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Salomone: Say hello to hard water

Away from the slopes, ice fishing is still a truly unique Colorado experience

Michael Salomone
If you're looking for a new way to make family memories, give ice fishing a try.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Ice fishing is an alternative to searching for open water on the river and in the same way Mother’s Day caddis doesn’t last forever, neither does the ice. When the conditions are good, I choose to drill a hole, drop a line and soak up some winter sun while fishing through hard water.

The Eagle River Valley has some excellent locations for ice fishing adventures. The proximity to good ice, quality fish and world class scenery places ice fishing on the must-do list of activities tourists devour. A family activity that cultivates memories to last forever, ice fishing gives people a truly unique Colorado experience away from the slopes.

There are several places in the Eagle River Valley perfect for a family ice fishing adventure, and Sylvan Lake is one of the best.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

A frozen lake may not seem attractive to people, but combine that with a good guide and some hot chocolate and the event starts to gain some attraction. The knowledgeable fishing guides at Vail Valley Anglers strive to provide the best, most comfortable and enjoyable day on the ice. From the ice tents and sleds to the rods and gear that intrigue young minds, ice fishing has a lot going on if you pay attention.



Ice fishing is a combination of presentations, starting with simple bait like powerbait, marshmallows and trout nuggets. These are man-made baits that can be purchased readily throughout the valley. The common earthworm holds all the attributes of a quality offering — easy to buy, cheap and effective. Depending on the stillwater you choose, worms tempt all of the fish in the water.

Small ice fishing jigs have a compact yet heavy weight to sink your bait quickly and hold the jig on a taut line to better detect strikes. There are numerous jig-head shapes. Some are flattened to wobble back and forth when sinking. Others are painted with a larger-than-life eyeball and combined with movement to breathe life into your jig.

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Little spoons like Kastmasters and Daredevils wiggle, wobble and flash. This attractive action can pull fish from a distance when jigged up and down. Imitating a dying minnow, trout smack the little spoons on the drop. Tipping the spoon with a piece of flavor, whether it is a red wiggler or mealworm, is an effective technique.

Anyone desiring a new family experience will discover ice fishing to be a perfect playground to explore. Kids enjoy the sled across the ice to the chosen location. Everyone enjoys the darkness that surrounds you when entering the ice shelter. Your eyes strain from the brightness of the outdoors in comparison to the dark inside. It’s a functional aspect that allows anglers to see farther into the water through the hole.

Gear can be the same spinning rods you already own. Specialized rods and reels for ice fishing are compact, fitting inside ice fishing shelters easily. The short rods keep the angler in contact with their bait by sitting closer to the hole, where the action is. Most fish are feeling the lethargic effects of extremely cold water, making the fight more of a slow pull than an erratic run. Keeping the ice hole skimmed clean of slush prevents sharp edges from forming on the surface of the hole. Ice can sever thin lines from abrasion but rarely does this occur.



You can use the same spinning rods you already own for ice fishing, but specialized rods and reels are compact and fit inside shelters easily.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

A couple of locations that attract hard-water anglers would be Sylvan Lake State Park and Gypsum Ponds State Wildlife Area. Both locations have very easy access with plenty of parking near the ice. While they hold different fish, both possess the numbers to create an action-filled ice fishing adventure.

Gypsum Ponds is located adjacent to Interstate 70. One of the only local waters with panfish like bluegills and yellow perch as well as trout and smallmouth bass. The opportunity for a mixed catch is always attractive.

Sylvan Lake State Park reigns high on the charm scale. It doesn’t get better than the scenery at Sylvan Lake. It is pure Colorado — massive green forests, majestic red cliffs and a sleepy lake with quiet coves tucked along the edges. Sylvan Lake holds high numbers of rainbow and brook trout, but the opportunity for a cutthroat makes Sylvan the go-to location for catching a variety of trout in one day.

As far as scenery goes, it doesn’t get much better than Sylvan Lake.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Ice fishing is another facet of winter that remains attractive to all anglers, whether chosen as an alternative activity to the slopes or a way to enjoy family time. Vail Valley Anglers delivers the hard-water experience all anglers enjoy.


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