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Frozen Lines

Punxsutawney Phil was a no show. I guess that means it will be an early spring. Sign me up. The weather has been quite unpredictable. We haven’t experienced much cold. I was hoping to get out for some ice fishing, but the conditions drastically changed. I had to bail on my Amish friends. They didn’t respond to my calls or texts that morning. I finally connected a few days later. I apologized and told them we would make it happen. The English are soft. My bearded brothers went, and they had a ball. Unfortunately, they did not take any photos. It would have been a great story. Stay tuned. I had to pull something from the archives this week. A great adventure from 2017. My first experience fishing on thin ice. Yes. I feel bad for the recap. But there will be another time.

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 is the perfect backdrop for an outdoor enthusiast like me. No. I am no longer with the Chamber, but I believe I’d make a fine addition to their Visitors Committee. Application submitted. 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; my lovely bride would say I am somewhat obsessed. I would fish every single day if I could, and I came awfully close several years back. A few of my favorite spots are just a short drive or walk from the homestead. I do my very best to fish them year-round, but unfortunately, my expeditions have been nonexistent 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 neighboring stream is now completely frozen. Mr. Trump hasn’t done a whole lot in year one, but it appears he and his staffers have solved global warming. It’s been a few weeks, and I am experiencing a void. I only wanted to get outside to try the new stuff that I scored. I needed some action, and I was desperate.

I reached out to a fellow fishing chum on Facebook. Jason Britton and I both attended Williamsport High. The resident is a few years older and is quite a fisherman. Jason grows an impressive beard and is one of the best at catching monster panfish. He competes and wins his fair share of state and local tournaments. Britton makes it look easy; 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 the Webb Weekly — yeah, buddy — hook, line, and sinker. We were on. I only had to sign a disclaimer — no revealing 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 just a few clicks from the parking lot above. I was very surprised to find several others braving the elements. We weren’t the only crazies. I immediately noticed all of the fancy gear. It seemed like Jason had something from every page of the latest Cabela’s catalog. From gas-powered augers to multiple ice-fishing combos. One enormous cargo sled and a few propane heaters. Portable blinds to state-of-the-art electronics. It was amazing, but since we were only fishing for a few hours, there wasn’t a need to set everything up.

“Todd has been slaying ’em,” Jason relayed with a grin. “Why don’t you pull 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. It reminded me of the throwback 8-bit Nintendo game called TETRIS.

“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, move your rod. See it bounce up and down? Look. That’s a fish. There’s another.” Jason did his very best to sum up years and years of experience in a short two-minute introductory lesson. Then, he eventually cut the chord.

Jason went back to catching fish. He was landing jumbo perch and monster bluegills while I was still trying to figure out the orange and yellow flashes in the freezing cold. Any luck, Spencer? No! My patience was running thin. Jason’s son, JR, and his precious granddaughter swung by just before dusk. Fishing is important to all of the Brittons, especially on brisk school nights. Young Aaliyah was all bundled up, and she made me laugh several times. This spunky kindergartener was absolutely hammering them, too. “Pap. I caught another perch,” Aaliyah explained. “That’s my third pap. Three perch. Hey mister. Why aren’t you catching anything?”

OK. I was now crushed. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Everyone was catching fish, including this little girl who was starting to rub it in. Todd was on fire. He was using the very same setup only five feet away. We’d switch holes, but he’d only start catching them in my old spot. Jason let me try his combo. Still no luck. I noticed he was now catching fish with his bare hands without any serial ports. Old school. I mean. Look, he just caught another. What the heck? I’m cursed. 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- my sonar went 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 quickly set the hook. Then I realized there was a fish on the other end of my line. I was so excited. Hey guys. I finally got one! The boys were happy, but Aaliyah laughed when she saw my puny prize. Shrinkage.

I have caught hundreds and hundreds of fish in my lifetime, but that four-inch baby bluegill was my first through the ice. Size didn’t matter, and I ended up catching two more. Nothing to brag about, but I was proud. I am still a novice, but I am hooked now — special thanks to my good buddy Jason, who taught me some new tricks. Ice fishing isn’t for everyone, but I had an absolute blast. Appreciate the patience and free advice — frozen lines. Cheers.