Ice Fishing

The first fishable ice (three inches or more) usually forms by sometime in mid to late December. Then you can head out onto the fishable coves on such impoundments as Lake Hopatcong, Lake Wawayanda, Swartswood Lake, Paulinskill Lake, Cranberry Lake, Lake Musconetcong, Budd Lake, Mountain Lake, or any other frozen body of water in where you can gain public access. Safe ice takes longer to form on the bigger and deeper lakes and reservoirs, but ice 10-20 inches thick can eventually accumulate. Make sure to check ahead and see if the location you intend to fish has safe ice. Thermal underwear, a thermal cap, and thermal boots are a necessity, no matter how cozy it may feel at midday. Bring along a thermos with hot coffee, tea, or soup and even a grill and a good supply of hot dogs and hamburgers because your appetite will certainly be enhanced by all the fresh air and excitement. And don't forget your fishing license!

A sled with a wooden box attached to it is perfect for carrying your supplies across the ice. To do the actual fishing, you'll use a "tip-up", an apparatus that automatically signals when live bait is taken beneath the ice by flipping up a flag. By using tip-ups you don't have to stand there and tend each line. Bring along five tip-ups with your name and address clearly marked on each one of them.

Keep your ice-fishing site simple. Using a hand auger, cut several holes through the ice, preferably in a straight line so that you can sit at one end and keep an eye on all your tip-ups. Spread your tip-ups about thirty feet apart. This way, should you get a big fish on one, chances are slim that he'll be able to run around another bait and tangle your lines. A spud bar comes in handy to keep the holes open or to open holes that have frozen over for a short period of time, and a skimmer will keep the water clear of free floating ice.

Medium sized shiners work best for bait, and somewhere between two to four dozen should be sufficient for a satisfying afternoon's catch. So that you will not have to reach into the cold water with your bare hands, a bait bucket and a baitfish scoop net are advisable. Keep your bait bucket somewhere near the middle of your operation so that you'll be able to get fresh bait quickly to any of your holes.

To estimate the water's depth, place a heavy jig on your jigging rod, drop it to the bottom and walk the jig back up to the surface. Once the tip-ups are in position, drop your bait down to about one or two feet above the bottom. Water between five to fifteen feet deep works best during the early season, and you might want to fish near the bottom, where the warmer water is. As the season wears on and oxygen is depleted from the depths, raise your baits higher and higher off the bottom. Later in the season, the best fishing is in water from ten to thirty feet deep and down only several feet.

Once all your baits are in the water, keep a watchful eye out for a flag to fly. When it does, make your way quickly to that tip-up and look into the water to see if your line is still straight up and down or running off to one side of the hole or another. If the line is running, take your tip-up out of the water, grab hold of your line, feel the fish, and then give a short firm tug on your line to set the hook. Slowly pull the line in- one hand over the other- until the fish is up on the ice.

In New Jersey, you can use only five ice-fishing devices at one time. If you intend to use a jigging rod, you can use only four tip-ups. Try beginning with five tip-ups until the moment you catch a fish on one. Then set up jigging in the vacant hole. Place the sled and box at the hole and sit on the box while you prepare a small jig on the end of my line adorned with a mousy grub. Drop the jig to the bottom, reel up about one or two feet and begin to twitch the rod up and down about a foot, keeping the line in he middle of the ice hole. After several twitches, let the jig settle and rest for about ten seconds. Keep your eyes peeled on the line and, should it move out and away from the middle of the hole, strike the fish.

On good days you should be able to catch between ten and twenty fish. The most consistent shiner swipers are the perch and pickerel, and grub takers tend to be perch, crappies, and sunfish. Lures such as the blue-streaked Kastmaster, Rebel ice lures, and silver Phoebes will consistently take pickerel and perch. Other possible catches include northern pike, walleyes and stripers, and trout where they are stocked. Keep an eye on the weather, and when you find that the conditions are going to be just right, get out there and catch some of these great fighting and very tasty fish.

