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Things to do when the weather breaks

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

The cold blast that passed through Warren County midweek made big national news as though it had never before happened. It’s winter. You should be accustomed to it by now. You should have been able to read a good book while the Wicked Witch of the Northwest raged outside.

But all things pass, including bad things. But was this most recent cold spell so bad? I recall reading about frigid weather reducing the number of some insects that are harmful to the forest. Might this slow the northward advance of more southerly invader species?

With a day, maybe two, of decent outdoors weather between cold blasts, we should be ready to go outdoors when the time comes.

Whatever ice-covered area lakes before midweek can only be better now. Be cautious nonetheless.

Presque Isle Bay has had a fair amount of ships moving into the repair docks. That can adversely affect the ice. Before the cold blast, perch were being caught at numerous locations. This should be a good winter to ice fish for perch.

Try a no. 2 or no. 3 Swedish Pimple at the end of your line and some sort of teardrop jig tied directly into the line about 18 inches above the jigging spoon. Tip the jigging spoon with a minnow and tip the smaller jig with a grub. This is an excellent rig for any of the panfish in the bay. To target steelhead, try a red/silver, size 4 Swedish Pimple tipped with a minnow or a brightly colored Rapala Jig.

More walleye are in the bay than in past years. Steelhead numbers are very good, and these fish have been cooperating, maybe more than some serious perch fishers might prefer. Horseshoe Pond has been an early hot spot for steelhead. Crappie is in the down part of their cycle at Presque Isle Bay. A few good catches came out of Misery Bay earlier this winter, but many more ice fishers have not caught enough crappie this winter for a decent meal. Look elsewhere for crappie.

Like at Eaton Reservoir, a small manmade lake that lies in northern Erie County very close to the New York border. Good crappie fishing is normal here. This is not a good lake for large crappie, but a few more than a foot long have been caught. Size may be better than usual this winter.

Stay away from several aerators near the head and into the mid-section of Eaton Reservoir.

Eaton Reservoir also holds numerous pike. Most are small, but every few years someone pops a big pike. Perch and sunfish also are abundant. Walleye fishing is fair. Tip-ups can keep you in the game with pike and walleye while jigging for panfish.

If, like most ice fishers in the region, are really missing ice fishing for trout at Chapman Dam. There are other places in the area where you can do the same thing with equally pleasing scenery.

One is Marilla Reservoir, also called Bradford Reservoir No. 3. It is well stocked with trout. This small lake is along Route 346 just west from Bradford. I have no idea whether bait can be bought at Bradford. Your best bet might be certified emerald shiners, or small, certified golden shiners which are much easier to keep alive.

Certified minnows, certified disease free, should be available at Stowe or Erie, maybe in Warren. Get a batch of golden shiners and you may have enough bait for this ice fishing season. Keep them in a large ice chest with a good aerator.

Lake Pleasant, in Erie County, is unlike most of our stocked trout lakes. This is a natural, glacial lake. In addition to trout, sometimes ice fishing can be good for crappie, perch, and bluegill.

Sugar Lake is maybe the only lake nearby where you have a good opportunity for catching chain pickerel. Apparently, they got into the lake when a pond above the lake flooded. Sugar Lake also has fair to good ice fishing for perch, crappie, bluegill, and pumpkinseed. The only public access point is at a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission access.

The Allegheny Reservoir, Chautauqua Lake and Pymatuning Reservoir are slower to get safe ice than the smaller lakes, so there has not been much ice fishing activity. All three should have good walleye fishing, and Pymatuning Reservoir is loaded with big crappie.

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