Although we’re finally getting some below freezing temperatures, safe ice fishing is still some cold days away.
Barry Heydt of Indian Creek Farm in Danielsville (a pay to fish lake) said his deep lake and shallow pond have just developed skim ice. And a few suburban Allentown farm ponds appear to have skim ice as well.
But as happens every year at this time, ice fishermen have to travel to the Pocono’s to find hard water. Places like Shohola, Promise Land, Gouldsboro, Tobyhanna and Fairview lakes usually freeze first. If cold temperatures continue for a week or more Lake Minsi in Northampton County and then Ontelaunee in upper Berks historically freezes next. After that, Bucks County’s Lake Nockamixon is next to freeze but then it’s historically been the coves first and sometimes the only parts if cold weather doesn’t persist.
It’s been tradition, it seems, that first and last ice of the season offers the best ice fishing periods. So now’s a good time to gather up your tip-ups, jigging rods, skimmer, ice auger and whatever else you use, to check their condition before hitting the early season ice.
On your jigging reels and tips-ups, it’s best to discard the old line on your rigs and put on some fresh mono or braid. Or, try some of the mono made especially for ice fishing that doesn’t become stiff in frozen water. Berkley’s Trilene makes Cold Weather or Micro Ice and Fireline’s Micro Ice Crystal is also good and allows for maximum sensitivity in deep water.
And for those who have a hunting blind, it can double as an ice-fishing tent to keep biting winds at bay. Add a portable propane heater and the blind can become cozy warm.
To improve your chances of getting bit, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission offers these tips for finding specific species.
WALLEYE: Because they are a schooling fish you want to intercept their cruising by spacing your tip-ups at intervals in a straight line from shore. Avoid weedbeds and look for clear bottoms. Of course a portable depth finder could help here. Use small hooks and light sinkers. Walleyes are notoriously light biters and will often hit a bait as it descends.
PIKE & PICKEREL: Because of oxygen depletion and scarcity of food, these fish are not likely to be found near submerged vegetation in winter as they are in summer. Don’t overlook fishing open water and employ jigging with spoons. Whatever the bait, let the fish take it and avoid depths greater than 15 feet (can be measured with a marked drop-line and sinker).
PANFISH: Panfish too are schooling fish that travel slowly so the action usually lasts longer. Use light tackle and small, size 12 or 14 hooks impaled with grubs or waxworms. A little trick I learned from Jeff Heller, former owner of Pro Am Fishing Shop in Kuhnsville, is to use a high-low rig for perch. Tie one lighter jig onto your line then tie an 18-inch piece of line to the bend of that hook. At that terminal end, tie on a heavier spoon or jig. Don’t, however, use a swivel to tie this extra piece as it’ll probably tangle. Bait the lower one with a minnow, the higher one with a waxworm. It’s not uncommon to get two perch on at a time.
BASS: Bass metabolism is much slower during winter so they feed much less. Slowly bouncing bait in front of their noses is usually the only method that works as does fishing more varied structure. Look for rocky points and gravel bars near deep water.
TROUT: You don’t have to go deep for trout in winter. They’re often in cooler surface water. Fish a three-inch shiner for best results and seek them out on sandbars, as they’re especially attracted to them.
Above all, be careful and check the ice before venturing onto it. Stay away from areas where cracks meet or intersect. Be extra careful where water levels vary as in rivers, streams, inlets, outlets, coves, eddies and springs. And areas with “stick ups” of protruding logs, brush, plants and docks that absorb heat from the sun, which weakens surrounding ice. Last but not least, you’ll probably find thicker ice on a waterway’s north, rather than on the south shore.
MENTOURED YOUTH TROUT
A few columns back I reported that the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commissions proposed a Mentored Youth Trout program whereby kids under 16 can fish selected waters prior to the trout opener.
The program has been finalized and there are 12 waters that are included in the new program designed to gets youths interested in fishing.
Of the 12 waters, these are the local waters that can be fished beginning March 23, 2013:
* Antietam Lake, Berks County
* Scotts Run Lake, Berks County
* Levittown Lake, Bucks County
* Lehigh Canal, Lehigh County
* Deep Creek Dam/Green Lake, Montgomery County
* Locust Lake, Schuylkill County
To participate in the program, youths must register with the PF&BC and fish with a current fishing license holder and trout permit. The selected waters can be fished from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the Saturday before the southeast opener. Youths may keep two fish that are at least 7 inches in length.
To automatically receive outdoor news and views from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation atop this page.