Northampton Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY NICK HROMIAK Once local ponds and lakes freeze, first ice has been proven to be the best for ice fishing. PRESS PHOTO BY NICK HROMIAK Once local ponds and lakes freeze, first ice has been proven to be the best for ice fishing.

Soon you'll be able to walk on water

Thursday, January 2, 2014 by NICK HROMIAK Special to the Press in Sports

It won't be long before anglers can walk on water. In fact before the recent heat wave hit, local ponds and even Ontelaunee Reservoir, the premier ice fishery in upper Berks County, had skim ice. But since we're in the southern zone, Pocono Mountain lakes and ponds normally develop thicker ice sooner, so ice fishermen hit those waters first.

And since we're in the lull between seasons, now's the time to dig out the ice gear and check your tip-ups, ice reels, line and power augers to see if they need repair or replacement before first safe ice.

While on the subject of tip-ups, there are anglers who think daylight, particularly sunlight, seeping into open ice holes spooks fish in shallow water when using rail-type tip-ups. This is especially prevalent when snow cover cuts light penetration.

Well there is relief from that speculation in the form of newer tip-ups that block light. Frabill's round tip-ups cover your ice hole to alleviate this light problem. Their Round Tip-Ups, Pro Thermal Insider Tip-Up and high-tech Calibrator Line Counter Tip-Up's are easy to use and appear to mediate the light dispute among anglers who think it doesn't matter.

Their Calibrator model is unique in that it uses a mini computer that records your baits depth, time of bite and amount of line taken out by a fish. It is the ultimate techie tip-up.

And when there's deep snow to contend with, Frabill offers their Snow Shoe, so aptly named because it looks like a miniature snowshoe. It rides higher in the snow, has a longer shaft and extra large line spool with 200 feet of line capacity. It's also more stable than a rail tip-up and comes with a 17.5-inch flag for better visibility.

The company also sells its Ice Spider model that features dual trip settings for more or less resistance depending on the bite that day. It gets its name from its three spiderlike legs that stabilize the tip-up.

The days of the wooden tip-up are over. Tip-ups have gone high-tech with longer lasting plastic material and are as individual as rods and reels.

If you are still using a hand auger, and there's nothing wrong with those as their only drawback is that it takes longer to drill a hole, you may want to check out the newer battery operated augers. They're not as heavy as gas models and are quiet.

But if you don't want to spend that much money for one, some ice fishermen have bought the drill bits and attached them with a coupler to their battery powered cordless hand drills.

While learning the depth you're fishing is often important, the tie-a-saltwater-type-sinker to an incrementally marked line trick still works. And it's the cheapest way to go as opposed to buying a portable electronic depth finder. But there's a new item on the market that's a Smartphone-based app that uses a transducer lowered into the water for depth readings. It's really neat but from what I read, the package is pricey when compared to the lead sinker method.

None of this matters much if your hands are ice cold. So investing in a good pair of gloves is essential. Waterproof gloves made by SealSkinz are great for ice fishing. They're warm, waterproof and made from the same material as divers' dry suits. I even use mine for hunting in the rain. They're available at Cabela's or online.

All we can hope for now is two weeks of subfreezing temps to harden the soft water among us.