Warmer-than-usual temperatures putting damper on winter season

Warmer-than-usual temperatures putting damper on winter season

Two young anglers get ready for the winter angling season on Scofield Reservoir near Price, Utah

This tiger trout was caught last winter at Scofield Reservoir near Price Utah. Ice fishing season is finally picking up across Utah and Colorado.

Recent weather patterns, including warm temperatures and even a bit of rain, have taken a big bite out of the ice fishing season.

“Last year at Christmas I took my nephew out fishing on Corn Lake and we had 8 inches of ice,” said Steve Fisher at Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods. “You sure won’t find that now.”

You might not find 8 inches anywhere in western Colorado below 10,000 feet.

Last week’s Pineapple Express raised temperatures and dumped rain, neither of which make for good ice fishing.

“There’s some ice on Harvey Gap but almost nothing at Rifle,” said Brian Palcer, senior ranger at Rifle Gap State Park. “Harvey was almost 60 percent frozen, but then the rain last week really opened things up.”

As of Monday, ice was reported near the north shore on Harvey Gap and along the dam but little elsewhere.

There was that quick freeze around Thanksgiving but then winter turned its head and warm temperatures took over.

Places where ice was 4–6 inches thick a week earlier suddenly were showing open water.

That understandably put a damper on ice fishing enthusiasm, although a few brave souls again are venturing out on the ice.

“The ice is getting much better with the cold weather,” said Jody Rosier, administrative assistant at Vega State Park (8,000 feet), where there is free hot chocolate, coffee and tea for visitors. “It’s nice and sunny today (Monday) and there are few people out on the ice.”

Later, Rosier e-mailed to say one angler came in to report he caught his four-fish limit in less than two hours on the ice.

“I was surprised how fast he came back,” Rosier wrote. “He said he caught some smaller ones but tossed them back until he had some good-sized fish.”

The angler reported ice conditions as “just a little slushy, but didn’t get his feet wet and said the ice was 7–8 inches thick,” Rosier said.

Steve Stiers at Mesa Lakes Resort said a few anglers have been on Beaver and Sunset lakes.

“I haven’t been out yet, I’ve been too busy with the holidays,” said Stiers, who now is in his third year of running the resort with his wife, Ann. “The ice looks plenty solid but I wouldn’t drive a truck on it.”

Rifle Gap is one of the area’s favorite ice-fishing destinations because of the easy access and the variety of fish available there.

An angler can catch yellow perch, rainbow trout, brown trout, northern pike and smallmouth bass and not drill more than one hole.

The reservoir also is home to one of the more-popular ice fishing tournaments on the Western Slope, but current ice conditions have put this year’s tourney in doubt.

Officials with the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce were to meet Tuesday afternoon to determine whether this year’s tournament, initially scheduled for Jan. 15–16, will be held.

Even with a forecast calling for temperatures around zero this weekend, Palcer wasn’t sure there will be sufficient time to create ice thick enough to hold the 600 or so anglers who flock to the Rifle tournament.

“It’s supposed to get cold again (Tuesday) and in the minus temperatures by the weekend, which certainly will help,” Palcer said. “Even on the warm days you might see a little ice in the morning, so it wants to freeze.”

A few years ago, Vega State Park manager Bob Miller shared a few thoughts on ice fishing and his words are just as applicable today.

Miller said even anglers familiar with the business of ice fishing should be careful on the ice, especially early in the season.

No matter how thick the ice might appear to be, Miller said ice conditions can vary over a lake’s surface.

That’s particularly true at Harvey Gap, where underwater springs can weaken the ice layer. You can track ice depth by digging test holes as you venture out.

Other precautions urged by Miller include:

Wear a life jacket.

Stretch a tether line to a rock, tree or vehicle on shore so you can pull yourself to safety.

Carry ice picks to pull yourself onto the ice.

Stay away from inlets, where ice tends to be thinnest.

Stay apart so your group’s weight isn’t concentrated on any single area.


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