Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ice Fishing Wrap-up: Lake Aeroflex, Lake Hopatcong, and Lake Musconetcong

Over the last month, I've ice fished in northern New Jersey three times. Each experience was unique, but there was one common thread: NJ ice fishing is, and will continue to be, absolutely superb.

Lake Aeroflex
My trip to Lake Aeroflex took a little over two hours. Located outside of Andover, NJ, Aeroflex was dug out by the Army Corps of Engineers a few decades ago. Because of its man-made origins, the lake takes on an industrial look. Indeed, it looks like an old quarry: there aren't many inlets, no islands, and it is very, very deep. I struggled with the depth, and didn't catch any fish. My time wasn't completely wasted, though, since it was a beautiful February day. One of the nicest parts of the lake is the adjacent regional airport. I enjoyed watching the planes take off and land. Without any flags flipping, I certainly had the time to watch.

If you decide to go to Lake Aeroflex this summer, or even next winter, prepare to deal with the lake's depth. 100 foot-deep lakes aren't too common in New Jersey, so be ready to face this obstacle. If you get lucky, though, you may hook into a land-locked salmon. Aeroflex is one of the only lakes in the state that maintains this specific fishery.

Lake Hopatcong
The largest lake by area in the state, Lake Hopatcong also maintains the most diverse fishery in New Jersey. In the lake, you may encounter walleye, muskellunge, chain pickerel, yellow perch, largemouth bass, etc. I had hoped to catch a walleye or musky, but I ended up landing 9 pickerel. All of the fish were relatively small, but it was quite a pleasurable fishing day. The area I fished was shallow and weedy, which is essentially a pickerel paradise. It's my belief that a world record pickerel swims in Lake Hopatcong. As it stands, the lake's biggest pickerel is a state record - a record that is only 3 ounces behind the world record fish.

If you go to Lake Hopatcong to ice fish, you must pay careful attention to the integrity of the ice. Various hot water spots exist, and the lake's shoreline can also become quite thin. But you may walk out with a musky!

Lake Musconetcong
The last ice fishing experience of the year was at Lake Musconetcong. I went with my Uncle Howie. We had a great day, catching over 30 fish between the two of us. We lost about a dozen more. Most of the fish were pickerel, with a few scattered bass. Because of Musconetcong's weedy nature, it wasn't surprising that we caught so many pickerel. The lake, though, is robustly fecund and has a bait shop right on the shoreline.

It was a great day. I encourage all of you to give the lake a try this coming summer. You are all but guaranteed to catch a few pickerel.

Image #1 - Lake Aeroflex
Image #2 - Lake Hopatcong pickerel
Image #3 - Nice 24 inch pickerel from Lake Musconetcong


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