When the weather isn’t nice, fish through the ice | VailDaily.com

When the weather isn’t nice, fish through the ice

April E. Clark
Vail CO, Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentMatthew Hutchison of Battlement Mesa settles in for a day of ice fishing on Harvey Gap on a recent Sunday.

RIFLE, Colo. – Ice fishing is more than just a sport for Aaron Fero.

It’s family bonding time.

During the winter, hours on the frozen waters of Rifle Gap State Park are well spent with his 9-year-old son. And sometimes his wife and daughter join in the fun to make it a family affair.

“It’s a pretty social environment,” said Fero, park manager for the Rifle Gap State Park complex. “My wife comes out, and my daughter. It’s like the whole family going out hiking together.”

Fero has been taking his son ice fishing for two years now. The father-son pair enjoy the thrill of trying to catch fish through holes drilled in the frozen water.

“It’s a great way to spend the day together,” he said. “It’s a pretty fun activity.”

Like angling in the summer, ice fishing allows for a lot of wait time. That allows for several hours of talking, telling fish stories, catching fish – and sometimes not catching anything at all.

“I have good days and bad ones,” Fero said. “Most people are pretty good at it.”

Ice fisherman don’t seem to mind the freezing cold as they sit for hours on the ice at Harvey Gap. (Kelley Cox/Post Independent)

Click to Enlarge

Rifle Gap is stocked with perch, brown trout and some Northern pike. The best fishing is said to be at the west end of the lake for perch and trout. The east end of the lake still has open water.

“We have a pretty good perch species,” Fero said. “We’ve got some good fish in there. We have a lot of people who come from all over the state.”

Ice fishing at Harvey Gap features perch and crappie – and some pike and trout have been reported. Ice thickness ranges anywhere from 5 to 9 inches.

As in any sport involving water, ice fishing and safety go hand-in-hand.

“The safety aspect of it is important when you’re out there on the ice,” he said. “Just like if you’re out there boating. Ice is a natural kind of feature. It varies in thickness on the lake.”

On Rifle and Harvey gaps, sleds that pop up into temporary one- or two-person shanties are popular for fending off the conditions while fishing. Permanent ice fishing structures are prohibited.

“The sheds break the wind when you’re out there – and you can put a little heater in there,” Fero said. “You can get it set up in less than four minutes.”

Ice fishing equipment also includes an ice spade, saw or auger to drill the round or rectangular holes. Augers can be hand- or gas-powered.

“With some of the augers, all you have to do is push a button and they drill right through the ice,” Fero said. “You can drill through four inches of ice in no time.”

Fero said hand-drilling the ice can be strenuous, especially for older anglers and those who don’t like to stay in one place all day.

“Some people move around a lot,” he said. “They may be drilling up to 10 to 15 holes a day.”

Ice fishing isn’t limited to just sportsmen.

Considering how much there is to learn about ice fishing tools, techniques, and tricks of the trade, the Colorado Division of Wildlife office in Glenwood Springs is hosting a clinic in February for women. The inaugural Women’s Ice Cast takes place Saturday, Feb. 10, at Gypsum Ponds, located in Eagle County near Interstate 70’s Gypsum exit.

Cost of the clinic is $10, which covers lunch and drinks. Preregistration and prepayment are required. Call 947-2934 for more information.

Ice fishing in Colorado

– Along the Front Range, it’s especially important to check ice conditions because of the region’s notoriously variable weather. Many popular lakes are managed by Colorado state parks, or local park authorities, so anglers should check with managers for ice thickness.

– Anglers should decide if it is safe to go out and walk on or drive a snowmobile on ice. It is a personal decision and consideration. A general guide for proper ice thickness is four inches for walking and drilling a hole, and six-to-eight inches for a snowmobile.

– The use of crampons, or cleats, for walking on ice is a good idea. With Colorado’s powdery snow and wind, snow cover often forms on ice. Blowing wind and snow actually polish ice to a glassy, slippery surface.

– Attaching a long cord to sleds make them easier to pull, and if someone falls through the ice, anglers can push their sled to them while holding onto the line.

– Anglers should carry two picks – or spikes protruding from wooden hand holds – to help pull their way out if they fall in.

– If an angler falls through the ice, he should spike his way out or be pulled out, and should not stand, but roll across the ice in the same direction from which he arrived at the site.

– Ice fishermen should carry a portable flotation cushion. The cushion adds to their seating comfort and gives them something to throw should someone fall through ice.

– Anglers should keep their augers covered because the blades are sharp, and can easily cut them, children or dogs.

– Ice fishermen should spray vegetable oil on their auger and snowshoes. Snow won’t stick and anglers won’t cut themselves cleaning off the snow.

Source: Colorado Division of Wildlife

Support Local Journalism