Well you got the snob part right, because the article is from the New York Times. I'm shocked you aren't a subscriber. Besides, I'm at work right now and company firewalls won't allow me to cut & paste, sorry for any inconvenience this post may have caused you...}(
How to Catch Fish in Vermont: No Bait, No Tackle, Just Bullets
By PAM BELLUCK
T. ALBANS BAY, Vt. — 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."