North East Pennsylvania’s Polar Express, Ice Fishing Pennsylvania

Ice Stripers, although not a common catch stripers are pulled from Lake Wallenpaupack every winter.NEPA is blessed with myriad lakes which support a wide variety of popular sport and table fish species. Add to that a climate which trends colder than most of the state and you have the makings of and ice fishing paradise. Although not by design, some highways in NEPA are situated such that residents can hop on an expressway and be ice fishing Pennsylvania at any number of fine destinations in an hour or less. Route 84 in particular passes by a string of significant ice fishing lakes which are just a few minutes off the main drag. Climb on board as we explore North East Pennsylvania’s Polar Express,
an Ice Fisherman’s Paradise

Located just south of Scranton, PA off route 380 is the western terminus of interstate route 84. Traveling rte. 84 in an easterly direction will bring us to exit 20, rte. 507 and Lake Wallenpaupack.. Route 507 follows the lake at a distance from the upper end, where Wallenpaupack Creek enters the lake. It continues along the eastern shore connecting with rte.6 at Wilsonville and onto the PPL dam. PPL has provided strategically placed boat launches and access points all around the lake. Ledgedale, Ironwood Point, Wilsonville, and Caffery recreation areas have parking and reasonable access for ice fishermen. Shuman Point natural area can be used as parking for ice fishing but it involves hiking a trail for about one half mile to get to the ice.In addition to the PPL access areas the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat commission maintains the Mangan Cove Boat Launch. This large facility is located on the northwestern shore off rte. 590

Fish species found at the “pack” include: smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rock bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, calico, walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, pickerel, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, channel catfish and yellow perch. Striped bass and hybrid striped bass have been stocked in the lake, and although not specifically targeted, a few are pulled through the ice every season.

The shoreline of this rocky lake follows the contours of the hills and valleys that were inundated when the impoundment was created. There are many coves projecting off the main lake channel. Try the backs of the coves if you like to chase flags for pickerel. You will catch an occasional northern pike or largemouth bass using large shiners in the coves too.

The inundated Wallenpaupack Creek bed runs the entire length of the lake. It is a focal point for baitfish movement and the predator species that prey on them. Stick to the creek bed and adjacent features if you are after walleyes, trout and stripers. Perch and other panfish can be found in deeper water where the coves meet the main lake and on the flats that occur near Wilsonville, Shumans Point and across from Ironwood Point.

Upper Promised Lake boasts some slammer pickerel.Following rte. 84 east to exit 26 brings us to rte. 390, at this point we are just a few minutes from Promised Land State ParkPLSP features ice fishing on two lakes, 422-acre Upper Promised Land Lake and the park’s other lake, 173 acre Lower Promised Land Lake. Both of these offer great opportunities for ice fishing enthusiasts. Primary fish species targeted by ice anglers include: largemouth bass, pickerel, calicos yellow perch, and bluegills. Lower PL Lake is designated as approved trout waters and stocked with brook, brown and rainbow trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

There are several parking areas provided around Upper Promised Land that ice Promised Land State Park's resident eagles are ever watchful for a free lunch.fishermen can use to access the lake. The aptly named Pickerel Point offers access to the central lake area and is a good area to try if pickerel and bass are your quarry. The Snow Shanty access is popular with panfishermen and there is a large parking area with access near the dam off rte. 390 that will put you on deeper waters. Lower PL Lake can be accessed via two parking boat launch facilities. One is located on the shallow and weed choked inlet end and the other is near the deeper end of the lake near the dam and outlet. Don’t be surprised to find that you have company observing your ice fishing activities. Bald eagles inhabit the park year round. They will quickly swoop down on any fish left on the ice unattended. Remember that feeding the eagles is a federal crime and you can be arrested for doing so.

Our last stop on the Polar Express is Shohola Dam, also known as Shohola Marsh Reservoir and Shohola Lake. Shohola is a 1,137-acre manmade lake located on Game Lands No. 180 in Pike County. The Pennsylvania Game Commission created the lake in 1967 to enhance waterfowl production in the area. In the process, they created an awesome ice fishing resource.  This is an exposed lake; up on top of the Pocono Plateau the wind can be brutal. Also be sure to check the ice thickness often, there is a significant current in the channel that will freeze later and thaw earlier than the surrounding ice. Access to Shohola Reservoir is provided via 3 boat launch parking areas. Two of them are located near the outlet of the lake and the other one is about midway up the lake on the northern shore. To reach it you must follow an oftentimes icy and unplowed game lands road. Shohola offers really good pickerel and bass fishing as well as better than average fishing for perch, bluegill and calico. This is a very shallow and weedy lake. The deepest parts, at around 10 feet of water, are the creek channel and the areas nearest the dam. Some panfishermen use the weeds to their advantage. They find small openings in the weeds and harvest the panfish using the area. Some anglers will even use heavy tungsten jigs to punch through the weed cover to reach the bluegills and pumpkinseeds living under the weed bed.

This 22 inch Shohola largemouth bass was taken on a tip up baited with a large chub.Tip ups are the ticket for the bass and pickerel at Shohola. Large chubs and shiners on quick strike rigs do the trick.  If you are after slammer pickerel a wire rig is recommended. Some guys will thread colored beads and spinner blades onto their leaders to add a bit of noise, and flash to the struggling bait. The weeds in Shohola offer the bass and pickerel lots of food and cover allowing them to grow to healthy proportions. Be ready for action and don’t be too surprised of you catch an icy trophy.

With a line up of lakes such as those strung along rte. 84 it is easy to see why I like to call NEPA’s Polar Express and ice fisherman’s paradise. Hop in your vehicle and see if one of the fish lurking in the depths will punch your ticket.

Pennsylvania Ice Fishing Reports


View NEPA Polar Expressway Route #1 in a larger map