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

Northeast Pennsylvania Ice Fishing

Northeast Pennsylvania has consistant early ice fishing.

Northeast Pennsylvania Ice Fishing
Northeastern Pennsylvania is unquestionably the “ice fishing capital” of the Keystone State. This is due to the fact that it is blessed with a natural abundance of lakes to accommodate her legions of hard water enthusiasts. But, even more importantly, the geographic situation of NEPA Ice Country finds many lakes perched on mountain plateaus at elevations nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. Other NEPA waters are tucked in the hollows between these mountains and actually experience colder conditions than those reached on the mountain tops. Northeastern Pennsylvania is comprised of the following counties: Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming. It is not unusual to find winter temps in the region rivaling or dipping below those found in upstate New York. One measure of the northeast’s domination of Pennsylvania’s ice fishing scene is early ice. Year after year “first ice” in NEPA is 4 to 6 weeks earlier than in the rest of the state. I have personally made my first foray onto solid ice in NEPA on or about December 10th every year for the last four years.

Lake Wallenpaupack is one of NEPA's premiere ice fishing destinations.

Lake Wallenpaupack is one of NEPA’s premiere ice fishing destinations.

Early ice is one thing, but the quality of the Northeast Pennsylvania Ice Fishing is another. With hardwater destinations like Lake Wallenpaupack, Lake Jean, Lake Lackawanna, Promised Land, and Shohola Dam topping the list of favorites, there are litterally dozens of opportunities for ice fishermen on any given weekend. Fish species targeted run the gamut from the big three trout species available in the region: brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout to bluegills, sunfish, crappie, and perch. There are walleye, bass and pickerel in many of the lakes and good catches of all are reported with regularity. For fans of the esox family (toothy critters), all of the state park lakes in NEPA are regularly stocked with muskellunge. Some of these lakes have yielded specimens in the 40lb class. The lake at Frances Slocum State Park has a history of producing trophy muskies through the ice. There are opportunities for exotic species to be had through the ice at some locations. Lake Wallenpaupack has a reputation of producing a few trophy striped bass, 20lbs plus, every winter. I personally caught a northern pike in the twenty pound class two years ago at the “pack”. If you are interested in a truly unique ice fishing experience the frigid temps in NEPA can on occasion cause the Susquehanna River to freeze. When this occurs there is a cadre of locals anglers who have been waiting and watching for the opportunity to fish the river ice. Ice fishing on the river is without a doubt more dangerous than ice fishing on the lakes and ponds but the rewards are significant. Walleye, musky and northern pike are the prime targets but, channel catfish, 10 to 12 lbs, and monster carp, to 40 lbs, are frequently pulled out onto the ice.

If you want to learn more about ice fishing or the fantastic hard water fishing to be had in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the IceFishin247.com community is here to be a friend, lend a hand and be a resource in your icy pursuits. Whether you are a beginner or an icy veteran seasoned by many winters spent on our frozen lakes, you will find a warm fire, good friends, and extraordinary tales when you step through the doors of  IceFishin247.

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