Though later than usual, Erie wel­comes ice fish­ing sea­son

The Washington Times Daily - - AMERICAN SCENE - BY RON LEONARDI

ERIE, PA. | Luke Soboleski and two friends dragged their equip­ment-laden sled onto the Mis­ery Bay ice on a re­cent sunny af­ter­noon, join­ing about 25 other huts dot­ting the pop­u­lar Presque Isle State Park ice-fish­ing spot.

Mr. Soboleski, 19, of McKean, and his friends drilled three holes — one for each fish­er­man — and then used their auger to carve an ad­di­tional hole in the ice.

Mr. Soboleski low­ered an un­der­wa­ter cam­era into it, and the three men, in­clud­ing Ed­in­boro Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia stu­dents Tyler Wal­tenbaugh, 22, and Hunter Klobu­car, 20, set­tled into a hut to watch the un­der­wa­ter ac­tiv­ity on a mon­i­tor.

“I just bought a new cam­era, you cast it down and it shows if you’re over weed beds or what kind of base you’re work­ing with — whether it’s sand, mud, and what kind of fish you’re see­ing down there,” Mr. Soboleski said. “You can also tempt the fish a lit­tle bit, so if they’re star­ing at it, you can give them the right mo­tion to in­di­cate a strike. It gives you a lit­tle ad­van­tage over some of the other fish­er­men, be­ing able to see what’s go­ing on down there.”

Their heater kept them toasty warm in­side the hut.

“With the heater in­side, it gets to 80 de­grees,” Mr. Soboleski said. “You can fish in a T-shirt.”

The an­glers spent a cou­ple hours fish­ing on Mis­ery Bay ice, which mea­sured sev­eral inches in depth.

“I fish year-round,” Mr. Soboleski said. “No mat­ter where I go, I have a pole in my Jeep and I’m ready to fish.”

Un­til re­cently, he didn’t have the op­tion to ice fish. A mild win­ter meant open wa­ter or un­safe con­di­tions un­til about a week ago.

But a week of sub­freez­ing tem­per­a­tures — and a deep freeze due — were ex­pected to res­cue the ice fish­ing sea­son.

Re­cently, there have been re­ports of an­glers ice fish­ing near the weed beds at Presque Isle State Park, at the park’s Ma­rina Lake, Horse­shoe Pond and Mis­ery Bay, off of the Chest­nut Street ac­cess area on the bay, at Ea­ton Reser­voir in North East and Green­field town­ships, and at Lake Pleas­ant in Ve­nango Town­ship.

Mr. Soboleski’s love for ice fish­ing helped pique in­ter­est in the win­ter ac­tiv­ity with Mr. Wal­tenbaugh, a ju­nior com­mu­ni­ca­tions ma­jor at Ed­in­boro Uni­ver­sity, and Mr. Klobu­car, a sopho­more ge­ol­ogy ma­jor at the school.

Both stu­dents are mem­bers of the Ed­in­boro Uni­ver­sity Fly­fish­ing Club, which formed in 2018.

“This is my first time ice fish­ing this sea­son,” Mr. Wal­tenbaugh said of his week­end trip to Mis­ery Bay. “Now that ev­ery­thing is frozen, it’s cool to come out here and do this. Even though this is for lit­tle fish like perch and crap­pie, we don’t typ­i­cally go af­ter them in the sum­mer, but it kind of makes it more in­ter­est­ing in the win­ter.”

Ice-fish­ing con­di­tions had been were de­cent and im­prov­ing un­til heavy rains and tem­per­a­tures in the high 40s throt­tled ac­tiv­ity.

“Be­fore we had the rain, there were plenty of huts on Horse­shoe Pond,” said Laura Daniels, owner of Presque Isle An­gler Bait & Tackle, 34 State St. “There were about 25 to 30 huts at Horse­shoe Pond and about 25 huts on Mis­ery Bay … There were four inches of ice in the bay off of Chest­nut Street be­fore the Wed­nes­day rains.”

Frigid tem­per­a­tures then helped to re-es­tab­lish more fa­vor­able ice fish­ing con­di­tions through­out the re­gion.

“We should see people fish­ing all over the place in the next week,” Ms. Daniels said.

As an­glers hope for and pre­pare to break the ice on another sea­son of their fa­vorite win­ter ac­tiv­ity, Ms. Daniels is ready to han­dle the de­mand.

“I didn’t put in as much stock this sea­son, but I have rods and lures, jigs and bait,” she said. “I have no augers. I sold the last auger the other day.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ice fish­ing at Presque Isle State Park in Penn­syl­va­nia typ­i­cally starts in Jan­uary. But mild weather meant it wasn’t safe to ice fish un­til about a week ago.

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