Our Top 12 Ice-Fishing Hotspots

Here's where to go in New England this month for some great winter fishing. (December 2007)

Photo by Tim Lesmeister.

Winter will soon be upon us, bringing with it another highly anticipated ice-fishing season. Anglers across New England are keeping their fingers crossed in the hopes of getting plenty of safe ice and lots of action.

Two years ago, the ice-fishing season was short because the winter was warmer than usual. But last winter, cold temperatures dominated the Northeast, producing one of the best ice-fishing seasons of the new millennium.

When the ice locks up our lakes and ponds this winter, plan to set your tip-ups on one of these 12 proven hotspots.

RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island generally has a short -- but very active -- ice-fishing season because ocean breezes moderate winter temperatures. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife stocks trout in the autumn season for winter angling. The state also has an active northern pike program for added ice-fishing thrills.

Tucker Pond

Ice-anglers will find a well-rounded fishery on Tucker Pond in South Kingston. The DFW stocks the pond with trout in spring, and there are always a few holdovers for winter. Yellow and white perch are plentiful and should keep jig fishermen entertained.

Anglers can also expect to catch chain pickerel and largemouth bass on their tip-ups.

Most Rhode Island ponds are manmade reservoirs and usually shallow. But Tucker Pond is a natural lake covering about 101 acres. It is also rather deep, with a basin of 32 feet and an average depth of about 11 feet. The southern shoreline has a distinct break line that attracts white perch, trout and largemouth bass. Pickerel and yellow perch dwell in the northern end, which is shallow and flat. Weeds thrive in the northern end, in spite of the ice and cold.

Access to Tucker Pond is provided through a state-owned boat-launching ramp on the northern end of the pond. Snowplows often clear the ramp's parking lot for ice-anglers.

To get there from the north or west, take Route 1 into Perryville. Turn northward onto Route 110. After about four miles, turn right on Tuckertown Road toward the pond access.

Georgiaville Pond

Ice-anglers should find good action on Georgiaville Pond in Smithfield. This 92-acre lake offers great bass and perch fishing. Some pickerel are available to keep your tip-ups jumping.

Georgiaville Pond has a maximum depth of 25 feet with an average depth of 13 feet. During winter, the pond thermally stratifies.

Below 10 feet deep, oxygen levels are often too low to support fish, so concentrate your fishing efforts in shallower water.

The pond can be approached as three distinct areas. Anglers who prefer to fish in deep water should work the southern end of the pond where the shoreline is steep and shoals surround the pond's small islands.

The central portion also has steep drop-offs, but several long, tapered points can be strong producers.

The northern section is shallow and weedy, great for panfish and bass.

Georgiaville Pond has more access for ice-anglers than for open-water anglers. The best access point lies near the Smithfield town beach.

Take Exit 8 off Interstate Route 295 north of Providence. Travel south on Route 7 for about two miles. After about two miles, turn right onto Whipple Road, and then turn right on Fernwood Avenue. Take the first right on Cross Street and then left on Stillwater Road to the beach.

For Rhode Island fishing and licensing information, call the Division of Fish and Wildlife at (401) 222-3576.

For tourist information, call 1-800-556-2484.

CONNECTICUT

The southern part of the Constitution State often lacks safe ice, but the hills of the state's northwestern and northeastern corners produce some of the finest ice-fishing action in the region.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection stocks trout in the fall. The state also has active northern pike and walleye stocking programs.

Mansfield Hollow Reservoir

This U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control reservoir in northeastern Connecticut offers ice-anglers a cornucopia of fishing opportunities. Northern pike, largemouth bass, trout, yellow perch and crappies are available in this 440-acre impoundment.

The lake is shallow, with an average depth of only 6 feet. Weed growth generally covers the lake's bottom, even during the winter months. Some of the better fishing spots are along the causeway near the boat-launching area and in the coves created by the confluences of the Fenton and Natchaug rivers.

DEP studies indicate the lake has a healthy population of largemouth bass measuring 10 to 14 inches. The better to manage those bass, the DEP placed a 12- to 16-inch slot limit on the lake. Bass within that range must be released. The DEP also actively manages the lake for northern pike.

The state maintains a boat-launch ramp on the lake, and the parking lot is usually plowed throughout the winter. Access to the reservoir is close to Route 6 in North Windham.

Turn north on Bassett Bridge Road for about 1.5 miles to the ramp. Signs mark the way.

