As cool as ice

Ice fishing can be a family affair. A sunny day last spring found Hailey Carr, her brother Trenton and their father, Mike Carr, sharing a trip on the ice at Crawford State Park.

On this dawn of a new year, anglers of the hardwater persuasion may celebrate: Reports from around the region tell of ice at Crawford, Vega and Rifle Gap reservoirs.

It may not be much, and maybe it’s just enough to walk on, but it’s there.

“We’ve had several anglers out on the ice at both Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap,” Rifle Gap State Park manager Aaron Fero said Monday. “We never say it’s safe, but people are finding enough ice to be comfortable.”

Fero said anglers are drilling through three to five inches of ice on both reservoirs, “but there’s always that one person capable of finding a half-inch,” he cautioned.

Kelly Beauchamp at Crawford State Park advised anglers to “drill as you go.”

The ice thickness at Crawford Reservoir varies from two inches near the Peninsula area to up to six inches near the dam, anglers have reported.

“We’re telling them to drill test holes as you go because everyone has a different idea of what’s safe ice,” Beauchamp said.

She said the reservoir was fully ice-covered Dec. 17, but a snowstorm one day later dropped three inches of snow, insulating the ice and slowing the freezing process.

“Two days ago it was 1 degree, and today it’s 11 and snowing again,” Beauchamp said. “This is the fourth layer of snow on the ice, so it struggles.”

Because Crawford was drawn down so low this summer, anglers are reaching the ice by taking the long way around.

“Most of them are parking here at the peninsula and then walking along the edge of the ice to the dam,” Beauchamp said.

No one was answering the phones early Monday at Vega State Park, but Nancy Christensen at nearby Vega Lodge, 487-3733, said anglers at the 10,000-feet-high reservoir have been catching fish.

“And the snowmobilers have been all over the place up here,” said Christensen, who Monday was busy preparing for the lodge’s New Year’s Eve festivities.

The lodge is open year-round, offering warm drinks and meals for frigid anglers and snowmobilers.

A popular adage in ice fishing is “early ice is best ice,” referring to the higher level of fish activity under new ice.

But Beauchamp questioned that, saying anglers with electronic fish-finders and underwater cameras are seeing plenty of fish at Crawford but not catching them.

“Maybe it’s just the transition period,” she said.

Ice fishing is like skiing in this extent: You’ll always find skiers and riders eager to catch that first chairlift ride of the season, no matter what the conditions may be.

But the best skiing, and the safest ice-fishing, comes later in the season, when the snow and ice are deep enough to offer the thrills without the dread.


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