Ice fishing–Winter fun in Vermont just never stops!

When I moved from southern California to Vermont in 2001, I wondered how I would adjust to the image I had of ferocious New England winters.  A local Vermonter told me to find a way to enjoy winter because there’s no place to hide from it.  That was good advice.  There’s plenty to do during the Winter, and I’ve grown to look forward to this season for the specialized variety of outdoor activities that are only available at this time.  One such activity is ice fishing.

It’s usually around mid-January that the ice on nearby Echo Lake forms a good, hard layer of clear, blue ice between 4 and 6 inches thick.  This is the minimum thickness range that would be considered safe for a person or small group to venture onto the ice, fishing equipment in hand, and settle in for a fun winter activity that allows plenty of time for socializing between parents and children, relatives and friends.  There’s always a good chance of bringing home fresh fish for dinner.

Seasoned Vermont ice anglers know that there are three general ice-fishing seasons: first ice, mid-winter, and last ice.  Many believe that first ice is the most productive, as fish are actively feeding, often still in shallow water.  But first ice can be dangerous if the surface ice is not yet fully frozen to a minimum 4 inch depth.  In mid-winter, weeds along the shore die and fish tend to move into deeper water.  As light diminishes and temperatures plummet, feeding tends to slow.  But if you can locate schools of crappies, perch, or walleye in pockets of deep water, vigorous jigging and the right lures can bring success.  Last ice brings new weed growth along the shorelines, as well as more warmth and light, so fish tend to move back toward shallower water.

To begin ice fishing, you need a couple of lightly-rigged jugging poles, a few jigs and lures, small bobbers, split shot, live bait such as minnows or waxworms, a bucket to transport gear and to sit on, an ice auger, and ice skimmer.  Build yourself a tip-up.  Designs vary, but the essential feature is a flag that tips up when a fish strikes.  The example shown at left has a vertical bar that anchors the device with a pivoting horizontal bar with the fishing line dropping into the hole from one end and a small flag at opposite end.  When a fish strikes, it pulls the end with the line attached down, and tips the flag up.

By early Ferbruary, serious ice anglers have staked out their spots with a wide variety of “shanties.” Some are heated and equipped with sound systems or satellite TV.

The only equipment about which anglers totally agree on is clothing and boots.  Be sure to dress in layers, including a wind-breaking layer.  You can always shed a layer or two if you’re too warm.  The single most important item in the ice fishing wardrobe is footwear.  Insulated rubber boots, or boots with separate, thick felt liners, are the best insurance against cold feet.  Boots should fit loose enough to accommodate extra socks and to allow maximum blood circulation.  Good headgear is particularly important when ice fishing.  Up to 80% of the heat lost on a cold day leaves the body from the head and neck.

The winter access area to Echo Lake is located about 8 miles from the October Country Inn on the west shore alongside Route 100.  The lake contains large and smallmouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, bullhead, and pumpkinseed sunfish.  Recreational fishing in Vermont requires is regulated by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and requires a fishing license.  Check out their website for  details.


“Make Mine Moxie!”

The “Moxie Man.”

Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge was born and raised a mere six miles from Bridgewater Corners, and the October Country Inn.  A little known fact outside of northern New England is that “Moxie” was Calvin’s favorite soft drink.  It was also Boston Red Sox legend Ted William’s favorite soda, as well as the official soft drink for the state of Maine.

Never heard of “Moxie.”  This uniquely tasting soft drink was invented in 1876 by Maine native Dr. Augustin Thompson.  “Moxie” originated as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food.”

Dr. Thompson named the drink after his friend, Lieutenant Moxie, who is reputed to have discovered that the properties of an extract from a rare South American plant were especially effective against “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia.”  Gentian root extractive is a listed “Moxie” ingredient.  This may contribute to the drink’s unique taste. After a few years, Dr. Thompson added soda water to the formula and changed the product’s name to “Beverage Moxie Nerve Food.”

You may not have known that “Moxie” was a soft drink, but the word moxie, describing the qualities of courage, daring, and energy–as in “This gal’s got moxie,”–is an offshoot of advertising jingles developed to market the drink.

You might not find “Moxie” in your local grocery, but you can often find it at the October Country Inn, or the nearby Bridgewater Corners Country Store.




Mexican night at the OCI–chicken enchiladas, Ole!

As a nod to our southern neighbor, and In keeping with October Country Inn’s international dinner theme, our chicken enchilada dinner, spiced for the northern palate, is always a favorite with our dinner guests.

This dish, serving 5 or 6 persons, is not hard to prepare.  The ingredients for the four component parts are assembled, and then they are combined by rolling the stuffing into a tortilla shell placed in the serving dish.

Ingredients are:

  • 1 1/2 lb bonless, skinless, chicken breasts; cooked and shredded
  • 2 19 ounce cans of La Victoria red enchilada sauce, or equaivalent
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 3/4 lb jack, cheddar cheese mix, shredded
  • 4 ounce can of pitted, sliced, black olives, drained
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped crosswise including green parts

Place chicken breasts in boiling, salted water and boil until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, about 20 minutes.  After cooked  chicken cools enough to handle, shred each breast by picking it apart with a fork.  Place shredded chicken back in the empty cooking pot and add half of the chopped scallions, one half of the sliced olives, and about 8 ounces of the enchilada sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix all these ingredients  together and set aside.

We like to use the La Victoria brand of mild, red enchilada sauce.  It can be ordered online if you can’t find it at your local grocer.  However, other brands, or some variety of homemade enchilada sauce is always an option.

In order to make the corn tortillas more pliable and easier to roll, we have a small piece of screen that we place over a pot of boiling water.  By placing a tortilla shell on top of the screen, the escaping steam quickly softens the tortilla and each side can then be dipped into a pan of enchilada sauce to coat.

With the various pots, bowls, pans, and serving dish arranged in close proximity, each coated tortilla shell is placed in the serving dish to be filled with a golf ball size amount of the shredded chicken, a generous sprinkling of the

Arrangement of pots, bowls, pans, and serving dish.

cheese mix and rolled into an individual enchilada.  Repeat rolling enchiladas crosswise in the serving dish.  A 9 x 13 inch Pyrex casserole dish will hold 2 rows of five rolled enchiladas.  After serving dish has been filled with the rolled enchiladas, spread any remaining shredded chicken or cheese mix  over the top.  Spread the reserved chopped scallions and sliced olives over the top, and coat the top with the remaining enchilada sauce.   Place the serving dish into a 350 degree preheated oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.   Ole!