Ball Pond

Ice-anglers looking for some hot action should try Ball Pond in New Fairfield. This 82-acre pond offers some of the best trout and largemouth bass fishing in the state. The DEP stocks the pond with trout in both spring and fall. Also, according to fisheries information, the pond has an abundance of largemouth bass in the 15- to 20-inch range.

Ball Pond is a natural lake with a maximum depth of 51 feet and an average depth of 24 feet. The northern part of the pond holds the deepest water, while the southern end of the lake is shallow and weedy. There is a large alewife population to help bass thrive. Minnows and alewife-colored jigging lures are ideal for Ball Pond in winter.

Access to Ball Pond is via a small boat ramp on the southern end of the lake. Take Exit 5 off I-84 and travel north on Route 39 for about seven miles to New Fairfield.

Turn right o

nto Gillotti Road. Bear left onto Ball Pond Road toward the ramp's parking area.

For fishing and licensing information, call the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Inland Fisheries Division, at 1-860-424-3475. For tourist information, call 1-800-282-6863.

MASSACHUSETTS

Like Connecticut and Rhode Island, Massachusetts has an active autumn trout-stocking program.

The Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife also releases surplus brood-stock Atlantic salmon into select lakes and ponds around the state. While these fish are infrequent visitors to tip-ups, the trophy potential keeps many anglers coming back during the ice-fishing season.

Norton Reservoir

Shallow lakes tend to freeze quickly, so ice-anglers in the Bay State can expect 529-acre Norton Reservoir in Norton to be ready for action early in the season. Most of the lake is fairly shallow, averaging only 3 to 4 feet deep.

Ice-anglers will also enjoy fishing this lake because weed growth is sparse, so their hooks will stay clean.

This lake has a large population of small- to medium-sized white perch. Catching these fish on a jigging rod can be fast, furious and loads of fun.

Also, chain pickerel, largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappies and the occasional northern pike can come through ice holes.

Anglers will find several access points on the lake. Parking is available at a large boat-launching ramp off Reservoir Avenue at the north end of the lake. Another access point is near the dam on Reservoir Avenue in the lake's northeast corner.

Route 140 cuts off two small ponds from the main lake with shoreline access along Route 140. Take Exit 11 off I-495 west of Taunton onto Route 140. Travel south on Route 140 for about two miles. Reservoir Avenue will be the first left.

Snipatuit Pond

Snipatuit Pond is a 710-acre lake that tends to freeze early in the season. This pond is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 6 feet and an average depth of 5 feet. Ice-anglers should jig with glowing lures or add bright-colored beads to their tip-up rigs because the pond's water is tannin stained from surrounding swampy wetlands and cranberry bogs.

Ice-anglers will find chain pickerel, largemouth bass, yellow perch, sunfish, crappies and northern pike. Pickerel and yellow perch will likely dominate the day's catch.

Fishing the pond is not difficult. Start on the points or at the mouths of coves on the eastern side of the lake.

The lake has a modest parking area near the boat-launching ramp. To get to the ramp, take Exit 3 off I-495 east of Middleborough. Travel east on Route 28 to South Middleborough. Turn right on Spruce Street to Bisbee Corners. Then turn left on Neck Road. After passing over the causeway, the ramp will be on the right. Some limited parking can also be found along Neck Road.

For fishing and licensing information, call the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife at (617) 626-1591.

For tourist information, call 1-800- 227-MASS (1-800-277-6227).

VERMONT

Currier & Ives probably visited Vermont when painting their winter ice-fishing scenes. Not much has changed in the Green Mountain State since -- the scenery is still beautiful, and the ice still gets thick enough to run a team of horses on it.

In some parts of the state, the ice-fishing season lasts as long as the open-water season!

Connecticut River Setbacks

Between Springfield and Bellows Falls, ice-anglers will find several large setback coves off the Connecticut River. (Setbacks are formed by the widening of incoming tributary deltas.) These coves are relatively shallow, but they attract some of the largest yellow perch in all of New England. Additionally, ice-anglers here will catch northern pike, largemouth bass and walleyes.

When fishing these setbacks, don't be afraid to set up close to shore. The old creek channels often run deepest along the bank, leaving the center of the coves shallow and weedy.

The best setback is Whites Cove in Springfield. Take Exit 7 off I-91 onto Route 11. Travel east on Route 11 to the access point at the Connecticut River bridge. Another very good setback is in Rockingham off Exit 6 from I-91. Follow Route 5 north from the highway exit to the access area.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife encourages winter angling by managing specific waters for ice-anglers, and even sponsors a license-free ice-fishing weekend in February.

