After a survey of local tackle shops, all agree that this winter has been one of the best ice fishing seasons in a long time. Thanks for that goes to Mother Nature who has been providing prolonged periods of freezing temperatures, with no thaw periods in between.
Chris from Chris’s Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, said this was the best ice-fishing season he’s seen in a many years, even though last season wasn’t too bad but the ice didn’t last as long as it has so far this year. His local water, Ontelaunee Reservoir, has been fishing well with the exception of popular Peters Creek Cove, which has slowed. The action now is in the channel in the middle of the lake where good numbers of perch and catfish are being pulled up in 14 feet of water. Jumbo pike minnows seem to be the hot bait right now according to Chris. One regular customer is doing good using tip-ups for bass and pike there, but leans to jigging for perch with maggots. This particular customer, said Chris, has gone through 4,000 maggots this year, and during my phone interview, came in for another 1,000. Ice at Ontelaunee is a solid 16.5 inches.
Mike from Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, said this season was good but spotty at times. However, he says fish were always hitting somewhere, you just had to be at the right spot at the right time. “Sometimes in the middle of the season like this, ice action slows down. But not this year,” said Mike.
Northampton County’s Lake Minsi ice is running 15-16 inches thick and yielding lots of pickerel and some bass on tips ups, but jigging there has been slow. Fathead minnows are taking perch, but medium shiners are preferred for picking up pickerel and bass.
Upper Lake at Promised Land has been decent for jigging up nice perch and ‘gills, while tip-ups are working well for bass and pickerel. Up at Hidden Lake in the Pocono’s, tip-ups have been taking panfish but jigging is reportedly not doing much. In addition, there have been good perch, pickerel and bass reports coming from Lake Minisink.
While the coming week appears to have some rising temperatures in the 50s, it shouldn’t affect ice fishing, only making it more comfortable to be on the ice.
Keep in mind ice action customarily turns on at first ice and last ice, so the latter is forthcoming. You merely need to be there when that occurs.
STRIPED BASS REGS CHANGED
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is notifying anglers that effective March 1 there will be changes to the striped bass regulations for the Delaware River and Delaware Estuary.
The creel limit for striped bass has changed in the Estuary – which is defined as the Pennsylvania/Delaware state line upstream to the Calhoun Street Bridge – to one fish from January 1 through March 31 and from June 1 through December 31. The creel limit is currently set at two bass with a minimum keeper size of 28 inches.
For the remaining two months, from April 1 through May 31, the slot length limit will be changed to 21-25 inches. The current slot limit is 20-26 inches. But during this two-month period, the creel limit, says the PF&BC, will remain at two fish per day.
In the Delaware River upstream from the Estuary – defined as upstream from the Calhoun Street Bridge and where most local anglers fish – the creel limit for striped bass will be reduced from two to one fish. The river is open year-round with a minimum keeper size of 28 inches.
This regulation change, says the PF&BC, is being taken to meet the requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) management plan for striped bass, which calls for management actions when the coast-wide spawning stock biomass (SSB) or fishing mortality rates reach thresholds set within the plan.
These regulation changes apply only to the Pennsylvania side of the river and estuary.
The PF&BC explained that the SSB threshold is 127 million pounds and the current SSB is just above this at 128 million pounds. At the current mortality (catch) rate, there is concern that the SSB will fall below the threshold in the near future. That and the recruitment of young fish has been relatively low in many years since 2004.
ASFMC has directed all coastal states to reduce fishing mortality rates by 25 percent beginning in 2015 in an effort to meet the new requirements.