Friday, March 26, 2010

Shooting Pike In A....Lake?

The VPR staff is a motley crew of musicophiles and journalists, engineers and development experts, Vermonters and transplants, lifelong radio folks and those for whom learning broadcast writing was like learning a second language (yours truly included!). That diversity is what makes VPR such an interesting place to work, and it often helps a piece of programming come together.

Case in point: Patti Daniels, Vermont Edition's senior producer, emails the staff yesterday: So here's a odd story we'd like to cover: apparently Vermont is the only state that allows pike shooting. As we understand it, this entails shooting your rifle (shotgun?) into the water to stun pike into submission, and then pulling them up in a basket. Or maybe a sack. If you know someone who shoots pike, please let the Vermont Edition team know.

A few hours later, Patti writes: VPR's staff has a (surprising) wealth of information on pike shooting, or "pickerel shooting" in the local vernacular. I've learned there are no baskets or sacks needed, you just grab the stunned fish with your hands. Pike have nasty teeth, and this seems as potentially dangerous as shooting into the water in which you stand. Thanks again for your help.

But it didn't end there. Production Associate Ric Cengeri shared a bit of history: From a 2004 NY Times article: "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.

Then, News Editor Ross Sneyd chimes in: We're all very much looking forward to the pickerel pie that Vermont Edition will be preparing after Jane heads out to the lake for a little target practice.

(I'm pretty sure he was kidding, but Jane does like to experience her stories first-hand!)

Next, a question from Audio Engineer Sam Sanders: Pike and pickerel are not the same fish -- are they?

Reporter Susan Keese: I seem to recall that pike were incredibly bony, scaly (sharp), hard to eviscerate and turn into a meal. I can't imagine adding buckshot to the disagreeable equation. I think the only excuse for fishing for them is to get away from home.

Production Associate Brian Jones, himself an avid fisherman: They are not the same, but they are very similar members of the same family. Pike (Esox lucius) grow to be much larger than Pickerel (Esox niger). Otherwise, a slight difference in coloration is the main difference... Attached is a pic of the largest Northern Pike I've caught, and of course released. 32 inches. (At left).

Membership and Underwriting Director Dan Palow said, O boy, here come the fish tails!

Knowing that we are persnickety about grammar, he follows up, yes, I meant tails not tales.

You'd think it would have stopped there, but as I write this, I'm listening to a conversation in the kitchen about this very topic. I love this place.


  1. in the late 60's a young man/boy died doing this. He was from Milton. They were using a 22 rifle and as anyone who owns a gun and is a responsible gun owner, shooting into the water is a potentially dangerous situation. The bullet is prone to ricochet. I'll stick with a worm or lure thank you.

  2. I would hate to think people are still actually doing this! Think of all the buckshot (or whatever else - gun shells, stray bullets, etc.) going into the water. The loon population already suffers from accidentally ingesting lead sinkers. Not to mention other wildlife and other fish that may end up with buckshot in their digestive systems...Is this a valid concern??

  3. I admit to this "sport" as a young man. Done right, it is not dangerous. You need to be right over the fish as it passes by - usually through a culvert. As long as you can see the fish in the water it would not ricochet. The dangerous mistake is when someone would shoot at surface swirl out beyond the true range.

  4. My family participated in this "harvest" of fish in early spring when the lake was high and backed up into low lying fields on the lake's edge. It wasn't easy, but one stood on the shore or if you had a small boat, in that (we did not) and with great precision you took aim with a low caliber rifle (with extreme care as all guns require) in front of a swimming fish. This stunned the fish, and then you would have to be very quick with nets or spear to catch it. My father sat up in a tree overhanging this area and had told me he would spear them from there. This was before my time and I dont' know how often we had fish then! My brothers brought home spring fish, a large pike would feed our large family. It was tasty stuffed, and a pleasant change from winter supply of canned veggies, old roosters stewed, or pot roasts from our farm. I only went once and have no fish stories to tell, but had a wonderful time out "mucking" through the swamp with my uncle who thought girls out to get to go, too!

  5. this is why I love Vermont.

  6. This is our Heritage, this is our Republic and we joined the USA only on the grounds of keeping Vermont's Constitution.

    Which we will forever will.

    Don't forget Vermont was an independent Republic all on its own for over 8 years before joining the USA, we never were a colony.

    You are in our Home, don't like it? Vote with your feet, we never invited any of you flatlanders here, you are uninvited guests.

  7. As Vermonter that still stewards the farm my great grandfather bought in 1905, and grew up on Missiqoi bay I find it unsportsmanlike and unethical. True sportsman are not the people you will find shooting these fish at their most vulnerable time. Duck hunters are mandated to use nontoxic shot, fisherman use lead free sinkers and yet all day yesterday i heard high powered rifles firing into land that border the wildlife refuge. Call the fish and game board and get this outlawwed, so our future sportsman can enjoy catching a Northern on a line.

  8. im a native vermonter and no longer live there. i grew up doing this and i can tell you that most all i read on this forum have lead me to beleive one thing. none of you have any idea what you are talking about. this is a safe and sporting way to fish and it has no adverse effect on the fish population .on a good day you may get 10 fish and the season only last a week or so. ive caught 40 fish a day on a pole. i have litterally done this hundreds of times and grew up with my uncle doing it. the only time a bullet will richocete is if you were to shoot way out of your range at a steep angle. this is a long standing and safe tradition that is enjoyed by many of the locals . if you dont like it, dont do it but stop making up a bunch of unfounded lies to suport getting rid of it.
    geeze people, when will there ever be enough liberals and right wingers pushing opinions on something they just palin know nothing about?

  9. if the pike is bigger than my dog and I'm keeping it. I shoot it with a stainless pistol i keep on he boat. its more humane than bashing its skull in. it keeps me from bleeding out from a bite.

    welcome to montana hippies.


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