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fisherking01

They Shoot Pike, Don't They?

74 posts in this topic

They shoot pike, don't they? In the marshes of northern Vermont, the light shines dimly on a rare spring ritual.

Anyone read this article from a 1992 time life magazine?

As I remember it men would visit the backwater marshes of N. Vermont in the spring of the year, take an elevated position with high powered rifles and shoot large female pike. If anyone knows this article it would be great to post it.

Last I heard there was legislation to ban it. I remember reading it and thinking that'd be cool, but wouldn't want to be in the marsh with a bunch of 30 06 lead flying around!!

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Wow...that would be a good way to kill the pike population.

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How to Catch Fish in Vermont: No Bait, No Tackle, Just Bullets

By PAM BELLUCK

Published: Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The hunter's prey darted into the shadows, just out of reach of Henry Demar's gun.

''Come on, stand up and be counted,'' Mr. Demar whispered excitedly. ''There was a ripple that came out of the weeds. There's something out there.''

Dressed in camouflage, gripping his .357 Magnum, Mr. Demar was primed to shoot. But this time, no such luck. With a flick of its tail, his quarry -- a slick silvery fish -- was gone.

Fish shooting is a sport in Vermont, and every spring, hunters break out their artillery -- high-caliber pistols, shotguns, even AK-47's -- and head to the marshes to exercise their right to bear arms against fish.

It is a controversial pastime, and Vermont's fish and wildlife regulators have repeatedly tried to ban it. They call it unsportsmanlike and dangerous, warning that a bullet striking water can ricochet across the water like a skipping stone.

But fish shooting has survived, a cherished tradition for some Vermont families and a novelty to some teenagers and twenty-somethings. Fixated fish hunters climb into trees overhanging the water (some even build ''fish blinds'' to sit in), sail in small skiffs or perch on the banks of marshes that lace Lake Champlain, on Vermont's northwest border.

''They call us crazy, I guess, to go sit in a tree and wait for fish to come out,'' said Dean Paquette, 66, as he struggled to describe the fish-shooting rush. ''It's something that once you've done it . . .''

Mr. Paquette, a retired locomotive engineer, has passed fish shooting on to his children and grandchildren, including his daughter, Nicki, a nurse.

''You have to be a good shot,'' said Ms. Paquette, 31, who started shooting at age 6. ''It's a challenge. I think that's why people do it.''

Her 87-year-old great-uncle, Earl Picard, is so enthusiastic that, against the better judgment of his relatives, he frequently drives 75 miles from his home in Newport to Lake Champlain. Mr. Picard still climbs trees, although ''most of the trees that I used to climb in are gone,'' he said. ''You can sit up there in the sun and the birds will come and perch on your hat and look you in the eye.''

There is art, or at least science, to shooting fish, aficionados say, and it has nothing to do with a barrel. Most fish hunters do not want to shoot the actual fish, because then ''you can't really eat them,'' Ms. Paquette said. ''They just kind of shatter.''

Instead, said Mr. Demar, ''you try to shoot just in front of the fish's nose or head.'' The bullet torpedoes to the bottom and creates ''enough concussion that it breaks the fish's air bladder and it floats to the surface.''

Often the target is a female fish come to spawn in shallow water, accompanied by several male acolytes who might also be killed, or stunned, by the concussion.

''If you shoot a high-powered rifle, you can get a big mare and six or seven little bucks,'' Mr. Paquette said.

Permitted from March 25 to May 25, only on Lake Champlain, fish shooting has probably existed for a century. It also used to be legal in New York, which borders the huge apostrophe-shaped lake.

Virginia used to have several fish-shooting areas, said Alan Weaver, a fish biologist with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Now, Mr. Weaver said, the only place is the Clinch River in remote Scott County, where, six weeks a year, people can shoot bottom-feeders like ''quill-back suckers and red-horse suckers.'' Virginia is the only other state where fish shooting is still legal, Vermont officials said.

In 1969, fish and wildlife officials in New York and Vermont banned fish shooting. But Vermonters were loath to sever the primal link between fish and firearm, so in 1970, the Legislature not only reinstated the sport, it also added fish like carp and shad to the target list, bringing the number to 10.

Since then, there have been several efforts to halt fish shooting. But they have been stopped by noisy objections from a small but dedicated bunch.

Advocates crossed the state in a near-blizzard to one public hearing in the late 1980's, recalled John Hall, a spokesman for Vermont's Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 1994, fish-shooters ''outnumbered the people who spoke against it by about four to one,'' said Brian Chipman, a state fisheries biologist.

State officials say shooters' claims that theirs is a fading tradition that will die out on its own have not proved true.

''We even think that some of the publicizing of this issue through efforts to pass laws against it has brought it more into the forefront,'' Mr. Chipman said.

The issue is apparently touchy enough that Howard Dean, governor from 1991 to 2003, ''has no interest in going on the record on that subject,'' said Walker Waugh, a spokesman.

