For another week, Hills Creek remained one of the few fishable lakes this ice season. Looks like winter is finally settling in and next weekend we should be back on the other small local lakes as well.
So far, Hills has proven why it’s a true Pennsylvania gem. Few lakes in the state contained fishable ice. Many lost their entire ice cap. More importantly, however, the fish have been cooperating very well, even despite heavy fishing pressure.
Finding fish in Hills Creek can be a tale of two fisheries. The “stumps” end, or north end of the lake, contains shallow water and here fish and predators scour the weeds and timber in search of food.
Fishing in 2 to 8 feet of water will produce bluegills, crappie and perch, in addition to bass and pike. Lately, we’ve tended to do best in about 6 to 7.5 feet of water. These fish are actively moving and jumping holes helps to find hungry fish.
Start by drilling 10 or 20 holes at different depths. A grid pattern with holes spaced approximately 8 to 10 feet apart will cover a variety of depths and. You can set spikes or dead sticks on some, and power up the others.
On a perfect day, the first hole you sit on will give you fish all day, but that’s rarely the case. Give each hole 10-20 minutes and the fish aren’t biting, move on to the next hole. Jumping from place to place greatly increases the odds of encountering a hungry school.
Lately we’ve been finding plenty of smallmouth bass throughout the day with the bluegills mixed in. In the evening the mix turns to more bluegills and a few crappie. Machines tipped with wax worms or spikes work best. Don’t be afraid to try a bigger lure, like a small spoon or z-viber. Big bluegills and crappies happily eat bigger offerings on some days.
The second part of this tale is the deeper end of the lake. From roughly the beach and the pine launch to the dam overflow, this area contains mostly deeper water, and with that, the population moves predominantly to perch.
Venturing into the shallows here can catch a few bluegills or sunfish, but the vast majority are perch. Much of this area is featureless apart from a fallen tree and a large hump, often referred to as “the island”.
Likewise, hole hopping will help locate roving schools of perch. Or, drill a few holes and wait for the fish to come back to you. Most tend to hug the bottom, and the bigger ones will happily take a fat or shiny head with an upturned tip or jaw.
Some of our best perch caught a shiner that barely fit in the mouth. Large schools of small perch have been persistent throughout the season and although most are not meal size they help keep the day interesting.
Ice season is here, so get out and enjoy it while you can. February should be a great month for hard water fishing.
When the bite is slow, take a few minutes and look around. See eagles and deer, and appreciate our area.
Don Kelly is the owner of Tackle Shack in Delmar Township. He can be reached at 570-724-5138.