Ice Fishing Trip Planning for New Territory

Ice Fishing Trip Planning for New Territory

Planning an ice fishing trip? Do to a strong El Nino, this winter looks to be the year of the road trip, especially for PA, down state NY and ice fishers on the southern edge of the ice belt . I am convinced that more of us than ever will be taking to the highways and heading north in search of first ice, early ice and possibly any ice at all. With that in mind I am offerng this article on the subject “Planning an Ice Fishing Trip, specifically into new territory”. This isn’t going to be a check list of what to take, I think most of us know what we need to go ice fishing. Instead, it will cover getting ready with information which will help guarantee, that when you get to your destination you have a game plan and get the most out of your time in the icelands.

Contour maps are available for planning an ice fishing trip.The first step in planning an ice fishing trip is deciding on a destination. This year I suspect that will be anywhere with ice for most of us. Looking for an area that will get ice early is not too difficult it needs to be the coldest place that you can think of within your reach and within parameters of your available time. For colder than average temperatures you need a northerly location with elevation, Stay away from the immediate great lakes area and river valleys. Once you have a general location in mind then you can start getting to the fine points. Smaller, shallower and sheltered lakes will freeze and hold ice earlier than vast and deep windswept lakes will. Too, the smaller sheltered bays on big lakes can develop ice much earlier than the main body of water does. The more lakes in your target area that you identify as icy potentials the more options you will have when you get on site and have to find safe ice.

Your next task, now that you have selected an area and a handful of likely lakes to ice fish on, is to learnNavionics has a vast inventory of detailed lake contour maps the lay of the land. What species of fish reside in the lakes you will be fishing and what the regulations are regarding taking them through the ice. You will also want to know where the public access points are and and lets not forget bait and tackles. You will probably be staying overnight for a day or more so a motel or cabin that can accommodate ice fishermen will be necessary, as will a good pub or restaurant for a meal and a brew to bring a great day on the ice to a fitting close. The internet has made gathering all this information easier than it used to be but, one still has to dig and be willing to look in unexpected places if you want to fish like a local.

The internet has been a boon to DYI adventure planners like me. You can use Google or one of the other web search engines to find information on virtually any subject. I like google, probably because that is what I grew up using, so that is how I will proceed with this section of the discussion but you can substitute your own personal favorite search provider with similar results.

A screen shor from Google Maps of Lake George

Google Maps are invaluable for planning an ice fishing trip.

Be creative when you are doing your info gathering searches. Look in the local Chamber of Commercesites. Follow the links for activities, not just the ice fishing links, but the hiking, X-country skiing and snowshoeing links. I recently found an unmarked path to a lake I have always wanted to fish listed in a snowshoeing trail map. A short level drag to a lake that was seemingly inaccessible. Use google maps satellite view to see under water sandbars and weed beds. You can use state resources like NY states extensive list of contour maps, and their special ice fishing regulations. Navionics has an app for ten dollars that has some really USA good maps and some that are just carbon copies of what is available from other sources. You keep them with you in your smart phone and with your gps turned on you can use them to navigate to under ice structures that would nearly impossible to find using the poke and hope method.

Getting back the the C of C listings, use them for your lodging, dining and bait and tackle needs. Often asking a few questions of a hotel or B&T owner will yield a wealth of information that will be useful. lastly do not forget web forums like and as a information resource. I have had great success searching in the archives of these sites mining info. Bluntly asking for info online will get you a share of derision but a well placed personal message to someone who seems to know what is what will often result in a discreet reply with some info to point you in the right direction.

Planning an ice fishing trip is something that I have aways enjoyed. Digging in and rooting out the info necessary for a great trip helps to pass the time while we wait for safe ice. Knowing that you did it yourself is a great reward at the end of a successful adventure.

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