No winter is complete without a little ice fishing, even it is barely winter this year. The two of us hosted an ice fishing outing for The Catskill Center at Big Pond on February 16th. Big Pond is located along Barkaboom Road, near the Ulster-Delaware County line in the Beaverkill Valley. It was one of many days with mild temperatures, but the ice on Big Pond was still thick enough for fishing (4-5 inches near shore, about 7 inches out deeper). We had a great turnout, with seven adults and six kids; one family was Australian, visiting the U.S. for a year and eager to explore the area. In addition to our group, there were several others out on the lake, but not as many as we saw out there last year.
We loaded up our plastic sleds with gear, ventured out on the ice, and headed to an open spot. We then drilled a bunch of fishing holes with the ice auger, turned over some buckets for seats, and set everyone up with all of the necessary. We set up tip-ups using live minnows for bait and handed out the jigging rods with flashy lures and mealworms donated by Mountaintop Bait in Margaretville. It was a slow day for fishing, without a single tip-up flag popping up all day, but Heather Sleeper, from New Jersey (with a second home in Andes), caught the only fish of our group – a beautiful 15-16″ brown trout, caught on a minnow using a fishing rod. Brown trout are stocked in Big Pond by the Catskill Trout Hatchery in DeBruce (including some of their big ‘brood stock’ that weigh upwards of five pounds). Big Pond is one of a handful of waters in the State where trout can be legally fished in the winter. After showing the fish around and getting a few pictures, Heather let her fish go back through the hole to fight another day. Of all the people on the lake that day, I only saw two other trout caught, one quite large. In addition to trout, one can catch bass and pickerel in Big Pond.
This outing was more than just a day out ice fishing. We also took the opportunity to introduce the Catskills to a new extreme outdoors sport – ice bowling; yes, ice bowling. We knew that there were going to be kids coming out, and sometimes it’s easy for them to get bored while ice-fishing, so we also brought along our two old bowling balls and a set of old pins we bought from Mike Finberg over at Margaretville Bowl. We cleaned off a strip of ice and set up the pins for some great bowling action. Not many other bowling ‘alleys’ have such a great mountain backdrop. The kids had a great time, fishing, bowling, drinking cocoa, and eating pretzel rods, and so did we of course. It was a fun day.