Ice fishing queens at Gypsum Ponds
GYPSUM – Karen Carthy wanted to learn that one little secret that would give her an edge over her husband. Edie Lengel saw it as a potential Girl Scout outing, so she bundled up daughters Adie and Haylie and then talked her mom into coming along.From these disparate paths, a group of six woman ventured forth where females seldom go – on frozen waters in a quest to master the time-honored sport of ice fishing.
Actually, we only trekked out about 50 yards on the Gypsum ponds where we were outnumbered by “experts” by nearly two to one. And, in the spirit of coming clean, ice fishing isn’t exactly an “honored” sport. It’s kind of like the bowling of the sport fishing world.When the Colorado Division of Wildlife offered “Ice Cast,” a one-day class for women, even game warden-types recognized what they were up against. But on a recent Saturday the Division of Wildlife, in conjunction with the Colorado Sportsmen’s Wildlife Fund, taught a half-dozen local females the nuances of ice fishing. Turns out, there’s more to ice fishing than what’s depicted in the movie “Grumpy Old Men.”To begin with, ice fishing is one of the fastest growing parts of the fishing industry. Who knew there were hordes of people out there longing to channel their inner Walter Matthau? Then there’s the fact that women are more cooperative.”It’s easier to get a bunch of women interested, on an instruction level,” said Sonja Marzec, class organizer and district wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife.As the sport has gained popularity, savvy retailers have figured out ways to make ice fishing a high tech activity. Today’s ice fisherman can spend big bucks on collapsible shelters, gas-powered augers and sonar depth finders. But as with any fishing endeavor, the real trick isn’t what goes in the water, it’s what comes out of it. That was the focus of the classroom part of the lesson.
“You never know what you are going to get at the end of your line,” advised Lynn Ensley of Grand Junction. Ensley is a fishing instructor with the Colorado Sports Wildlife Fund. He launched the session with a formula he calls FLPS -Fish, Location, Presentation = Success.Turns out fish are fairly smart. They have an advanced sense of smell and they can discern color. They also have discriminating palettes. Salmon, for instance, like garlic while rainbow trout enjoy anise.As a cold-blooded animal, fish metabolism slows down in the winter, but they do continue to feed. It just takes them longer to find the nourishment they need – and that’s where ice fishermen have an edge.Ensley said the winter often find fish in deeper water. A good ice fisherman (or fisherwoman) needs to be skilled at reading a map. He also stressed the need for a depth finder, to indicate the actual level of the fish.To the fish, presentation is important.”Everything we do is to mimic something that happens naturally in the water,” Ensley said. He then described various lures and their merits and concluded with some classic advice. “If something isn’t working, try something else.”Thus instructed, the female corps set forth to conquer fish.
Class members were a bit taken aback by all the ice-fishing gadgets. “We used to just drop a line through the ice,” said Edith Lederhause. “When I signed up, I thought they might give us a willow branch.”
Edie Lengel, Lederhause’s daughter, remembers ice fishing outings as a child. But like her mom, she said those trips were hardly high-tech expeditions.”Electronics make ice fishing great,” said Cyndy Arnold of the Wildlife Fund. As a buyer for Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Grand Junction, she knows what she’s talking about. Arnold brought one of the high tech-depth finders currently available on the market to demonstrate their appeal, but she stressed going electronic doesn’t have to be a prohibitory pricey proposition. Some models run around $200. Prices go upwards from there.Watching the units quickly becomes hypnotic. The jig dances quietly on the display one moment and then the sonar detects an incoming fish. It does add something to the overall fishing experience to know that is prey underneath you, even if the fish are proving elusive.Electronics also indicate when it’s time to pack it up. After roughly a half-hour in one locale where fish approached lines a couple of times but did not bite, the group moved to a new hole about 25 yards away. There the action was fast and furious.Just ask 5-year-old Adie Lengel. In the space of about 15 minutes, she pulled out four fish. Her sister, Haylie, 10, was right behind her with three. Edie collected the girls’ biggest catches, saying if the crew was going to go to all the trouble of spending the day on the ice, the family would definitely enjoy a fish fry for dinner.Carthy was also pulling lots of fish out of her hole in the ice. A seasoned ice fisherman, she often goes out with her husband. While Carthy enjoyed the opportunity to test drive some advanced technology for the day, usually she ventures out with considerably less equipment.”I have a pole, so I can fish,” she said.