Joe Chyko stood at the edge of Lily Lake and wondered if it was safe to venture onto the ice.
A brief spell of warm weather coupled with rain days earlier made the Bloomsburg resident hesitant to step onto the frozen sheet.
But when Chyko plunged his auger through the ice to drill some test holes, his concerns were alleviated. Just 20 yards from shore, the ice was six inches thick. At 50 yards out, another test hole revealed an ice thickness of 10 inches.
After that, Chyko didn’t hesitate to load his sled with tip-ups and walk onto the lake with confidence to enjoy a day of ice fishing.
“Conditions so far have definitely been better than last year,” Chyko said. “A lot of years the ice is here and gone, so you have to take advantage of it. This year it’s been much more reliable.”
In his district of northern Columbia and Luzerne counties, Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings said he’s had no reports of anglers breaking through the ice. He said the winter has been one of the best for ice fishing, even with the recent warm spell.
“The ice formed quickly and it’s thick and clear,” Cummings said. “Even with those mild temperatures, most places still have great ice.”
While the ice has been fine, the fishing in the area has been spotty. Chyko said he fished Briar Creek Lake where the ice was 10 inches thick last week, and landed an 11-inch crappie, a few trout and two bass in six hours of fishing.
Before last week’s warm spell, Cummings said, the fishing was slow on many lakes in his district. Anglers at Frances Slocum Lake were catching small crappies with a nice bass here and there, according to Cummings, while at Harveys Lake the yellow perch had yet to start biting.
The best spot in Cummings’ district has been Harris Pond in Sweet Valley where anglers were catching nice perch and bluegill toward the back end of the pond. Sylvan Lake has attracted plenty of anglers looking for walleye and perch, but instead has yielded more trout.
“They’re picking them up while jigging,” Cummings said.
While the warm weather and subsequent rise in water level eliminated any ice fishing opportunities for those anglers who venture onto the Susquehanna River, the action has been steady at Lackawanna Lake. According to a report on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, anglers have been catching plenty of crappie and bluegill at Lackawanna Lake, using jigs tipped with wax worms or spikes. The best area for success has been between the handicap fishing pier and the pool area.
Chyko said as long as the ice is safe, he’ll stay busy setting tip-ups on several lakes throughout the region.
“I’ve seen people fishing on two inches of ice next to open water, but I want at least six inches before I’ll go out,” he said. “They say the early and late ice represent the better fishing, but whenever it’s safe and I have the time, I’ll go.”
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky