I made a daring trip last fall.
I packed the bed of the truck full of gear, pushed the kids in the backseat and nervously clutched my wife’s hand as we pulled out of the driveway. The GPS on the dash said we had reached our destination in a tad shy of 26 hours. We were headed to North Dakota … driving… with two kids.
Along the way we saw lots of things. But as the weather gets downright frigid, I yearn for something we saw as we dashed across the northern fringe of Minnesota. Every half hour or so we passed an ice shack hitched to the back of a truck.
These folks were taking ice fishing to a whole new level. It’s something Pennsylvania’s ice fishermen can only dream about. But with most of the local waterways frozen, the idea of ice fishing isn’t a faraway dream.
A lot of anglers can’t stand the thought of going all winter without wetting a line. If you're one of them, ice fishing may be for you.
Unlike the expensive shacks we saw up north, the sport does not require a lot of money or fancy equipment. All that is truly needed is a string, a hook and some bait (and a fishing license). But if you're a bit more serious about catching fish, there are a few items that can be used to help tilt the odds in your favor.
Most experts agree that jigging is the most productive way to ice fish. So the first thing that an ice fisherman needs is a rod and reel. A good jigging setup is a short ultralight rod and a small reel spooled with four- to six-pound test line. Small flashy lures tend to work best for jigging, but sometimes a live minnow can't be beat.
Tip-ups are another great weapon in an ice fisherman's arsenal. These easy-to-use devices allow the angler to "set it and forget it." Anglers simply hook their bait to the attached line, set the bait at the desired depth and walk away. Once a hungry fish takes the bait, the tip-up raises a flag signaling the angler to pull up the line and the hooked fish.
An essential item to have while ice fishing is a set of ice awls. These simple tools will help you pull yourself out of the water if you do happen to fall in. They can easily be made at home or purchased at a local tackle shop.
Once you have acquired all of the necessary tools and tackle, you need to know where to go. York County offers some excellent choices. In the northern end of the county is Conewago Lake in Gifford Pinchot State Park. This 340-acre lake offers an excellent large-mouth bass fishery even when the water is hard.
Closer to the center of the county are Lake Williams and Lake Redman. These lakes, which are connected by a spillway, encompass 510 acres. Ice fishermen have an excellent chance of catching as crappies, large-mouth bass, walleye and musky on either lake.
Lake Marburg, in the southwestern section of the county, offers spectacular ice fishing. The 1,275-acre lake gives up a lot of fish through the ice every winter. Some of the most common catches are yellow perch, crappie, large-mouth bass, bluegills, muskies and even trout.
Don’t let the thought of fishing on a sheet of ice in cold weather intimidate you. You certainly don’t have to drive halfway across the continent to enjoy ice fishing. With proper clothing, a few simple tools, and a little know-how, spending a few hours on the ice is an excellent way to break out of the winter doldrums and enjoy a beautiful winter day right here in York County.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.