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Capt joe
09 Nov 2013, 13:13
Great article. I fish the ocean mainly but want to try my hand at ice fishing. Capt Joe from\r\n
sac longchamp
17 Sep 2013, 10:43
Ice Fishing in New Jersey\r\nsac longchamp
22 Nov 2012, 06:12
Ice Fishing In NJ, PA, NY\r\n\r\n
David Strunk
23 Oct 2012, 07:07
Nice article! I spent many enjoyable days ice fishing Budd Lake and Spruce Run Res. Back in the late 80's and 90's. I've moved on to NEPA now nad haven't gotten back to ice fish in NJ in many years. I have an icefishing site called stop in and check it out sometime.\r\nty
Mark Wrightington
07 Dec 2010, 10:04
I'm looking to take a bunch of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts ice fishing in January or February. Never done this before, so I was hoping there might be a place that would offer such a program or a or fishing club that could provide assistance. I would also like to make it a camping trip, so I'm hoping that there might be a relatively close place to rent a cabin.\r\n\r\nThanks.\r\n\r\nMark
20 Feb 2010, 06:45
I want to go ice fishing on Lake Musconetcong this Monday. Is there sufficient ice on the lake to be safe? Thanks. \r\n\r\nArline
15 Jan 2010, 16:08
what is the law with kids useing there own tip ups if they r under age requirement for a fishing license?can they use there own?
Jeff -
12 Jan 2010, 05:55
Both of these trails are a lot of fun. Most sections are "easy" and family/beginner friendly. There are a few hills here and there, but nothing major compared to mountain biking in High point or whatnot. After doing just a few searches I found a good site about the Paulinskill Valley Trail: I believe this is also the group that maintains it:
29 Dec 2009, 15:13
To access the NJ forum of the website posted below is a little confusing, so here is the link.\r\n
29 Dec 2009, 15:06
For those of you with questions a great forum to find local ice conditions and information is
27 Dec 2009, 16:49
Does anyone have news on ice conditions at Swartswood?
timothy kim
27 Dec 2009, 12:16
hey! i want to take a couple of my friends icefishing. we never did anything like this before and want to try something new. I go to rutgers university so we're looking for somewhere in central nj. if anyone could give any updates, tips, locations on how to get into this sport, that would be nice. thanks!
25 Dec 2009, 09:23
Anyone out yet to Hopatcong?
22 Dec 2009, 13:44
Check out the state park at lake hopatcong...there are good spots 30 yrds off shore and a warming hut....perfect for a little kid.
19 Dec 2009, 11:58
Where Can I take my 4 yr old and I ice fishing in NJ. I've never been Ice Fishing Before.\r\n
chris garavaglia
27 Mar 2009, 22:38
shohola falls is a very good lake to go ice fishing on i went there many times this year catching from perch to huge picks many panfish and bass in there ne where on that lake is very well
23 Feb 2009, 10:19
Steven or anyone else... I am looking for the names of several good ice fishing spots in the NJ' burbs. I am a journalist for a NYC paper and looking to do a sports story on this. Any info please contact me ! Thanks !
08 Feb 2009, 11:26
Lake Hopatcong is slow due to low water conditions, in my opinion. Cranbury lake ok for pickeral, 4 nice ones last time, but not too good for jigging. Cant find the crappies or big perch.
steven domeraski
28 Jan 2009, 13:50
YES Ice fishing very hot in central NJ\r\nDavidsons mill pond, farrington lake and larwence brook lake the best right now. Caught 15fish sunday. Perch, BASS, Pickerel amd lots of crappies.\r\ne-mail me if you want to learn or go
tito tapia
27 Jan 2009, 16:25
im lookin to find good places to go ice fishing, im new to this type of fishin but i really want to learned
24 Jan 2009, 20:45
caught a 20 lb northern pike on friday. Biggest one I have ever caught
24 Jan 2009, 19:27
Today, we went out to Jefferson Lake. We had no luck. Our bait held out all day , but not even one bite. Any one have any luck elsewhere.
jorn therkildsen
24 Jan 2009, 04:13
call me if you want to go icefishing today sat. 01/24/09 jorn 908-3283769
Randy Twist
23 Jan 2009, 04:54
i am going to go to Budd Lake this weekend and give it a try. Big pike in those waters.\r\n
Thomas Hunter
20 Jan 2009, 06:28
tring to find a place were you can ice fish and rent the stuff for it (auger ,rods, tent,etc.)in nj or ny close to the border or penn. close to the border. Any help would be nice.I wanted to go this weekend. Thank you!
20 Dec 2008, 20:59
i am looking for ice fishing events \r\nany info would help \r\nthank you
william b courter
09 Feb 2008, 13:46
iam lookin for info on fishin trips and what prices and does it included place a stay and what fish u can catch...thank u

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