Ice fisherman are getting anxious, and for good reason: Trout stocked last fall are hitting, bass are ready to be caught and the yellow perch will be in great supply and very good to eat now.

Some of the area ponds have a few inches of safe ice, while others still need more time to harden to the 3-inch minimum. A good example is Baddacook Pond, where the ice is 5 inches thick in some spots, yet only an inch and some open water near the pump station. Anytime you have moving water, the ice is going to take a long time to harden and may never get more than a skim coat.

As you venture out onto any pond, check the ice depth first. Take a drill and make sure there is 3 inches of black ice. Snow ice is very dangerous, so stay off. Check the ice depths every 10 feet until you are satisfied the area is safe. Obviously, the more ice the better.

The ice fishing right now is as good as it gets. The fish have not seen bait in several weeks and are ready to eat and be fooled. A live shiner or a jig will take every fish in the pond. In Baddacook, salmon were released in December that weighed 5 to 12 pounds each and in October several hundred trout were also liberated.

Some good places to try are Sandy Pond, Horn Pond, Harbor Pond, Flat Pond, Whites and Walden, Long Sought For, Mirror, and Spectacle Pond in Littleton.

An ice fishing derby will be held at the Townsend Rod and Gun Club on Jan. 20 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The doors will open at 7 a.m. so you can register and drill a few holes. Trout will be stocked for the derby. A "pool" fish is up for grabs. The club is located off Emery Road in Townsend.

This is a new year, people, and you need to remember your old fishing license is just that old, it ended its life span on Dec. 31. It's time to purchase a new license or get a ticket or, worse, get arrested, lose your license to fish and your equipment.

The Massachusetts deer hunting seasons have ended but not the coyote season. Now is prime time to go out there and fool a coyote and bring one into range for a good shot. There are so many of them out there and so many domestic cats missing its just worth going after these 40-pound animals.

The Great Meredith ice fishing derby on Lake Winnie will be held the weekend of Feb. 9 and 10. Thousands of anglers head to the big lake each year in hopes of catching one of the tagged fish, the only problem is they have quietly done away with stocking any tagged fish. Only the largest fish will be a winner.

Bill Biswanger bboutdoor1@aol.com.