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Ice fishing

  • Dave Bloss sits in tent while ice fishing in Tuscarora.
    Dave Bloss sits in tent while ice fishing in Tuscarora.
Published February 03. 2014 01:08PM

Snow squall? Bring it. Cold front blowing in from the west? So much the better.

Forget all you dislike about the cold dead batteries, frozen water lines, school delays and take a glimpse into the world of people who will sit for hours on a frozen lake or pond, just for the chance to catch a fish.

That's because actually catching a fish, while important, isn't as important as getting out there and making the attempt.

"It's not as much to do with what they catch," said Doug Daniels, Waterways Conservation Officer, who is based in the Southeast Region office. "For most of them, it's a tradition to get out on the ice because they grew up doing it."

Frank Zalusky, maintenance supervisor at Tuscarora State Park, said that the lake has been busy with ice anglers since the ice thickened enough to support them.

"For the size of the lake, we do our fair share of ice fishing," Zalusky said. "Last weekend was really busy, and there must have been about 20 vehicles at the boat cove."

Anglers can take to the ice as soon as the ice is thick enough, at least 4 inches, to support them. At a minimum, Daniels said, anglers should wear a personal flotation vest and carry ice awls, which are grippers like bicycle handlebar ends, outfitted with a sharp spike. If an angler falls through the ice, or falls on the ice, using the ice awls can help a person rescue himself, Daniels explained.

Daniels explained that trout season ends on the last day of February, meaning that all trout-approved waters are closed in March. Anglers can still fish lakes such as Tuscarora during March, but must release any trout they happen to catch. They can keep fish of the other species, such as perch, blue gills, crappies, walleyes, pickerel and bass, he said.

It's Monday morning and Dave Bloss and Eric Weicker, both of Hazelton, have Tuscarora to themselves. Both are chefs at Ovalon, a restaurant in Hazelton.

They've set up a portable ice fishing tent on the far side of the lake, after toting it on a sled about 200 yards from the parking area.

"I grew up in Tamaqua, where my dad (Reginald) owned a paint store in town," Weicker said. "I fished this lake with my dad ever since I was a kid."

The two began setting up at about 5:30 am, first targeting an area along the shore, drilling through the ice with a hand-crank tool. Having no luck there, they moved to the far side of the lake.

Inside the shelter, a propane stove throws a cheery warmth and music plays from a radio. It's night and day from conditions outside, where the gusting wind seized and rolled the ice fishing tent a short distance down the lake.

With the tent blown away and their equipment scattereded, they could have packed up and gone home. Instead, they scrambled to get baited hooks into the water.

"When there's a change in the weather, the fish will start biting," Bloss said. "We weren't happy that the tent blew over but we were hoping that it meant we'd catch a fish."

And they had. As the wind howled, a flag sprung up on one of their ice fishing traps. They reeled up the line to find the treasure on its end, a brightly-colored trout.

They admired it, and released it.

"We put most of them back," Weicker said. "It's not about the fish; it's about being out here."

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