Friday, June 7, 2002

Conditions Don't Dampen Anglers' Spirits

I've always liked to fish, but I never thought I would be writing about it. I covered my first fishing tournament as an intern for the Burlington Free Press in Burlington, VT. This article is short and sweet, just how I like it. Enjoy.

The constant rainfall and rising lake level did little to prevent anglers from casting rods into Lake Champlain on Saturday. Fishermen seemed to use the precipitation and an overnight cold front to their advantage on the opening day of the 21st annual Lake Champlain International fishing derby.

"The cool temperature and rain causes the coldwater species to be more active in this season," said Weston Davis, the Burlington weigh station captain, "so we're getting a lot of nice size lake trout."

Lake trout and salmon were prevalent in the Shelburne Bay area. Despite muddy water, anglers still found bass and bowfins in shallower waters.

Fishermen cited rivers and deltas as the most difficult places to catch fish. The extensive rainfall over the past two weeks in northern Vermont has left water murky and turbulent in these areas.

"I would say this year is more challenging because there are places that we fish off the mouths of the Winooski River and Lamoille River that are not fishable because of water clarity -- where historically we've caught a good quantity of salmon," said Dan Kiniry, who used a Needlefish and spoons in hopes of finding salmon.

"We've had fewer fish weighed in here than we usually do," said weigh captain Don Tobi. "I think that's because we usually get a lot of guys who fish in the rivers, and they can't fish in the rivers this year."

The 51-degree lake water was close to perfect for anglers like Kiniry who were chasing lake trout at various depths in the big lake. The salmon seemed more fussy.

Kiniry said he hooked, but lost, several salmon early in the morning along Red Rocks off Burlington, and decided to change his tactics at noon.

He had better luck with lake trout.

"I put one line down to see if we could get a lake trout and it took that one right away," he said.

Farther north, in the shallow waters around Grand Isle and North Hero areas, fishermen mostly reeled in largemouth and smallmouth bass with a significant number of bowfin as well.

The LCI reported large numbers of fish and high levels of optimism despite expected rainfall for the remainder of the event.

"The weather didn't bother me any," said David Slayton of East Ryegate. "The fish are still biting. You might get a little wet, that's it. I just want to get out there."