Lake Dunmore

Ice-anglers looking for that Currier & Ives view can visit Lake Dunmore in Salisbury and Leicester. This 985- acre lake has a maximum depth of 105 feet, plenty deep enough to support some big coldwater species, including lake trout.

The northern and southern ends of the lake are shallow, running about 5 feet on average, to attract yellow perch and largemouth bass.

Anglers have two main access points. On the eastern side of the lake, anglers may walk through Branbury State Park off Route 53. On the west side of the lake, the state maintains a boat-launching ramp on West Shore Road off Route 7 in Salisbury.

For fishing and licensing information, call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department at (802) 241-3700.

For tourist information, call 1-800- 837-6668.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Like Vermont, New Hampshire is an ice-fishing mecca. This is especially true in late winter when the big ice-fishing derbies take place. But in December, anglers should look for smaller, shallower ponds that freeze early and provide great fishing.

Highland Lake

During summer, Highland Lake is a popular bass-fishing destination. But come winter, the bass men yield to the ice-fishing crowd. This 697-acre hotspot in the towns of Stoddard and Washington is a long, thin lake running north to south. Because the lake is long and narrow, expect to walk a distance to get to the prime fishing areas in the center of the lake. Most of the lake is less than 10 feet deep.

Even during the winter season, bass are still the primary quarry, as the lake is blessed with good populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Pickerel, crappie, sunfish and perch will also provide fishing excitement.

The main access is via a state-owned boat-launching ramp on Route 123 in Stoddard. Anglers will also find walk-in access points on the east side of the lake in William Family Forest and the Pickerel Cove Conservation Area. From the east or west, take Route 9 to Route 123. And then, drive north on Route 123 for about two miles to the lake.

Island Pond

If you don't feel like walking a long way, drive south on Route 123 one mile to Island Pond. This 179-acre lake in Stoddard boasts smallmouth and largemouth bass as the dominant species. Yellow perch, chain pickerel and sunfish should also keep you entertained.

The lake is round with a rocky bottom. It has a maximum depth of about 15 feet, with an average depth of 8 feet. The best fishing is usually off the shoal that runs parallel to Route 123. Another option is to walk across the lake to the deep coves on the lake's northeast side. Access to the pond is via a town-owned right of way on Route 123.

For fishing and licensing information, call the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at (603) 271-3211.

For tourist information, call 1-800- 386-4664.

MAINE

Anglers in Maine take ice-fishing seriously. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife encourages winter angling by managing specific waters for ice-anglers, and even sponsors a license-free ice-fishing weekend in February.

Knight Pond

Most coldwater lakes and ponds in Maine are closed to ice-fishing until Jan. 1. But Knight Pond gives anglers a jump-start on the season by opening as soon as safe ice forms.

This 102-acre lake in Northport has a good population of smallmouth bass, white perch, chain pickerel and yellow perch.

The pond is rather shallow, with a maximum depth of about 13 feet. Ice- anglers report good fishing in the deeper waters along the southern end of the pond.

The MDIFW maintains an access area on the extreme southern end of the pond. In Northport Center, take Beech Hill Road west off Route 1. Drive for about three miles to Knights Pond Road. Turn left and follow Knights Pond Road to the access point.

Webb Lake

Webb Lake is a 2,146-acre lake in Weld. Because of suspect ice conditions, the lake is closed to fishing during December, opening instead on Jan. 1. It's worth the wait, however, with its good supply of landlocked salmon, trout, smelts, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, white perch and chain pickerel.

Anglers will find a maximum depth of 42 feet and an average depth of about 15 feet. Many small inlets enter all sides of the lake to keep it supplied with clean, fresh water. Be careful when fishing around the inlets: Spring holes and strong currents can affect ice formation and thickness.

Webb Lake is accessible via Mount Blue State Park on the west side of the pond. From Dixfield, take Route 142 north for about nine miles to West Road. Continue northward on West Road for about five miles to the state park.

Because of a rash of illegal transfers of fish, the MDIFW now prohibits the release of unused baitfish into Maine's waters. Unused bait may be frozen and used as dead bait, left on the ice for wildlife for forage, or else it must be thrown away.

For fishing and licensing information, call the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at (207) 287-8000.

For tourist information, call 1-888- 624-6345.

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