With the freezing temperature we’re having, ice fishing should kick off allowing fishermen to walk on water. And first-ice is generally the best time to ice fish in that the fish haven’t seen live bait or lures in some time.
Ice fishing can also be a family sport in that with kids in tow, and if the fish aren’t biting, kids can slide or ice skate over the waters’ surface. Get a bite and the kids will get excited pulling in a fish with either a tip-up or mini jigging rod.
If you’re new to the sport, only the bare ice fishing essentials are needed. The least expensive piece of equipment aside from line, hooks and sinkers are tip-up’s. If you can’t stand waiting for a tip-up to go off, then invest in a jigging rod or two, each baited with something different. You may want to put a minnow on one and an ice fishing lure on another and jig away.
With first-ice the fish are hungry and their systems are lethargic. So the experts say to fish larger lures and fish them faster as the fish don’t want their dinner getting away. It’s also recommended using fast dropping lures that are flashy and noisy to attract their attention.
But before you can ice fish, you need to a drill a hole or two. The least expensive ice auger is a manual auger that resembles a giant cork screw. It will require some muscle in drilling, but it’ll do just fine in modest ice depths. Or, if you own an 18-volt cordless drill, Cabela’s sells a K-Drill that will attach to most cordless drills. Clam Outdoors also makes a Drill Auger Conversion kit for your cordless drill that can drill 6-inch holes.
If there is substantial ice thickness, you may want to invest in a powered auger do the hard work. Gas augers are pricey but are powerful. If you don’t want to haul a heavy gas unit, Strike Master makes a 40-volt Lithium electric auger that is capable of drilling 100 holes in 16 inches of ice on a full battery charge.
There are also propane powered units such as Eskimo’s Rocket Propane Auger using a 40cc engine. And Jiffy Pro4’s X-Treme propane drill can drill 8 or 10-inch holes. It’s all a matter of what you can afford.
With first ice, and it happens every year, some ice anglers are too anxious and perhaps foolish and they go out on unsafe ice and fall in. The sound of ice cracking underfoot is scary. That’s why it’s important to don a certified Personal Floatation Device (PFD). Or, invest in a coat that doubles as a PFD. Frabill, the fishing gear company, makes their I-Float model and I-Bib ensemble that provides warmth and floatation if you fall in. Their jacket comes with attached ice picks as an aid in crawling out on the ice. Pacific Northwest sells their Survival Bomber Jacket that is a certified Type II PFD.
So far, ice conditions are getting thicker. According to Willie from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, he’s been hearing reports of good ice thickness in all Pocono area lakes and ponds like Tobyhanna, Promised Land and Shohola. More locally, Leaser Lake had three inches as of Friday (December 29); Mauch Chunk Lake had 3-3.5 inches, Tuscarora Lake, 4-5 inches and catch-and-release Owl Creek Reservoir located southeast of Tuscarora Lake and north of Leaser Lake off Route 309, had 5-6 inches.
Chris from Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown said Ontelaunee Reservoir had 3 inches but expects ice to thicken there one-inch a day.
Oh yes. Dress warm and don’t forget the ice creepers for you boots.
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.