By Lou Carlozo, Tribune Brand Publishing
The recent spate of cold days means that lakes across the Keystone State have frozen over — though, beneath the surface, the fish remain as active as ever. And that can only mean one thing for those who love outdoor sport: ice fishing.
If you think you and your merry band will be the only ones braving the cold, guess again. "Ice fishing really becomes a social event because anglers often group their sites around the spots where the fish are schooling and feeding," said Andy Shiels, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's deputy director for field operations. He's also an avid ice fisherman who frequents Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir in Bald Eagle State Park, about 2 1/2 hours away.
Here we present a roundup of seven ice fishing locations not far away from Allentown and the Lehigh Valley. Remember always to exercise the proper precautions: wear a life jacket or float coat, use an ice staff to probe ahead, and never go out on the ice alone.
Deep Creek Lake
Green Lane, Pa.
Driving Distance: 37 minutes (29 miles)
Taking I-476 south leads you right to Deep Creek Lake, known for its bluegill, bass, trout, yellow perch and crappies. There's an adjacent skating area, and when the ice is thick enough, it's open for family skating. To find out about lake conditions, be sure to call ahead. There's ample room for your car with two parking areas, and there are restrooms and a park office within walking distance.
Upper Mt. Bethel, Pa.
Driving Distance: 1 hour (33 miles)
Minsi Lake was developed specifically for public fishing, and there's a wealth of fish within its 117 acres. Muskellunge, walleye, pike and panfish are the main varieties you'll see there, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. It's also a great place for family fishing fun and it's located in a 300-acre county park reserve with hiking trails. Keep in mind that special regulations apply for big bass.
Marsh Creek Lake
675 Park Rd.
Driving Distance: 1 hr. 11 min. (44 miles)
This lake is part of Marsh Creek State Park, and offers other winter recreation opportunities such as cross country skiing and seven acres of sledding slopes by the picnic area in the east launch. The fish here include largemouth bass, muskellunge and walleye along with an assortment of smaller panfish. Because the lake isn't monitored, be sure to check that the ice is at least 4 to 5 inches thick before digging in.
Located off State Route 73
Driving Distance: 47 minutes (37 miles)
Lake Ontelaunee was created in 1926 and supplies drinking water to the city of Reading. You could also call it eating water, as it also supplies superior ice fishing for anglers. There you'll find pike and muskellunge, along with catfish, bass, pike, pickerel, perch and lots of small panfish. Peters Creek Cove is especially popular, dating back to an Outdoor Life article some 40 years back that put the spot on the map.
Located off U.S. Route 6
Driving Distance: 1 hour, 53 minutes (81 miles)
Measuring 13 miles long, Lake Wallenpaupack is huge at 5,700 acres. It strides Pike and Wayne Counties and is due north of Allentown, reached via Pa. Route 402. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are found there, along with perch, stocked trout and panfish. Located in the Poconos, it's also a great place for a family getaway, with an abundance of restaurants, motels and inns nearby. Or if you prefer keeping things outdoorsy, rent a cabin.
Round Valley Reservoir
Off Stanton Lebanon Road and N.J. Route 629
Clinton Township, N.J.
Driving Distance: 49 minutes (44 miles)
This 2350-acre water supply reservoir, affectionately known as "The Valley," has earned a reputation as one of the best places to catch lake trout. Fish weighing more than 30 pounds we caught there as recently as 2002. It's rare to find something nearly that huge today, but you can still catch trout in the 20-inch range. Brown and rainbow trout abound, along with chain pickerel and bass.
1542 Mountain View Dr.
Driving Distance: 39 minutes (22 miles)
Part of Nockamixon State Park, this lake covers 1,450 acres and attracts lake fishers with panfish and bass. Walleye, muskellunge, pickerel and striped bass hybrids are also common here. Ten modern cabins are available for rent, located on the south side of the lake. Ice skating is permitted as well as ice fishing, but ice thickness is not monitored so exercise care when venturing out.