According to Chris Mohry, owner of Chris’s Outdoor Sports Shop in Mertztown, this is the best early ice fishing season he’s seen in many years.
Said Mohry, “I cannot remember any year that has been better than this, thanks to the early frigid temps we’ve had.” And his ice fishing report is enthusiastic.
Mohry says the ice at Ontelaunee Reservoir in upper Berks County located off Route 222 in Evansville, was loaded with ice anglers, despite the freezing temperatures we had. The ice there he reports is running 6-8 inches and anglers are catching pickerel, bass and crappies, predominately on minnows. And since he’s the only tackle shop in the area selling suckers, he’s been selling them to anglers who are after muskies both at Ontelaunee and at Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County that has 4-6 inches of ice.
Speaking of Leaser, Mohry said the guys buying suckers are hitting big muskies there, one reportedly was 43 inches. Of course the toothy critters have to be released plus other fish other than trout. Unfortunately, no one is catching trout as it’s thought the muskies devoured them.
Willie Marx from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon has similar reports from both waters but adds one customer came back from Ontelaunee and said he caught 16 white perch plus some panfish and one Leaser angler pulled up a 32-inch musky.
Willie also reported a couple regular customers went to Mauch Chunk Lake and pulled panfish, a few pickerel and some nice bass from there. He thinks ice fishing will get even better after Friday’s rain and warm temps as another cold front is oncoming.
But he’s puzzled because he hasn’t received one report from Shohola, Promised Land lakes or Pecks Pond in the Pocono’s.
As for bait, Marx said he’s sold 7,000 wax worms so far as that’s seems the bait of choice with minnows second and mousies third in ice angler preference.
I visited Leaser and Ontelaunee last Sunday and counted 20 ice anglers far off the shore of Leaser. The dam area, where the fishing pier and kayak launch ramp is located, only had seven anglers.
At Ontelaunee, there were at Least 30 anglers on the ice at Evansville and Peters Creek Cove. The cove, incidentally, has some open water. I could also see a few anglers far off in the distant where they may have entered the lake from the other side. Ice there was a solid seven inches and several anglers were using ice fishing tents to cut the frigid wind at the time to make conditions more tolerable.
For those who want to try make larger ice holes, Fish’s Folding Ice Saw takes the place of an auger or spud bar to cut holes in the ice. This novel tool can cut round or square holes and big holes for two anglers to fish at. And if you’re after big muskies, a larger hole the saw can make would insure not losing it by trying to pull it through a small auger hole.
The saw, designed and built by Wayne Benbo (aka “Fish”) of Winger, MN, measures 42 inches folded and 80 inches long unfolded. The saw has a pointed tip to start an ice hole and the large toothed saw does the cutting. It’s a manual operation but effective and the exercise it gives could warm the angler in the process.
To see a demonstration of his saw visit the company’s (Fish’s Sporting Toys) Facebook page “Fish’s Folding Ice Saw” or check firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.