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South Williamsport, PA
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Fishing Options

With the exception of some small game hunting and some predator hunting, our hunting is about over for a while. True, we can still get in some squirrel, rabbit, and pheasant hunting until the 29th of the month as well as some good coyote hunting throughout the remainder of the winter, but for most of

With the exception of some small game hunting and some predator hunting, our hunting is about over for a while. True, we can still get in some squirrel, rabbit, and pheasant hunting until the 29th of the month as well as some good coyote hunting throughout the remainder of the winter, but for most of us, our hunting is pretty well over until spring turkey season. Of course, if you are an outdoor enthusiast like me, not being able to hunt simply opens up more opportunities to fish, and for me, fishing season is a year-round event.

Here we are in the middle of February already, and our ice-fishing opportunities have been very limited. I checked the lake in nearby Washingtonville this morning before sitting down to write this week’s column, and it’s completely void of ice. There are some lakes to the north that are still hanging on to some ice, but unless we get another cold spell soon, our ice-fishing season could be over. Normally we begin putting our ice-fishing gear away by early March, and we begin considering other fishing options; the bottom line is there is always some method or option available to put a bend in your rod.

With ice-fishing opportunities dwindling, it may be time to look at other possibilities. Believe it or not, some lakes can be very productive, even fishing from the bank — yes, even in February, if open water is available. One of our favorite winter targets are “panfish” — that is bluegills, crappies, pumpkinseeds, and perch — and we always catch our fair share of them through the ice, but they can also be taken in open water in late winter and early spring.

It’s funny, but a lot of people think of panfish like bluegills as a summertime fish taken on warm summer days, but the truth is they are one of our most cooperative fish species through the ice; they and other panfish feed readily all winter long. In the dead of winter, these panfish will seek deeper water, so the trick now is to be able to access that open water and at varying depths; if you can access deep open water from the bank right now you have a good chance of putting some fish in the freezer.

This brings me to another option for this mild winter situation we are now dealing with; get that boat out of storage. I know, sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake in mid-February in Pennsylvania seems pretty strange, but it will produce fish under the right circumstances. Several years ago, my brother and I did just that-we launched our boat in mid-winter since the ice was not strong enough, and we motored out to the edge of the mid-lake ice and began to fish. We basically rigged our ultralight spinning outfits with the same terminal rigs we would have used if we were ice-fishing, and we caught plenty of nice perch right at the edge of the thin ice. A small live minnow rigged with a slip bobber worked well. Since it doesn’t look like ice conditions are going to improve a whole lot over the next couple of weeks, my boat may be making some early excursions to suitable lakes in the area. Remember, you must wear a life jacket in boats under 16 feet in length until April 30.

One more mid-winter fishing option which is always on the table is a trip to a local trout stream either with fly gear or spinning tackle. I prefer the flyrod and an assortment of nymphs or streamers. The point is there is always a method or option for putting a bend in a rod even under these present conditions.

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