The ice is nice

Ice fishing a great way to cure winter blues

Ice fishing being a very social sport, ice fishermen gather near the Lake City Bridge turnoff at Blue Mesa Reservoir, not to be denied their favorite sport. Even in winter, pick a calm sunny day for a day on the water — frozen that is. Some choose to use a shelter, others enjoy the open air.



Fooled by a lead head jig with a orange and yellow plastic tail, this brown trout decided to bite hard and made a run for it. Usually not that hard to land because of the open water below, the trick is getting the fish through the hole at the last minute.



Mostly I just want to go fishing. I am always itchy. I don’t much care where or how, but just that I go. In January in Colorado, the choices are few.

Problem solved. Ice fishing.

OK, I know for some of you this makes matters worse. After all, who of sound mind would voluntarily put themselves into a cold outdoor environment when you can stay inside at home and watch football? After all, the biggest football games of the season are now.

Well, I won’t be alone. There are many who will head for the mountains for a variety of winter outdoor activities. Some will go skiing, others snowshoeing, snowmobiling or sledding. So why not fishing?

Adventurers may combine snowmobiling or cross-country skiing to reach an off-highway lake, but there are actually a number of places to find frozen-yet-accessible water. By accessible I mean a lake that you can drive to and park near the lake, maybe having only a short walk to a fishing spot.

What are your choices? Here are a few.

Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest impoundment in Colorado is popular locally, but also visited by ice anglers from around the state. About an hour east of Montrose, the available square footage into which you can drill a hole in the ice is endless. You can venture out to the middle of the lake and be all by yourself if you’d like, but ice fishermen are a gregarious lot and tend to bunch up at certain points.

Drive along the highway and choose any one of the many pull-offs that are either campground entrances or just unmarked roads. There is no need to drive in deep snow that you might get stuck in, so just park in a plowed or packed snow area where others have already been. If you arrive early in the morning, you might be the first, but more likely, you can pick a place where others already have gathered and just join in.

A favorite lake of mine is Island Lake atop Grand Mesa. Here you can make a day of it with the family. Not only can you fish the lake, but just down the road a bit is a popular sledding hill and snowmobile staging area. Fishing access to Island Lake is easy. Park right on the road next to the lake and walk a short path down to the lake.

Many vehicles driving south will be headed to Telluride to go skiing. You can start the same way, but instead head to Miramonte Reservoir near Norwood. This is a longer drive, and although you probably won’t be alone, this is a place for the more adventuresome angler that is self-dependent. The road to the reservoir is remote and maintained but usually snow-packed. Be prepared to turn around if necessary, and it is best not to plan a trip here after a recent snowstorm.

Miramonte was totally redone and heavily restocked two seasons ago, so this is a place to be this season.

In all of these impoundments, the primary catch is rainbow trout, commonly 8-12 inches. Holdovers from summer stocking, these rainbows are fat and feisty. Brown trout, splake, kokanee salmon, crappie, yellow perch, pike, and smallmouth bass also are targeted in certain waters. Blue Mesa also offers the chance for a monster lake trout.

Other popular destinations along the Western Slope include Crawford, Rifle Gap and Vega state parks, all with easy access and excellent fishing. The state parks will have an entrance fee.

The key to catching is to visit not just once, but return several times until you learn a lake, and you will be rewarded.

I’m often asked if I go ice fishing. So, although many people are familiar with this absurdity, few seem to participate. That is until you get to the lake on a warm, sunny day, and then you can’t hardly find a parking place!

Pick a sunny day with no wind and you will have to worry more about sunburn than being cold.

But what about the football game? Well, there will be plenty of highlight replays — you won’t miss a thing!


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