Although we’ve had some cold, below freezing temperature nights, you would think it wouldn’t be sufficient for local lakes to freeze for ice fishing. Well some are. According to Chris Mohry, from Chris’ Outdoors Sports shop in Mertztown, die-hard ice anglers have been ice fishing Ontelaunee Reservoir in upper Berks County for the past two weeks.
Mohry reports that Ontelaunee has from 2-4 inches of ice depending on where you are on the lake. “Two weeks ago there was 1-3 inches and some daring guys were on it. But since we had some cold nights, ice thickness has increased. But the edges generally only have an inch or so, particularly around Peters Creek Cove. Venture out farther towards the quarry and the ice is thicker,” Mohry explained.
Mohry goes on to say that if the cold nights continue, ice thickness at Ontelaunee normally thickens about a quarter to a half-inch a night when temperatures are 20 degrees or colder.
So far, he’s been hearing that ice anglers are catching lots of crappies, bluegills, a few bass and loads of white perch on fatheads, maggots and wax worms at Ontelaunee. In other words, the fish want meat. And if the old ice fishing theory is true, ice fishing is best at first ice and last ice.
As for Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County, Mohry says there’s probably ice there but no one has been on it as far as he knows. Willie, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, echo’s Chris’ statement adding that he doubts anyone would fish there this early as he wouldn’t think the ice is safe.
Chris has customers who have been fishing the Pocono lakes like Promised Land Lake that had a reported 7-10 inches of ice and they’ve been doing good on pan fish with live bait. “The only place that hasn’t frozen for some reason from what I gather is Shohola, which is usually a hot ice fishing spot because it’s relatively shallow,” Mohry opines.
If you’re itching to walk on water, take precautions. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission has always recommended the following guidelines.
* The minimum ice thickness for ice fishing is at least 4 inches of solid ice.
* Drill holes or use an ice chisel/auger to check the ice conditions while working your way to a spot.
* Look for changes in ice color as it could mean thin ice or weak ice due to rain or warm temperatures.
* If the ice is clear enough you can monitor its thickness by looking at the depth of the cracks or bubbles.
* Fish with others in case trouble arises.
* Before heading out, tell a family member or friend where you’ll be fishing.
* Wear a life jacket of one of those new inflatable coats, in case you fall in.
* Commercial or homemade ice picks should be worn around your neck in case you fall through the ice and need something to grip the ice to pull yourself out.
* Keep a long rope with you so someone can help rescue you if you break through the ice.
If you’re new to ice fishing, you merely need the basics. A short ice fishing jigging rod and reel (or tip-ups), some small hooks, sinkers and some ice fishing jigs/ice flies/jigging spoons and the aforementioned live baits. To make a hole, a spud bar, ice chisel, manual/powered ice auger, or, some innovative anglers connected an auger bit to a DeWalt-type battery powered drill.
A plastic bucket with lid would be useful in that you can sit on it and it can hold tackle items, baits and your fish. Other than these, warm clothing and ice creepers on your boots are a necessity.
We’ll update ice conditions in forthcoming columns.
SNOWS HAVE ARRIVED
Yes, snow geese have arrived in our area. In our travels last week there was a small flock of about 50 birds on the Kasych cornfields on MacArthur Road and across from the cemetery and Whitehall Municipal building. And they shared the field with a few Canada geese.
Then on Saturday, Jan. 7, a sizable flock were feasting in the winter wheat field in Ruchsville and on land believed to be owned by Newhart’s Farms and Orchard. Snows been known to decimate a winter wheat field in a few days. So, waterfowl hunters may want to check out the hunting possibilities in these areas.
Large snow geese flocks have been seen flying high and southerly the last two weeks. If we don’t get heavy snows, the geese should stay in our area.
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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.