Salomone: Preparing for ‘hard water’ now |

Salomone: Preparing for ‘hard water’ now

Michael Salomone
Daughters Emily and Emma on the auger.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Cold nights have started to create ice shelves around riverside boulders. Melting off by midmorning with sunshine, the bankside ice is a foreshadowing of things to come on the river. Stillwaters will ice over swifter than you think. Soon, we will be standing on “hard water,” drilling holes and basking in the winter sun.

Most fly anglers will stow away gear, tie flies and await springtime temperatures to break out their rods again. Others never put away their rods. You’ll see their waders frozen stiff, glazed over with ice and thawing slowly in the sunshine on people’s decks. Then there is the freak few whose heart beats a little faster when the ice forms on local ponds, lakes and reservoirs. For those die-hards, now is the time to take inventory, replace broken gear and order new tackle — or be left sitting on the couch.

There are many reasons to take stock of your gear now. Ice fishing can be hard on your gear. Tangled lines on spinning reels need attention or replacement. And items you need might not be readily available on store shelves.

Sun on the ice at Gypsum ponds.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

If anything, the issues with the recent supply chain have taught us that we might have to wait to attain the things we want. Backlogged cargo ships, overwhelmed shipping docks and transport driver shortages have all compounded to minimize availability and slow the arrival of everything. Don’t think there is a priority placed on ice fishing jigs, auger blades and collapsable ice tents.

Just like your Christmas gifts, you better shop now.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife suggests a thickness of 4 inches of ice to support individuals, 6 inches for ATVs and snowmobiles 8-12 inches for a small car and at least 15 inches of ice for trucks. Personally, I don’t take my vehicles out on the ice. Temporary structures need to be removed at night. Permanent shanties must be labeled with the owner’s name and CID number. A resident one-day fishing license costs $14.23 and a nonresident one-day fishing license costs $17.35. An extra rod stamp is $11.11 for both types of licenses.

I recommend using more than one pole when ice fishing. Watching the bounce of a rod over a hole and racing to get to the bite can be an enjoyable challenge, especially when kids are involved. Ice fishing is a wonderful family experience for locals and visitors to the valley. Vail Valley Anglers has seasoned ice fishing guides who will make your trip out on the ice a truly memorable experience for the entire family.

Ice fishing can be a low-budget adventure or a high-brow affair. Any rod can function as an ice fishing rod. However, ice fishing poles are very cheap and available in places like Walmart. Some type of lure or bait and an inexpensive hand auger gets anglers out on the ice. Other anglers may take it over the top with extravagant ice fishing tents, gas-powered ice augers and underwater cameras.

A wide variety of ice fishing lures exist, and anglers will find that fly-fishing nymphs can have excellent crossover appeal when presented under the ice. It can be as easy as baiting a hook with some PowerBait, a mealworm or a piece of nightcrawler. Small ice fishing jigs are a popular choice for their size, weight and ability to combine with a piece of bait.


Presentations vary, from actively jigging spoons like Kast-masters and small DareDevils to still-fishing small bits of bait in a stationary presentation. Anglers may need to experiment with a variety of baits to achieve success. Luckily, it is inexpensive to pick up a little bit of everything, such as powerbait, mealworms and salmon eggs.

The ice is coming. For “hard water” aficionados, the winter season doesn’t represent a discontinuity in angling endeavors. Rather, it becomes a welcomed addition to the year and a chance at some precious family time. But don’t wait to stock up on needed gear. Supplies could be in short supply. Look ahead and cover your basics in anticipation of some early season ice fishing opportunities.


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