Frozen in place: Perfect, safe spot key to ice fishing at area reservoirs

Perfect, safe spot key to ice fishing at area reservoirs

Anglers on Vega Reservioi last week found plenty of ice and plenty of fish. The ice near Early Settlers boat ramp was measured at 12 inches, just about as long as most of the trout being taken.

Jeff Cook of Grand Junction shows off a future dinner caught reecently during a day of fishing at Vega Reservoir. The ice at Vega is up to 12 inches thick but there’s never any ice too thick to think about being safe.



Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends a minimum of 4 inches of ice to be considered safe for fishing, skating and skiing.

That’s for new, strong ice. As ice ages, it gets weaker and cloudy, and white ice, sometimes called “snow ice,” is considered only about half as strong as new clear ice.

Because ice thickness may vary within short distances, anyone venturing onto the ice should always go with a partner, drill test holes to determine ice thickness, wear a life jacket and a safety kit.

Park rangers also recommend anglers avoid pressure ridges and open water. 

The agency offers the following safety tips for anyone venturing out on an ice-covered lake or reservoir:

• Never go onto the ice alone.

• Avoid alcoholic beverages while on the ice.

• Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over winter clothing.

• Assemble and carry personal safety kit including an ice pick, rope and a whistle.

• Always keep your pets on a leash.

• Reach-Throw-Go. If you can’t reach the person from shore, throw them a flotation device or a rope, then go for help.

VEGA STATE PARK — It’s true in real estate and it’s true if you’re going fishing: success depends on location, location, location.

That’s particularly apt in this winter of vagaries, if you’re an ice angler seeking out some ice through which to angle.

The best advice for now is to stay high.

“We’re pretty thankful to have the ice we have now,” said Vega State Park ranger Kedrick Robinson during a brief stop on his rounds Friday. “I’ve heard Rifle is still half open.”

The ice at Vega Reservoir continues to grow, in spite of recent spring-like temperatures at 8,000 feet.

But a few miles away and 2,000 feet lower, the ice at Rifle Gap Reservoir is just starting to fill in the blanks.

Ice extends from the islands west but on Friday only a fringe of ice separated the dam from open water.

“The entire west end has maybe 5 to 6 inches of ice but the dam area is open and very unstable,” reported Rifle Gap State Park resource technician Gordon Weir on Friday.

Weir said the east end and the outlet of East Rifle Creek remain open.

Still, that hasn’t stopped ice fishermen from venturing out to test their skill and luck, a situation Weir terms “a little scary.”

“You’ll see them edging out on the ice and you wonder how close to the edge they’ll try to get,” he said. “And on the east end, as long as it’s open we’ll have shore fishermen and guys fishing from belly boats.”

The latest ice report at Rifle Gap State Park is available by calling the park at 970-625-1607.

Vega ranger Robinson said the anglers he meets on the ice, especially during the early part of the season, are eager to talk about ice safety.

“A lot of people are curious about the ice and I try to tell them once we have 6 to 8 inches of ice, it’s pretty safe,” Robinson said. “This morning at Fishermen’s Flats, the ice was making a lot of noise and a lady there was concerned but I measured it at 8 inches.”

The fishing at Vega has been steady, and recently Pete Fregetto of Grand Junction reported catching an 18-inch trout near the Fisherman’s Flat area.

Friday, the Grand Junction trio of Jeff Cook, Mike Moran and Dave Carter were testing their luck just off the Early Settlers boat ramp, where the ice was clear and at least a foot thick.

“I haven’t been out here for a while but I remember the fishing as being pretty good,” said Cook, who immediately pulled up a fat 12-inch rainbow. “Man, that’s a beautiful fish.”

The ice at Early Settlers was sparsely covered with snow while near the Oak Point, some drifting covered the ice.

Later in the season, anglers going out on the ice should be prepared to find a layer of snow and slush overlying the ice cap.

The ice surface sinks a bit under its own weight and water may come from springs around the reservoir and up through the holes drilled by anglers.

The much-awaited Rifle Chamber of Commerce ice fishing tournament is scheduled for Jan. 21–22 at Rifle Gap but unless the reservoir grows enough ice to support the expected crowds, the event may be postponed.

Information is available from the Rifle Chamber at or by calling 970-625-2085.

A few miles away, ice conditions at Harvey Gap Reservoir are much better, with 5–6 inches reported across most of the reservoir.

Weir said the weakest spots may be near the inlet, where water continues to be added to the reservoir.


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