Getting into ice fishing not as hard as it used to be

Ice fishing doesn’t have to be fancy to be fun, as Jeff Cook of Grand Junction demonstrated last winter at Vega Reservoir. Some basic angling equipment, a thermos for something hot and a chair to sit in are about all you really need.

Sure, it’s popular, you can tell all those ice-fishing naysayers.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, almost 25 percent of all Colorado anglers wet lines through the ice between December and late February.

That came from the 2004 Statewide Angler Survey, so one can only imagine that in the ensuing years the number has increased.

Advances in winter clothing, specialized ice-fishing gear and the proliferation of underwater cameras and fish-finding sonars have made ice fishing the realm of everyman instead of the specialist.

Websites abound with information ranging from high tech (comparing the best underwater cameras) to somewhat less intricate, such as how to keep wax worms alive and active.

You can go cheap, using the same equipment that kept you happy all summer and using the holes other anglers have left.

Or you can pile it on with power augers, portable ice huts and enough electronics to make your own DEW Line.

Either way, the key is safety.

Check ice thickness as you go and take a friend, since ice fishing should be a partner activity. Not simply for the social aspect of sharing a day on the ice, but just in case there’s need for an extra pair of hands or feet.

“I hate to see people out there by themselves,” Kelly Beauchamp at Crawford Reservoir State Park said. “We encourage anglers to bring someone else just in case something happens.”

Last winter, Eric Berhalter of Silt told about saving another angler who had broken through during early ice at Rifle Gap Reservoir.

Berhalter said he always carries an ice-rescue kit just for those rare occasions, including a water-filled bottle wrapped with 50 feet of rope.

The bottle has enough weight to carry the rope, keeping Berhalter well away from unsafe ice.

Another idea, Beauchamp said, is wearing a flotation device, perhaps one of those that fit and look like suspenders but will keep you above water when you don’t have a lot of time to think about it.

You’ll find plenty of help, and probably a ton of good advice, during the popular Rifle Gap ice fishing tournament scheduled for Jan. 19–20.

Now in its 15th year and sponsored by Mountain Air Mechanical of Rifle along with the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, city of Rifle, Colorado Sportsmen Wildlife Fund, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this tournament draws upward of 500 anglers competing for cash and prizes.

There is no entry fee for youngsters 17 years and under, and deadline for adult early registration ($35) is Friday.

It’s all dependent on the ice, however. Information is available on the Rifle Chamber of Commerce website,, or at 970-625-2085, ext. 4 or ext. 2.


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