The Ice Kings of Lake Champlain

New England, I apologize.

Colorado, my bad. Sorry about all that snow.

I'm the cause of global warming, and all the winter screw-ups. Me my ownself.

The scientists are blaming El Nino for the wacky winter weather, but it's only because they don't know where I live. And they have no idea what I did to cause this.

I bought a snow blower at Wal-Mart. I knew the moment the check cleared, winter would never be the same.

I bought the one with the 3-stage "Jet Chute" precisely calculated to shoot the snow in a huge arch from my driveway, overtop my lawn, landing exactly in the middle of my New England Patriot loving neighbor's driveway. I got Buffalo Bills Booster of the Month award for that calculation by the way.

It was my preparing for winter that practically guaranteed it would never arrive. You want proof. Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007 around noon, I'm standing in my garage looking at my turbo snow-removing rig … in shorts. It's 70 degrees out.

In fact, December was the warmest ever in the Northeast. Not normally a problem, except for one tiny fact; The ESPNOutdoors.com chief editor guy in Arkansas wanted me to do a story about ice fishing on Lake Champlain … and he was getting cranky.

Didn't matter that the whole crust of the freakin' planet was warming under my feet … a deadline is a deadline … and I better come up with a story about fishing on ice … even though the ice on Lake Champlain that they fish on was technically still called water … and that instead of slipping around on ice trying to catch fish they were actually catching fish from boats.

Ring. "Hello."

Me: "Is this the U.S. Department of Weather joint that tells us when weather stuff is supposed to happen." Thanks to Google, I found the guy in Vermont who has the high-level government job of sticking a thermometer in Lake Champlain.

Fed weather guy: "Uh … this is the forecast unit … who is this."

Me: "mumble mumble mumble" Since the feds have still not approved my IRS 1040 tax return thing, I try not to be too specific. "Hey any chance you can tell me when Lake Champlain is going to freeze up solid like."

Fed: "I can't do that."

Me: "Isn't this the forecasting place, I just need you to forecast when the lake will ice up."

Fed: "Where did you say you're calling from."

Me: "Er … Arkansas." I'm actually in my garage putting a blue tarp over the snow blower in a last ditch attempt to make New England cold. "Can you at least tell me, is it cold up there … ice cold."

Fed: "Hang on, I'll check."

I hang up. Hang on is fed speak for Time to get the Phone Tap/Tax audit going.

Back to Google. Key words, Lake Champlain and view. Up pops something called The Kings Inn.


"Good afternoon, Kings Inn, this is Michele."

Me: "Hey Michele, this is mumble, mumble, mumble (don't know how close she is to Vermont or if she happens to know the weather guy) any chance you can see Lake Champlain from where you are?"

Michele: "Why yes, we're on a hill overlooking the lake."

Me: "Great, can you see the lake now."

Michele "Yes."

Me"Any ice on it?"

Michele "No …some ice in the bay … but nothing on the main part of the lake. Going to be a few weeks before that happens, IF it happens."

Me"Thanks Michele … I'll call you back in a couple of days to see how the ice is coming."

Michele "Er … ah … who is this …"

I hang up, it's the small talk that usually gets me in trouble. And by the way, if you are keeping score: The zillion-dollar Weather Forecasting Joint — 0, Michele —1.

So for the next month or so, I call Michele every other day about ice on Lake Champlain, by the second week she knows my real name seeing that I had to make a reservation at her Inn, mainly to appease the cranky editor in Arkansas that I was actually working the story.

And then it happens … the call came through … not from Michele, but from The Lord of the Lake, a guy who has been fishing the ice there for the last 68 years.

Me and the boy were eating lunch at a place that advertises "Burgers as big as your head" and my son had his head down on the table in an attempt to see if indeed the burger did match his noggin. Not sure the burger lived up to the bill because I could still see one of his ears behind it.

Off goes my cell phone, and on it, Jim Guyette, Sr. from Port Henry, N.Y.

"Don Barone … it's fishing time."

I hang up.

"Eat up son … the Lord of the Lake just called."

"And what pray tell, did the Lord have to say," says my son as he is now trying to fit his Buffalo Bills baseball cap on the burger.

"The lord says …we have ICE."

Part II

Part III

Don Barone is a feature producer for ESPN. Other stories of his are available on Amazon.com. You can reach him at Don.Barone@espn.com

For more information on all things Port Henry Ice Fishing related, go here: www.porthenry.com