It's the dead of winter, and hundreds of Harford County anglers soonwill be participating in a favored pastime if the weather turns chilly: ice fishing.
Instead of casting dry flies to rising Deer Creektrout or plugging for largemouths in the shallow Susquehanna Flats, they'll be enduring brisk weather to catch fish most folks would tossback in midsummer. This dedicated group of individuals looks forwardto January weather.
In fact, they're hoping we'll have one of the coldest winters on record. That's what it takes to produce sufficient ice cover for ice fishing.
It's always been a popular sport in Harford County. However, during the past five years, our winters have been extremely mild,thus the creeks, coves, ponds haven't frozen to the point where a safe ice cover exists. A minimum 4-inch ice cover is required to safelysupport an adult.
The most popular area is Broad Creek, a relatively deep tributary of Conowingo Lake.
Anglers traditionally begin their season by catching medium-sized crappie, bluegill and an occasional walleye near the bridge at Route 623. As the ice thickens, BroadCreek anglers migrate downstream, where water depths reach as much as 25 feet just a few yards from shore. This abrupt change in bottom contour often attracts large numbers of big crappie, tiger muskie, northern pike, bass and yellow perch.
Another productive location is the deep waters of Glen Cove, where a few avid winter fishermen thoughtfully provided excellent habitat for foraging crappie. This was accomplished by strategically placing cedar trees on the bottom of the cove. The submerged branches are quickly engulfed by millions of micro-organisms that are eaten by small minnows. Minnows are a favorite food of crappie and other gamefish species. Therefore, live minnows or lures resembling tiny baitfish produce the best winter fishing action.
Don't get the idea all you have to do is chop a hole in the ice,drop a lure to the bottom and you'll immediately catch fish. Nothingcould be further from the truth.
First and foremost, test the icethickness for safety. This is done by cutting a small hole close to shore where the water's relatively shallow. Shallow water is usually a few degrees warmer, thus this is where thin ice is encountered. Keep a constant vigil for white spots, cracks and shifting ice. These areas should be avoided.
A portable depth-finder can be valuable in finding fish under the ice. Pour a small amount of water on the frozen surface, place the transducer in the puddle and the device will provide you with an accurate picture of what's below. Once you've found a fishy looking spot, it's time to cut a hole through the ice. For reasons of safety, Maryland law stipulates the hole cannot exceed 10 inches in diameter.