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South Williamsport, PA
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The Hard Water Cometh

I know, there are a lot of people who don’t want to hear about the lakes freezing over because that means bitter cold days, snow that needs to be shoveled, windshields that need to be cleaned, and a whole lot more that comes with winter. To the “walk-on-water crowd” however, the freezing temperatures mean it

I know, there are a lot of people who don’t want to hear about the lakes freezing over because that means bitter cold days, snow that needs to be shoveled, windshields that need to be cleaned, and a whole lot more that comes with winter. To the “walk-on-water crowd” however, the freezing temperatures mean it won’t be long until we can be on our favorite lake pulling panfish up onto the frozen surface.

Believe it or not, I have at least four people who told me they want to try ice fishing this coming season and I’m more than happy to introduce them to fishing with the “frozen chosen.” Several newcomers have asked me what they “need” to get involved in ice fishing; I generally tell them just have an up to date fishing license and I’ll take care of the rest and then if you like the activity you can begin to acquire what you “need.” Truth is, what you “need” today compared to what you needed 30 years ago is vastly different.

When I started in the 60s all you needed was a spud bar to chop a hole in the ice and a broken rod tip shoved in a piece of wooden broom handle; that and some kind of bait and you were ready to go. Like everything else in this world around us, even ice fishing has become more high tech and a lot more comfortable. For example, we no longer dig holes with a spud bar, now we drill holes — and with great ease — using a gas ice auger or better yet a battery-powered auger. Today we can even use a regular battery powered drill with an adaptor to drill plenty of holes with one small lithium battery. This drilling equipment with lightweight, compact lithium batteries is much easier to transport out onto the ice.

In the old days, we worked our bait at different depths until we got some hits and then we concentrated on that depth — it worked, but it took some time. Today we drill a hole and drop our flasher or sonar unit in and within seconds we know the exact depth and what depth the various schools of fish are holding. These modern units are small, easy to pack out onto the ice and they can save considerable time looking. I must add however that because you know the exact depth of the fish you seek that does not mean they are ready or willing take your offerings — that part of fishing hasn’t changed.

Even rods and reels have been specially designed to meet the needs of the hard water gang; they are smaller, more sensitive to strikes and the reels are much easier to work in the cold temperatures. Even lines have been developed to stay more supple and sensitive to the light bites of panfish 20 feet beneath the hard surface. In addition, there are now a multitude of ice fishing lures available designed just for the hard water enthusiast.

A shelter of any kind was practically nonexistent in the early days and when you did see one it was homemade from scrap lumber and other construction leftovers. Today portable ice shelters are the rule rather than the exception. The portable shelter consists of a durable plastic sled with a flip up tent-like cover. The sled easily carries all the necessary equipment. Add one of today’s small, lightweight, portable propane stoves, and you can stay comfortable even when temps hit the teens.

Even clothing is far from what it used to be in the early days of ice fishing. Today we have suits that are lightweight but at the same time much warmer. An even better suit are the ones that I and my buddies have-lightweight, warm and if you go through they will actually keep you afloat although I don’t recommend testing it out.

And here you thought us hard water nuts were all out there suffering — well, I guess I just blew that theory.

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