Athol Daily News – Sportsman’s Corner: Ice Fishing

Athol Daily News – Sportsman’s Corner: Ice Fishing

By Mike Roche

The recent cold nights have produced some ice, and anglers and women are starting to do some “hard water” fishing locally. This writer went out for the first time last Friday and found about four inches of ice. This is good for ice fishing activities and the basic minimum that most people use. Ice can still shift or move as people concentrate in one place.

These fishing performed well, with a number of large bass being taken and released. My short flight was hop only and no fresh taste. Nothing of note and the Vexilar striper did not identify any fish. It was bright sunlight (finally!) and midday, so the lack of movement wasn’t surprising, but it was nice to get out for an hour.

On Sunday, the Mahar Fish’N Game Club held its annual ice fishing race on Ellis Lake. Members braved the cold and there was an excellent turnout as members competed against each other, while many were experiencing ice fishing for the first time ever. I’ve had the pleasure of providing some interventions to a few beginners, and the club has also provided tips for members to use. I really enjoyed visiting with Ronnie Sujinen and Aiden and Zach Graziano, who were fishing hard all day.

My jigging rods have also been used, and the club is very grateful for the generous support of Gerry Balchunias from Crack of Dawn Bait in Phillipston. The glossies I actually bought were still vibrant three days later! Well, it seemed that no matter how energetic the anglers were or how tempting the spikes or mealworms on the jigs were, the fish weren’t very cooperative. Despite the best efforts of the members, only two fish were landed and very few fish flew. However, the hot dogs were great!

The Mahar Fish’N Game Club Dinner is scheduled for Saturday, March 9, and members must have tickets. Doors will open at 5:30 for this popular event, which made a strong comeback last year after a break due to the coronavirus. The meal will start with appetizers around 6 and then dinner at 6:30. Prizes and raffles will follow. You can contact the high school Fish’N Game Club advisor, Evelyn Cunha ( or 413-221-5297) or the middle school Fish’N Game advisor, Billy Devine ( or 508-667-0955) at Order tickets. Tickets are also available from club members. As always, the Club relies on and greatly appreciates donations of fish and game for the meal. You can contact the advisors with any game you would like to contribute to the meal, which is always fantastic and prepared by a very experienced kitchen staff led by Mark Kovalcik and members of the Orange Gun Club.

By the way, if you haven’t visited the Orange Gun Club recently, you should stop by and see all the renovations and updates, including the club’s handicap access. The ranges at Orange Gun Club are first class and well maintained for shooting up to 200 yards with covered shooting benches.

Unfortunately, my plate has been full this week and every day something comes in the way of my goal of going ice fishing. Mahar’s graduating class of 1969 (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) is planning to hold reunion events this year, and there was a meeting to organize, and as class president, it was my job to get things started. My efficiency was clearly not what it used to be, and meeting today’s standards by hosting a Zoom meeting was a challenge. Hopefully you’ll have some free time before the next heatwave.

Teens who love the outdoors should consider attending the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp. With a diverse outdoor schedule designed for girls and boys ages 13-17, Massachusetts Junior Camp (MJCC) offers a hands-on curriculum focused on outdoor skills, conservation, and ethics. During the two-week overnight camp, teens can try new outdoor activities, improve their existing skills and meet like-minded peers.

The camp will be held at Moses Scout Reserve in Russell from August 5-17. Registration is now open. Conservation groups and sports clubs who wish to sponsor the camper can also register to reserve a spot for a deserving teen.

Campers gain a variety of skills during their two weeks at camp. Professionals from environmental agencies provide hands-on experiences and demonstrations on topics including wildlife, fisheries, wildfire control and forest management. Experienced men and women who are passionate about the outdoors teach fishing, camping, wild foods, archery, firearms shooting and safety. Additionally, campers have the opportunity to earn certifications in basic angler education and boating safety.

Tuition is $1,150, but most camp participants receive full scholarships from sports clubs and conservation organizations around the state. Click here for more information about groups receiving camp scholarships. For an inside look at life at the camp, there is information on the MassWildlife website or you can check out a recent Massachusetts Wildlife magazine article. My experience with the camp goes back to my years as a counselor and then camp director. It was a life-changing experience for many as many of the programs were delivered by MassWildlife professionals who are some of the best experts in their fields.

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in wildlife and wildlife conservation issues his entire life. He has written for Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as an advisor to the MaharFish’N Game Club, an advisor and director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, a former representative of the Connecticut Valley Region to the Massachusetts Board of Fisheries and Wildlife, and an educational instructor for Massachusetts hunters. He is a licensed fishing guide in New York. He can be reached at

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