Young Ferrisburgh angler pulls in big fish

FERRISBURGH — Chase Stokes was no mere novice when he landed a state record carp this past spring. He had been fishing for almost a decade when he hauled in a 33.25-pound carp that measured 40 inches in length from Otter Creek in Panton this past April.
It took skill to land a fish that was nearly half as large as his own 76-pound body.
“I’ve been fishing since I was one-and-a-quarter,” the Ferrisburgh 11-year-old said in a recent interview.
Chase is a bit of a phenom when it comes to fishing, but he likes to hunt, as well.
Around the same time he caught the record carp, he also bagged his first turkey. At 5:50 a.m. on the first day of Youth Turkey Week last April, he shot a 21.1-pound tom that sported 1-inch spurs. Seth Gebo, Chase’s partner through the Vermont Governor’s Youth Turkey Hunt, aided him in the hunt.
He has also hunted ducks, and he downed his first deer three years ago.
But Chase says he likes fishing best.
“Fishing because you can fish all year round,” he said.
And his dedication shows. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department named Chase a “Master Angler” for 2016 — one of only 45 such fishers in the Green Mountain State.
Fish and Wildlife reported that Chase and adult Master Angler Drew Price of Colchester were the only anglers who caught and entered trophy-size lake trout, chain pickerel, fallfish, yellow perch and white sucker, which were pre-selected by the department for the “bonus challenge.” This spread of species represented categories of cold-water fish, warm water fish, panfish, alternative fish and one “wild card” species.
“Chase and Drew, who are longtime participants of the Master Angler program, proved again through the bonus challenge the depth of their angling skillset and why they can be considered two of Vermont’s most successful multi-species anglers,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife, in a press release.
In addition to gift cards to local tackle shops, Chase got a commemorative “Master Angler” lapel pin for earning the designation.
How did he get so good? Well, Chase Stokes just loves to fish, and he gets out on the water as often as he can.
He regularly competes in fishing derbies, and his father, John Stokes, said he has garnered sponsors for his participation, including New Haven’s Rack ‘N Reel, who supply hats, shirts, bait and fishing gear.
“My dad kinda got me started,” Chase said. “I saw him catching all these big fish and I wanted to do it, too.
“One of the first things I could say was ‘big fish.’”
Chase pulled in a 4-inch-long yellow perch at the Ferrisburgh town beach that first day of angling, when he was “one-and-a-quarter.”
“It was hard but I was using a smaller pole, of course. But I still got the job done,” he remembers. “It was super exciting. I was crying.”
The youngster, who celebrated his 11th birthday on July 24, has caught many memorable fish, including northern pike (“they can be very aggressive”), bass and sheepshead (“a big white fish with stones in their head.”
Another fighter that Chase has encountered is a muskie, an apex predator with long, needle-like teeth. Last year, Chase said, he landed a 47-inch muskie.
“They fight really hard.”    DESIGNATED A “MASTER Angler” by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, 11-year-old Chase Stokes of Ferrisburgh has been fishing for almost a decade. He gets out a couple times a week to catch all kinds of fish, such as this sheepshead.
Photo courtesy of Chase Stokes
Now that school has started up again, Chase will have to cut back on his fishing — maybe only a couple times a week. He said that when he’s not in school he likes to fish “most of the time.” When he’s with his mom, Lucy Menard, he likes to fish in the Winooski River; with dad its often Lake Champlain or Otter Creek. But they have spots on the Middlebury River, among other bodies of water. He also enjoys ice fishing on Shelburne and Monkton ponds during the winter.
At his school they have one book on fishing — specifically about lures. He had it checked out for a lot of last school year.
Fishing has helped him learn skills beyond casting and waiting. His family got a GoPro action camera and Chase has taken to making fishing videos. He has an relaxed narrative style in the videos, which are direct in their instruction and charming in their sincerity.
Chase has a channel called “Fish Hunter” on the YouTube website. As of late last week he had 21 subscribers to the channel.
“I really don’t know how I learned to talk on camera,” he said. “A lot of times when you are getting video taped, you don’t know what to say, but you learn more and more.”
For someone who could be star-struck by the attention his state record has drawn, Chase Stokes seems pretty down to earth.
Chase finds it easy to explain what he likes about fishing, and it’s an answer many outdoorsmen would concur with.
“You get to be outdoors all day,” he said, “and there is all the excitement of trying to catch a really big fish.”

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