sunny day, you’ll be surprised how comfortable you feel. Even with the thermometer showing single digits, the sun will warm you right up. Make sure you dress in layers and keep your head, hands and feet covered and dry, and you’ll be quite toasty.”

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