A year ago at this time activity around the area lakes was minimal, the result of a warm winter.
It was a cruel, warm winter and ice fishermen took it personally.
Not this year.
With ice as far as the eye can see, fishermen and women are spending hours in the cold, in the wind, in the sun, waiting for a tug on the other end of the fishing line. Some drop tip-up lines into their fishing holes while others fish the traditional way, on a bucket with rod and reel.
Jack Babas from Elizabeth has been fishing on Lake Hopatcong for 23 years, “ever since I got here from Poland,” he said. He fishes all year round.
On a recent Saturday afternoon in February, Babas was catching yellow perch in Great Cove, just off the docks at Dow’s Boat Rentals.
“They really good. Maybe walleye are better but perch is really good,” he said in broken English.
On a recent Sunday morning on Lake Shawnee, where visitors need a community badge to gain access to the lake, Kelly Accetta from Marlboro, was fishing with her husband, Anthony, his father and a family friend. Anthony has been fishing on Lake Hopatcong for about 30 years, since he was two, he said. Kelly experienced her first time fishing last year. “It was fun,” she said, showing off her yellow perch, the biggest catch of the day between her and the three men.
Laurie Murphy, owner of Dow’s, reports a steady stream of ice fishermen. Most are catching perch, she said, but there has been a fair share of pickerel and walleye being caught as well. Murphy has also seen a couple of big muskies being taken out of the lake. Anthony D’Acosta registered a 49-inch muskie in late January.
“The ice is about 15 inches thick,” said Murphy who keeps her shop open seven days a week. “We’ve had a nice run since mid-January, with all this ice.”