Ice fishing methods, normally thought of as primitive, have changed quite a bit over the past 20 years. Back in the day, most anglers would simply drill one hole in the ice and wait, hoping that a fish would swim by. Now, seasonal anglers come equipped with sonar, electric or gas-powered ice augers, handheld global positioning system (GPS) devices, special tents, audible alarms and lighter gear to improve their chances of catching a fish.
If the fish stop biting where they are, anglers can choose to move to the next hole, checking it with their sonar first; and if there are no fish - they will keep moving until the sonar displays fish. In addition, modern anglers utilize available maps and surveys to help pinpoint lakes and areas that might provide for better fishing. They are then able to use a handheld GPS receiver to find those locations.
They then drill holes, checking the ice thickness for safety as they go. Using sonar, some anglers can determine the depth of the water, bottom content, weed and structure cover, and even see if there are fish there. The use of sonar allows the angler to stage the bait according to where they think the fish are or will migrate to. If they are using "tip-ups", they can carpet the area at different depths and with different devices (5 is the maximum allowed in Pennsylvania) and see what works best. Most ice anglers can also use modern reels mounted on shorter fishing rods.
Ice fishing can be done at any time of day, and is typically most active around dusk and dawn, as different fish can be active at different times of day, so anglers need to fish for them accordingly.
"It is engenius regarding some of the high tech equipment some anglers bring on the ice," said longtime angler Dan Kabana of Tamaqua. "Despite these high tech gadgets, there is still something primitive about lifting fish out of a hole with a string."