First Published: February 14, 2004
Ice fishing is one activity best shared with friends on a very cold day. That's what Ron Hopkins and his four friends know all about. The thickness of the ice is the first thing Ron Hopkins checks when he begins to carve a 10-inch hole in the ice at North Park Lake in Allegheny County's North Park.
"First you make sure the ice is safe enough...You need a minimum of four inches of ice to be safe. We cut holes here. You could drive a vehicle on the ice right now. Then you have a manual ice auger to clear the snow away and drill a hole right through the ice," explained Hopkins.
Hopkins and four of his friends have been angling all afternoon in windy, 15-degree weather. They're trying to entice trout to bite on their lines, which are dangling below the ice.
"Spool is suspended underneath the water there. If the fish takes it, it causes the flag to spring up. Now you know there's a fish on there. Hand over hand pull the fish up with the string like that," said Hopkins.
Unfortunately, the fish haven't been biting on this day. Hopkins' buddies Dave Harris and Jim Sweep discuss where the blame might lie for their lack of success.
"Nothing today. I don't know if it's the company I'm keeping or what....He's to blame for this bad fishing, he picked the spot. He told us about how good it was here you know? This is the worst day we've had just about....we haven't caught a fish. I did have a couple hits and I did have one on. It broke his line..I'm the hero of the whole bunch. They're always calling me hero because I catch everything," exclaimed Harris.
Even though these guys haven't caught any fish, the day hasn't been unsuccessful. After all, they've been outdoors in winter sunshine for hours enjoying quite a few laughs.
"This time of the year it gets you out of the house when you're suffering from cabin fever. Small game season shuts down so we come out here and do some hard water fishin'. It's the camaraderie, it's a lot of fun," said Hopkins.
Outdoors writer Deborah Weisberg says the social aspect of ice fishing is a draw for many, and a necessity.
"Usually when you fish, you want to be off by yourself somewhere. But when you're ice fishing you want to be around other people because its safer-if something happens, you're not totally alone. Anyone who's planning to ice fish needs to be very conscious of the conditions. Aside from dressing warm, you gotta make sure the surface is thick enough to hold you," said Weisberg.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources In Pennsylvania, lakes like Keystone, Raccoon, and Lake Arthur are stocked for fish in the wintertime.website is a good place to find more information. And as Sweep says when he's packing up his tackle on his sled to go home, part of the allure of ice fishing is its simplicity,"