An ice option till spring

Groaning ice and the whistle of the chill wind are all an angler might hear out on a frozen lake. It’s often quiet out there – and that’s just fine for those who enjoy a peaceful day of ice fishing.

Fishers seeking such solitude this weekend may be in for a rude awakening, however, if they head out on the ice at Mosquito Creek Reservoir.

“There’s a new city being built up by the buoy line,” said Debbie Hake at the popular bait and tackle store Causeway Sporting Goods in Mecca. “All the people coming through here this morning – and there was a bunch – were heading up to the north end.”

The “buoy line” marks the boundary between public water and the wildlife refuge on the upper end of Mosquito. For the past several seasons, the shallow sandbars and aquatic vegetation near the buoy line have attracted most of Mosquito’s ice fishermen.

This year is no exception, according to reports from the anglers’ supply store on the Ohio 88 causeway, as well as Mosquito Marina operator Joe Sofchek and anglers such as Kevin Corder and Kevin Hartill of Warren and John Breedlove of Girard.

Jigging has been the most productive tactic for those who are scoring on walleyes, crappies and yellow perch. At the causeway shop, anglers are loading up with waxworms, maggots and minnows to tip their Vib-E baits, Kastmaster spoons, Swedish Pimples and Rapala ice-jigging lures.

Driving the migration of anglers to the north end of Mosquito is the promise of an opportunity to hook up with fish for sport and table. The fishing has been less than spectacular, but anglers are flocking to Mosquito nonetheless.

A number of factors are fueling the fishing fire.

Never rule out cabin fever. When the temperature is in the teens, ice fishing is one of the only options for outdoor entertainment. There’s only so much TV an avid angler can absorb before reaching for long underwear and the ice auger.

Better electronics are available today to put anglers over fish faster. Compact portable sonar, GPS and video devices enable anglers to spot fish through ice, watch as they react to baits and then return to the same spot day after day.

Fresh air and fine dining are two major reasons to get out on the ice. With proper clothing and safety gear, a few hours on the ice can be invigoratingly therapeutic. The fish that come through the ice are the best-tasting seafood you’ll ever experience.

Mosquito is the most popular ice-fishing water in the Youngstown-Warren area. A few anglers venture out at Milton, Berlin, West Branch and Shenango, but Mosquito attracts a crowd 100 times bigger than the others.

They flock to the north end despite the effort required to reach productive water. The walk from good parking is quite a hike, considering the amount of gear that anglers drag out on the ice.

Anglers are catching walleyes, crappies, perch and the occasional northern pike by jigging baits tipped with meat. Waxworms and maggots are good for perch and crappies, but those who are serious about walleyes opt for a minnow head dangling off the hook of a spoon or vibrating blade bait. The better fishing is in about six feet of water.

Anglers who decide to try the ice are well advised to travel with a buddy and stay alert for soft spots and trip hazards. Improve your traction with cleats strapped to your boots. Dress in layers that trap body heat and top them with a wind-resistant outer garment. It’s also a good idea to wear a personal flotation vest.

Dress warm, be careful and join the growing city of anglers up on Mosquito. Every day on the ice puts us one day closer to the warm days of spring and open-water action.

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