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A Banner Fishing Season … Now

The ice is thick and the fish are ­biting at Deep Creek Lake 

DNR-certified ice-fishing guide Garrett Hoffman has the know-how — and the gear — to catch fish in frozen Deep Creek Lake.
    Got a mid-winter hankerin’ to tangle with a five-plus-pound walleye? How about a citation-sized yellow perch, crappie or bluegill? If that doesn’t tempt you, how about some big smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout or a fat winter pickerel?
      If so, you’re in luck because the best time to go after these trophies, both for sport and for the table, is right now. Better still, all these species are available in the same spot. Plus, believe it or not, the frigid weather isn’t a hindrance. Actually, this time of year it’s a requirement.
      Western Maryland, particularly the Deep Creek Lake area, has by now enjoyed the necessary temperatures to form ice thick enough to allow for safe travel. The same low temperatures are causing big fish to school densely in the deeper pockets of the lake. Ice fishing on Deep Creek Lake is enjoying a banner season right now.
     Fishing on hard water is a specialized affair for your average angler. Ice augers, wind breaks, tip-ups, ice-hole jigging rods, quick shanties, gear slides, ice strainers and portable electronic fish finders do not often come into play in Chesapeake fishing. They are, however, critical to success on the ice.
      I’m usually hesitant to use guides unless time, distance or gear are a problem. In this case, however, a guide is not just helpful but essential. One of the better practitioners is DNR-certified guide Garrett Hoffman, as far as I know, the only certified ice guide in the state.
      Garrett offers first-rate equipment, fresh bait and an invaluable knowledge of the ice bite that bring you all of the elements necessary for success in this unique sport. 
      The one personal requirement for success is good winter clothing. Most important are warm, insulated, waterproof boots, warm gloves and mittens and a hat that covers your ears. Inexpensive disposable hand, body and toe warmers will also be invaluable. Other than that, Garrett provides the rest.
       Deep Creek Lake is one of the largest freshwater impoundments in Maryland. Encompassing almost 4,000 acres it includes Deep Creek State Park, Sang Run State Park and the Youghiogheny Wild River Natural Environmental Area. It also features Maryland’s only downhill skiing resort, Wisp.
      That little detail means that the whole family may agree to accompany a dedicated angler to the area in expectation of traditional winter sports opportunities beyond angling on the ice.
      If you’re interested in getting a taste of ice fishing, you won’t be disappointed at Deep Creek Lake; plus you’ll have the chance to catch the finest-eating freshwater fish in North America, the walleye pike. That alone should warrant its inclusion on any angler’s bucket list.