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Ice fishing opportunities abound in northeast Ohio

December 21, 2011

AKRON, OH Many northeast Ohio anglers consider the combination of falling snow and dipping temperatures a recipe for hanging up the fishing equipment until Spring. There is a unique segment of the outdoorsmen and women however who are eager to trek outside and brave the cold in order to catch some fish according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.

"More adventurous anglers can catch a variety of fish including yellow perch, sunfish like bluegills, red-ears, and pumpkinseed, crappie, walleye, and in a few places, even northern pike," said Phil Hillman, fish management supervisor for Division of Wildlife in northeast Ohio. Most lakes and ponds that anglers fish in the warmer months are just as good in the winter, so with a little skill and knowledge about fishing on the frozen water, you can be reeling in fish in no time.

"Learning about the body of water to be fished, necessary equipment to take along, how to dress properly, and most importantly, knowing safety precautions are all components of a pleasant winter fishing experience," noted Hillman.

Get to know the lake: To begin learning about a certain lake, free lake maps are available through the Division of Wildlife. These maps depict lake boundaries, good fishing spots, parking locations, and water depths. Call Wildlife District Three in Akron at (330) 644-2293 or visit to obtain a map of your favorite lake. For panfish, Punderson Lake in Geauga County, Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County, and the Portage Lakes reservoirs in Summit County are long-time producers. For walleye, Berlin Lake in Portage, Mahoning, and Stark counties, as well as Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County (also good for pike) or Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County are all excellent. Anglers should keep an eye on water levels fluctuating though.

Equipment: Some basic tools you will need before you hit the hard water. bait bucket, dip net, flashers, depth finders, or underwater cameras to see what lies beneath the ice, gaff hook, hook disgorger, ice auger, ice chisel, ice fishing rods (short, with or without a spring type bobber), jigging spoons or other similar lures (Rapala jigs, Sonars, Vibe-E's) for predacious fish, live bait such as minnow (for larger fish) or wax worms (for smaller fish), seat, skimmer, sled for transporting equipment, "tip-ups" (tripping mechanisms which send up a flag on a strike), "pin-mins" (small ice jigs that can be tipped with live bait).

Other items to bring: extra clothes, energy-rich snacks and warm beverages, a coil of rope, first aid kit, waterproof matches, ice awls, floatation device, cell phone (in a sealed plastic bag).

Fact Box

Be safe:

No ice is safe ice!

For one person and gear (approx, 200 pounds) at least four inches of ice is critical.

Always fish with a partner or in an area with several other anglers present.

Dress for Success: Layering your clothes makes it much easier to remove or add clothes depending on your comfort level. The first layer should be a good pair of thermal underwear that keeps perspiration away from the skin. The second layer should be wool, fleece, or flannel followed by a third layer of windproof or waterproof material. A warm, wool or fleece hat is important too! Avoid cotton altogether because it is a very poor insulator. Don't forget to keep those toes toasty too by wearing good, non-cotton socks and loose waterproof boots. Boots that are a bit too big help circulation continue throughout your feet. Lastly, mittens are the best way to go to protect your hands from the icy water. Some winter anglers even wear thin, rubber gloves underneath mittens to allow flexibility. It doesn't hurt to bring extra clothes too!

Be safe:

No ice is safe ice!

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For one person and gear (approx, 200 pounds) at least four inches of ice is critical

Always fish with a partner or in an area with several other anglers present

Let others know exactly where you are going and when you plan to return

Place a cell phone in a plastic bag to protect it from moisture in case you get wet

Sprinkle sand around your feet for better traction on the ice

Wear a life vest in case of an emergency or at least take along a PFD seat cushion

Avoid areas of feeder streams, springs, bridge pilings, docks, & dam structures since ice is usually very thin

Uh oh!

If you fall into the water, try to remain as calm as possible

Slip your loose boots off to better tread water

Use ice awls to pull yourself out of the water

If no ice awls are available, call for help & try "swimming out"; let your body rise up to firm ice & crawl out

Stay flat, distributing your weight on the ice

Keep your clothes on once out of the water. This will keep you insulated.

If someone else falls in, use REACH (stick or fishing pole), THROW (rope or PFD), ROW (row or push a boat), and GO (call for help).

Anglers should call Wildlife District Three in Akron at (330) 644-2293 with questions or concerns before venturing out. View an ice fishing safety chart at



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