Hunters like Mr. Demar, 45, joined recently by his half brother, Calvin Rushford, 56, and Calvin's 9-year-old grandson, Cody, say they make sure that their bullets hit the water no more than 10 feet from where they stand. That way, said Mr. Rushford, who like Mr. Demar is a disabled former construction worker, ''you'll have no problem because the bullet won't ricochet.''

Indeed, state officials say they know of no gunshot injuries from the sport. Bob Sampson, who allows occasional fish shooting on his marsh, remembers only one.

''I think he got shot in the stomach area,'' Mr. Sampson said of a shooting that he believes took place about 40 years ago.

Most hunters say the worst they have seen is people falling out of trees into frigid water. Mr. Demar said his brother Peter once ''shot, lost control and did a nose dive.'' ''He was purple when he come up out of the water,'' Mr. Demar said.

But Gordon Marcelle, a Vermont game warden who shot fish as a teenager, said every hunter safety course taught that shooting at water was ''one of the cardinal sins.''

State officials also say that fish shooting disturbs nesting birds and that killing spawning females could endanger the northern pike population (although so far there is no evidence it has).

Worst of all, state officials say, many shooters do not retrieve all the fish they kill. They leave behind fish they cannot find or do not want to wade after and fish that exceed the state's five-pike-a-day limit or fall under the 20-inch minimum length for northern pike. Mr. Marcelle recently found 18 dead fish left to rot.

Two dead fish recently greeted Mr. Demar and his companions at the marsh, a species he called mudfish. There were some frolicking muskrats, chickadees in the ash and willow trees plus shell casings from an 8-millimeter Mauser. (''Oh, that's made for blowing them out of the water,'' Mr. Rushford said.)

There were not, however, enough live fish to shoot. So Mr. Demar tested his gun on a log in the water, and spray shot up.

''I got a little water on my sunglasses,'' he said sheepishly. ''That's the thing about pickerel shooting. Afterward, you have to turn away, or you get sprayed in the face.''

Photos: Fish shooting is a springtime tradition for some Vermonters, despite periodic efforts to ban it. Kyle Paquette took a shot in a marsh. (Photo by Karen Pike for The New York Times)(pg. A1); Earl Picard posed last year with a 15-pound northern pike he shot. (Photo courtesy of Dean Paquette)(pg. A18)

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Pike are considered a garbage fish or a fish that's only use is for exploitation to many, Ive always wondered why so few care enough about these great fish to not fight for them, or to even speak up for them.

We are on the verge of a very ugly time in pike management and I don't think many care.

I'm sure the voices will be 4 to 1 in favor of the destruction of MN Pike fishery, we may as well start shooting them too, why not get'em when they spawn.

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It is a tough time indeed. Us on Upper Red Lake are having great succes in the begining steps of turning Upper Red Lake into a true Trophy managed pike water. We are seeing great response from all sorts of poeple with VERY little negative feedback.

I think it just boils down to an awareness deal.

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I agree that pike don't get much respect. I do think that is slowly changing. Hopefully it won't be too late for Minnesota. Muskiefool I assume you are talking about the bill to allow the spearing of pike in the slot. I was hoping that this bill would not have a chance. I assume that you think that this bill has a chance since you are closer to the situation. I have talked to many who are against this bill and it does not seem very popular on this site. It seems like even some spear fisherman are against it.

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wow that sounds like the more dumb thing I ever heard of shooting fish in a marsh wow that sounds fun NOT. why would you shoot fish? god thats so dumb thats not fun its just redneck drunken retards shoot fish.

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Aparently we have a lot of viewers who wouldn't do well in another culture. The thread was to allow for an interesting read, not to post opinions for or against it. Kinda crappy that we have to have every post scruitnized, argued about, and turned ugly. Sorry for posting another topic for you to turn ugly, I'm outa here.

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Fisherking

In your own post you said it would be "cool" you don't need to get offended if someone disagrees with you. When stuff gets posted we should expect that people will make comments (even if a bit extreme).

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They shoot pike, don't they? In the marshes of northern Vermont, the light shines dimly on a rare spring ritual.

Anyone read this article from a 1992 time life magazine?

As I remember it men would visit the backwater marshes of N. Vermont in the spring of the year, take an elevated position with high powered rifles and shoot large female pike. If anyone knows this article it would be great to post it.

Last I heard there was legislation to ban it. I remember reading it and thinking that'd be cool, but wouldn't want to be in the marsh with a bunch of 30 06 lead flying around!!

That is where you offered your opinion. I'm sure had you thought about it before posting you would have realized people would post their opinions.

That's OK tho, freedom of speech is what this country was born on. grin

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We all have our freedom of speech and valued opinions but when you post about controversy expect controversy in return.

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Guns, Spears. What's the difference?

