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Ice fishing has small but dedicated following

Posted: Friday, January 28, 2005

JUNEAU — Carson Kent is one of those people who won't let anything stop him from fishing.

One recent Sunday morning when snowflakes swirled furiously, Kent, 10, made his weekly pilgrimage to Twin Lakes to go ice fishing. He first drilled a hole with an auger, which was almost as tall as he is. Then he used a tea strainer to scoop broken ice out of the hole, warmed up the bait between his palms and put his line in.

''Now we just have to wait,'' said Kent, who has been fishing since he was 2.

Although ice fishing is more popular in the Alaska Interior, where the winter is longer and colder, it has a small but dedicated following here in the state's capital city, in Southeast Alaska.

''Fishing doesn't seem to stop here,'' said John Lyman, aquatic education coordinator of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. ''If you like fishing, you are in the right country.''

People also go ice fishing at Auke Lake, but Twin Lakes has been the most popular place.

Every summer, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game puts 10,000 king salmon into Twin Lakes for the annual Kids Fishing Day in June. On this day, more than 2,000 people go fishing at Twin Lakes.

''Some of the winter fish are leftover from the summer,'' Lyman said. ''The salmon is about pan-size, from 8 to 10 inches long.''

The lakes also have some cutthroat trout, which the state's scientists released after their research.

Lyman said although the salmon and trout are small, they are still precious.

''They are little gems, especially after you haven't had fresh fish for several months,'' Lyman said.

But Lyman warns ice fishermen to be careful where they drill their holes because the lakes are also popular among skaters and hockey players.

Up in the Interior, people go ice fishing in shacks, some of which are equipped with heaters, refrigerators and even card tables. In Southeast Alaska, the ice is normally not thick enough to support an ice shack.

The basic equipment for ice fishing includes fishing poles, an ice auger and a strainer.

''Usually the tackle that is used for ice fishing is much shorter and quite smaller because the fishing is virtually vertical. You don't need to cast,'' said John Weedman, owner of Western Auto.

Other important accessories for ice fishing are hot chocolate, several pairs of gloves and a chair.

Kent usually goes ice fishing with his mother, Lynn. Lynn said she would prefer skiing to ice fishing but she began to appreciate fishing because of her son.

''It beats the hack of television,'' Lynn said.

This winter, Kent caught a 14-inch trout. Lynn was allowed to have a bite of the fish.

Last Sunday, Kent caught a small king salmon. It was so small that Kent wanted to release the fish back to the lake. But he decided to keep it because it swallowed the hook all the way down its throat and would have little chance of surviving.

Kent used a little knife to clean the fish.

''You always thank the fish before you kill it,'' Lynn told Kent. ''It gives you all its life so you have a nice dinner.''



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