- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) - More than 600 people gathered at Burr Pond in Torrington last week for a day of ice fishing and other winter pursuits.

As people spread out across the frozen lake Feb. 2, there were plenty of fish to be had and a sunny day with temperatures nearing the 40s - ideal conditions for a sport that has seen a revival this season, thanks to a prolonged cold snap.

For Tony Recchia and his ice fishing group of nine, it has been a fine season. It started weeks earlier than normal - before Christmas - and if temperatures stay low, there could be great ice fishing until mid-March.

Recchia grew up in Waterbury and now lives in Goshen. He said he has fished nearly all his life.

For a fisherman, he is no braggart. Instead of large northern pike, he likes to fish for yellow perch. He doesn’t eat the fish he catches; he puts them all back.

Recchia’s group, which includes his son Anthony, is made up of diehards who make a full day of the sport, sometimes from dawn to dusk. Endless coffee brewing on a Coleman grill, and often a good venison stew, keep the men warm as they fish away.

For the first season in a good while, life is fine on the ice.

“The fishing has been good,” Recchia said.

At Outdoor Artistry, Taxidermy & Bait in Winchester, Glen Barber hasn’t had a winter this busy in a few years.

It has been hard keeping his business stocked with bait, including shiners in three different sizes. He started on the morning of Feb. 2 with more than 11 pounds of the smallest shiners.

“You should have seen it this weekend. It was crazy,” Barber said with a broad smile on his face.

On a recent snowy day, customers had been steady until mid-morning, and Barber had only a couple of pounds of the smaller shiners left.

This winter, Barber said, he has had to get bait every day, Thursday through Sunday. Last year, with a much shorter season, he only had to buy every three to four days.

Out of the freezer, he pulled a nearly 7-pound brown trout, caught Feb. 2 by a Bristol man who bought his bait from Barber. The lucky fisherman came back later in the day with the large catch and asked for it to be preserved. The fish was caught on West Hill Lake. It’s not even the largest fish Barber has seen this season.

Michael Beauchene, a supervising fish biologist with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said this year has been a typical year for ice fishing in Connecticut. But it has been a dramatic change from most of the last five years, when there was not much ice and no good ice fishing.

“So this is nice,” he said.

The DEEP sponsored the ice fishing event at Burr Pond last week as part of the state’s No Child Left Inside campaign. It was one of the largest winter events in recent years.

As part of the program, Connecticut Aquatic Resource Education (CARE) volunteers were on hand to help families and children learn to enjoy ice fishing.

Recchia’s fishing group, all CARE volunteers, was working gutting and cooking fish caught by young fishermen.

He has been a CARE volunteer for 27 years. He likes doing it almost as much as he likes to fish.

“You’re passing your knowledge to someone else,” Recchia said.

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Information from: Republican-American, https://www.rep-am.com

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