You don't spear spawning fish. crazy

I'm against it, but if that's what they do up there and there's still big fish to shoot, who knows. I do believe it's also about the most unsafe legal use of a firearm I've ever heard of. And high-powered rifles...does it take an assault rifle or .357 to kill a fish??

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Spear them in February, spear them in April. They are still dead on the end of a spear.

I better stop now.

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and what percent of pike are harvested by legal darkhouse spearers???

and how much bigger on average is a fish taken by a spearer than a angler???

get the facts. were just out there having fun too.

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I think I understand Del's thinking. 100% of pike taken by spear will die, thus are considered harvested. You can always release a pike caught by conventional methods. At least a fish has a chance (often good) to survive after being caught on a hook. I'm not a fan of spearing either...

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I dont think shooting at fish is a good idea, however, the inner hillbilly in me thinks it would be an absolute blast.

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Yeah look how spearing has led to the detriment of pike on Rainy, LOW, URL, etc. shocked

Jack the thread to show your anti-spearing stance...cool.

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Thread was about shooting pike. Not much of a hijack from my point of view. Spearing is fun. I bet shooting them is too. That's how my friend Nghia used to fish in the old country.

Is Rainy one of the lakes that the spearers are trying to get slot exemption on? And isn't spearing banned on the Ontario part of the lake, like in the rest of Ontario?

How much of LOW is open to spearing? Red lake is like 90 percent controlled by the Natives, right?

In Manitoba they allow spearfishing while swimming but apparently not through the ice. And for Walleye too.

"SPEAR FISHING

Spear fishing is the taking of fish with a handheld spear or spear gun (pneumatic or rubber band powered) while swimming.

Spear fishing is allowed in all areas of the province open to angling. For safety reasons do not spear fish near areas used for swimming, boat launching, or docking.

Angling seasons, limits and licence requirements apply. Fishermen

may possess only one limit of fish, whether taken by spear fishing or angling.

You may not spear fish for sturgeon, largemouth bass, smallmouth

bass, muskellunge, Arctic grayling, Arctic char, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, splake or other trout hybrids. Only face mask, flippers and snorkel may be used to take the following species (i.e. no scuba equipment): walleye, sauger, pike, channel catfish, crappies, mooneye, goldeye, lake trout and whitefish.

Scuba or snorkelling equipment may be used for species other

than those listed above. For safety courses and information please contact your local Scuba dealer."

But of course one shouldn't be so crass as to introduce spearing into a thread about the barbaric practice of shooting northerns.

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I think I understand Del's thinking. 100% of pike taken by spear will die, thus are considered harvested. You can always release a pike caught by conventional methods. At least a fish has a chance (often good) to survive after being caught on a hook. I'm not a fan of spearing either...

yes 100% of pike taken by a spear are dead but how many do we look and release.

its not like we spear every fish that comes in the hole.

every fish that comes in my hole has the chance to swim if i dont want it. you may be able to release EVERY fish that is caught on hook and line but a percentage will die. i could also release every fish that comes in my spear hole by never throwing the spear, never touching the fish, or hooking the fish....heck i know 2 old folks that sit in other peoples spear houses, with no spear , just to watch fish come in. no different than bird watching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

theres always a chance of a 15" pike taken by hook and line to swollow a hook and die but theres not a spearer on this site that will take a 15" fish with a spear.

this arguement comes up way to often and its [PoorWordUsage] because its not valid.......but i guess your still entitled to your opinion.

im done now

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The whole thing I took out of that article is that they "shoot large female pike." I don't care if you shoot them, spear them, or catch the wind a hook & line and bash them over the head, you're still killing the prime spawners. That is the part I'm against, and I don't spear pike above 12-13 lbs. because they don't eat as good as smaller ones and I'm not looking for one for the wall (unless it's 25+ lbs. maybe).

They can go shoot all the small pike they want, more power to them. It's still pretty pointless and no exactly safe to take a high-powered rifle to shoot something like a pike. I hope we can all agree on at least that much.

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Amen. I think it's just plain stupid, and believe me I have a lot more choice words for it. Especially "large spawning female pike", the rest I can write off, but that's just sick.

As far as "spearers can choose which fish they harvest" goes, if you take an hook and line angler, and a spearfisherman, and count how many fish they see in a day, and the count how many they actually harvest, I garuntee you the percentage of fish harvested will be higher from the spear-fisherman. I can go out to some lakes and catch 50 pike a day regularly on certain, and yes maybe one or two of those will die. If you can do that spearfishing, then sign me up. I'll sit right next to you with my ice-fishing pole.

P.S. I don't think spearing should be banned, or anything like that. I just like a good argument!

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Regardless of whether you think it's fun or not:

Is anyone else on this thread, other than myself, a little worried about going out with your friends, gathering around a pike spawning marsh, AND SHOOTING HIGH-POWER RIFLE BULLETS AT FLAT WATER!?! I realize the chance of getting hit by a ricochet is remote, but it is possible.

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