Part 3: Ice Fishing
Recent winters without sustained cold weather have at times limited ice-fishing at the Lake. But in earlier decades the Lake was a major ice-fishing destination – and the Lake’s governing body had to invoke regulations due to debris left on the ice. Don Shiner, a well-known Pennyslvania angling writer, wrote an account of ice-fishing at the Lake in 1957:
Few lakes in America match the popularity of Harvey’s Lake in Winter. The largest natural body ofwater within Pennsylvania’s borders, it spans 660 acresand is nestled in the hills of the anthracite region in Wy-oming Valley. The cold 150-foot depths hold lunker laketrout.
Five years ago the lake was stocked with rainbowsand brooks. Now it provides some of the best trout fish-ing in the state. Bass fisherman take over in mid-Summerwith husky small-mouth scrappers caught in the pebbly-bottom coves. Walleye trolling becomes the fad duringAutumn.
In Winter, when most lakes are glad to rest, Harvey’sLake is transformed into a popular ice-fishing spot.The highways circles the shoreline, where cottages,amusement centers, miniature gold courses, roller coasters,popcorn and hot-dog stands, snack bars, night clubs, boatliveries and swimming beaches are built shoulder-to-shoulderalong the water’s edge. It’s a far cry from a “wilderness” lake.
Come in Droves
When the cold Canadian blasts push down over Penn-sylvania in late November, cottages and snack stands fold up for the Winter. As ice forms across the lake and snow blankets the countryside, the population thins to ghost-townproportions. But when the ice grows thick enough to holdthe weight of a man, ice fishermen come to the lake in droves.Husky, pickerel, marked like old lace curtains are caught on tip-ups baited with minnows. Big colorful yellowperch are taken by jigging a flashy spoon. As word spreadsthrough the valley that nice catches are being made, the biglake becomes full of hustle and bustle.
I wanted another day of ice fishing, but I was freshout of pickerel bait. I had used up my supply of minnows caught in Autumn and stored in the river.
Suddenly, I remembered the crickets scamperingin the cellar. A pair had crawled into the basement of myhome during the Summer where they chirped almost everymorning. By Autumn I had a full chorus of chirpers craw-ling over the concrete floor.
I spent an hour catching them, and I canned 14 –plenty of bait. Chucking the gear into the car, I sped overthe icy highway toward Harvey’s lake.
Many Cars at Outlet
There would be other fisherman on the lake, perhapsa couple in each cove. By driving around the nine-mile shoreline I could learn which parties were catching the mostfish and stake my ice hole there. I hit the lake at the southerntip at the little village of Outlet. On the lake side of the roada solid sting of cars was parked.
A quarter mile down the lake I eased the car into an opening beside a wharf, then legged it across the ice follow-ing a fresh sled trail through the snow. The ice hummed withactivity. Some anglers were chopping holes, while others were jigging, tending tip-ups, or gathering in little groups, swapping yarns or discussing the prospects of this Winter’sfishing. I walked from one to another, talked with them, watched their methods of fishing as they took pickerel and perch.
Ice fishermen are apt to feel that fish are hitting betterin the next cove. I felt this way, so drove a mile down the road and stopped again at another spot filled with fishermen.
Spent Too Much Time
Time raced so quickly that the sun was far down onthe western horizon, casting long shadows across the ice. It was almost too late in the day to start chopping holes. Somefishermen had already pulled up and gone home with nice strings. I had wasted most of the day rovin’ instead of fishin’.Had I stayed with the first group or any of the others, I wouldhave caught fish – a fact I always try to remember.In the short time before sundown, I put the crickets to work. The next few minutes I punched holes through the thick ice. Placing a cricket on a hook fastened behind a smallsilver spoon, I dropped the outfit through the window and intothe dark water, letting it flutter toward the bottom. Jigging ita couple of inches above the gravel, I felt a solid rap. I hadnot expected a bite so quickly, and the short rod was almostpulled from my hands. I hauled in a perch that lacked a quarter inch from being a foot in length. Five more followed in as many minutes before the school moved toward another hole.
Harvey’s Lake seldom lets a fisherman down. Spring,Summer, or Autumn, there are usually some fish astir. Butangling in Winter has a fascination all its own – no matter where, fish or no fish.
Copyright 2006-2008 F. Charles Petrillo