Sportsman’s Corner: Ice fishing

Club members enjoy a day of ice fishing at the Mahar Fish'N Game Club’s Ice Fishing Derby at Lake Ellis in Athol.

Club members enjoy a day of ice fishing at the Mahar Fish'N Game Club’s Ice Fishing Derby at Lake Ellis in Athol. PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHE

Blake Gaudet with his second -place bass.

Blake Gaudet with his second -place bass. PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHE

Braedon Rogowski with his 1.08-pound bass, the biggest fish caught at the derby.

Braedon Rogowski with his 1.08-pound bass, the biggest fish caught at the derby. PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHE

Published: 02-08-2024 5:00 PM

Modified: 02-14-2024 3:56 PM

By Mike Roche

The recent run of colder nights has produced some ice, and fishermen and women have begun doing some ‘hard water’ fishing locally. This writer first ventured out last Friday and found about four inches of ice. That is OK for ice fishing activities and the basic minimum used by most. The ice can still shift or move with the concentration of people in one spot.

Those fishing were doing well, with a number of largemouth bass taken and released. My brief trip was jigging only and with no fresh bait. Nothing bit and the Vexilar flasher did not mark any fish. It was bright sunlight (finally!) and midday, so the lack of action was no surprise, but it was nice to get outside for an hour.

Sunday, the Mahar Fish’N Game Club held its annual Ice Fishing Derby at Lake Ellis. Members braved the cold and there was an excellent turnout as members competed among themselves, while many were experiencing ice fishing for the first time ever. It was my pleasure to provide tackle for a few beginners and the club also provided tip-ups for the members to use. I really enjoyed visiting with Ronnie Suojenen and Aiden and Zack Graziano, who fished hard all day.

My jigging rods were also put to use, and the club is very thankful for the generous support of Gerry Balchunias of Crack of Dawn Bait in Phillipston. The shiners that yours truly bought were still lively three days later! Well, it seemed that regardless of how lively the shiners were or how tempting the spikes or mealworms on the jigs were, the fish were not very cooperative. Despite the members’ best efforts, only two fish were landed and very few fags flew. The hot dogs, however, were great!

The Mahar Fish’N Game Club Game Supper is scheduled for Saturday, March 9, and members should have tickets. Doors will open at 5:30 for this popular event, which came back strong last year after the Covid interruption. The meal will begin with appetizers around 6 and then dinner at 6:30. That will be followed by awards and raffles. You can contact high school Fish’N Game Club advisor Evelyn Cunha ( or 413-221-5297) or middle school Fish’N Game advisor Billy Devine ( or 508-667-0955) for tickets. Tickets are also available from club members. As always, the club depends on and greatly appreciates donations of fish and game for the meal. You can contact the advisors with any game you would be willing to contribute to the meal, which is always great and prepared by a very experienced kitchen crew led by Mark Kovalsick and members of the Orange Gun Club.

By the way, if you have not visited the Orange Gun Club recently, you should stop by and see all the renovations and upgrades, including handicap access to the club. The ranges at the Orange Gun Club are top notch and well-maintained for shooting out 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 to go ice fishing. My Mahar 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, my job was getting things started. Clearly my efficiency is not what it was and the challenge of meeting today’s standard by hosting a Zoom meeting was a challenge. Hopefully some free time will open before the next heat wave.

Teenagers who like the outdoors should consider attending the Massachusetts Junior Conservation Camp. With a varied outdoor schedule that is designed for girls and boys ages 13–17, the Massachusetts Junior Conservation 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 current skills and meet like-minded peers.

The camp will be held at the Moses Scout Reservation in Russell from Aug. 5–17. Registration is now open. Conservation groups and sporting clubs who want to sponsor a camper may 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, forest fire control and forest management. Experienced and enthusiastic outdoors men and women teach fishing, camping, wild foods, archery, and firearms shooting and safety. In addition, campers have the opportunity to earn certifications in Basic Hunter Education and Boating Safety.

Tuition is $1,150, but most campers receive full scholarships from sporting clubs and conservation organizations across the state. Click here for more information on groups with camp scholarships. For an inside look at camp life, there is information at the MassWildlife web site 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 director of the camp. It was a life-changing experience for many as many of the programs are presented by MassWildlife professionals who are some of the finest experts in their fields.

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