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Ice Fishing 101

with: Jamie Spencer
     
 

I truly dig everything about north central PA. I guess you could say I am one of her biggest fans. Seriously. What's not to love about the 570? This place is just splendid, and our beautiful area is the perfect backdrop for an outdoor enthusiast like me. No. I am not a member of the Chamber, but I believe I'd make a fine addition to their Visitors Bureau Committee.
Lycoming County provides hundreds of exceptional fishing opportunities. We are very blessed with several different types of water to target all kinds of species. Fishing has always been my passion, and my lovely bride would say that I am somewhat obsessed. I would fish every single day if I could, and I came awfully close in 2017.
A few of my favorite spots are just a short drive or walk from the house. I do my very best to fish them year round too, but unfortunately, my expeditions have been non-existent here lately. The sub-zero temperatures and icy conditions have made it nearly impossible to navigate Lycoming Creek. I normally don't mind fishing in the cold, but my stream is now completely frozen. Mr. Trump hasn't done a whole lot in year one, but it appears his staffers have solved global warming.
So it's been a few weeks, and I am definitely experiencing a void. I only wanted to get outside to try the gear that I scored for Christmas. I desperately needed some action, so I reached out to a fellow fishing chum on Facebook messenger.
Jason Britton and I both attended Williamsport High. The local resident is a few years older and is quite the fisherman. Jason is one of the best at catching monster panfish and grows one impressive beard. He competes and wins his fair share of state and local tournaments. Britton makes it look easy, and you should see some of his amazing pictures.
Jason is what you would call an ice fishing expert, and I've always wanted to tag along for one of his adventures. He balked at first but when I told him it was an assignment for Webb Weekly — yeah buddy. Hook, line, and sinker. We were on. I only had to sign a disclaimer saying I wouldn't reveal any of his secrets.
I arrived at the northern access of Rose Valley Lake at a quarter to 4:00. The WeatherBug App said it was a raw 17 degrees. Jason had already set up shop. He was fishing with Todd Paulhamus, another master angler, just a few clicks from the parking lot. I was very surprised to find several others braving the elements that afternoon. We weren't the only crazies.
I immediately noticed all of their fancy gear. It seemed like Jason and Todd had something from every page of the latest Cabellas catalog. From gas-powered augers to multiple ice-fishing combos. One enormous cargo sled and several propane heaters. Portable blinds to state of the art electronics. It was amazing.
"Todd has been slaying ‘em," Jason relayed. "So why don't you set up next to him. Here, use this. That color combo is banging right now. Are you familiar with one of these?"
Jason was pointing to a Lowrance Elite V Depth Finder that was in a blue weatherproof case. Um. No. I had absolutely zero experience with such a high tech sonar pinging electronic device, so I played dumb.
"Well. Here's your depth," Jason continued. "We are fishing in 6 feet of water. That's the bottom and see this small blue beacon? That's your jig. Now twitch your rod. See it bounce up and down? Look. That's a fish."
Jason and Todd did their very best, to sum up years and years of experience in a short three-minute introductory lesson. Then the boys eventually cut the cord and went back to catching fish. They were both landing jumbo perch, and monster bluegills left and right while I was still trying to figure out these damn orange and yellow sonar flashes in the freezing cold. Any luck Spencer? No! My patience was running thin.
Jason's son and his precious six-year-old granddaughter swung by just before dusk. Fishing is important to all of the Brittons even on school nights. Young Aaliyah was all bundled up, and she made me laugh several times. The spunky kindergartener from Lyter Elementary absolutely hammered them.
"Pap. I got another perch," Aaliyah explained. "That's my third pap. Three perch. Hey mister. Why aren't you catching anything?"
Okay. I was now crushed. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Everyone was catching fish including this little girl who was really starting to rub it in. Todd was on fire. He was using the very same setup some five feet away. We'd switch holes, and then he'd slay them in my old spot. Jason even gave me his electronics, but he was over there proving to the world that he doesn't need anything with a serial port. I mean. Look he just caught another. It's gotta be me.
My gloves were completely frozen, and I couldn't feel my toes. It was starting to get dark, and I thought to myself how much longer? A few more minutes passed and just when I was going to give in — my electronic went absolutely berserk. I didn't panic nor did I call for help. I only tried to remember what was discussed in Ice Fishing 101.
I slightly bounced my rod hoping to entice that monster red flash that was embedded in the weeds. He came up for a quick peek, and I slowed my presentation. I felt a slight twitch and set the hook realizing I had a fish on the other end of my line. Hey guys. I finally got one! Aaliyah laughed.
So I have caught hundreds and hundreds of fish in my lifetime, but that puny four-inch baby bluegill was my first through the ice. Size didn't matter, and I ended up catching three more. Nothing to brag about but I was awfully proud. I am still a novice, and I am hooked.
Special thanks to my mates who taught me a few new tricks to help with my obsession. Ice fishing isn't for everyone, but I had a blast. I wish Jason and Todd continued success as my friends are heading to a tournament in Michigan soon. Appreciate the patience and advice. Frozen lines boys. Cheers.