Salomone: The ice has arrived |

Salomone: The ice has arrived

Ladies and gentlemen, ice fishing season has arrived

Anglers are pulling strong, healthy trout through the ice.
Scott Cramer/Courtesy photo

Winter has descended upon Vail, with deep snow covering it all. Ski conditions have reached epic proportions. The arrival of prime winter is here. Along with the pleasantries winter provides, anglers have skated across the thickening ice on ponds, lakes and reservoirs, drilling holes and pulling strong, healthy trout through the ice. Ladies and gentlemen, ice fishing season has arrived.

Whether anglers target small water ponds that cover over with a safe sheet of ice, or larger bodies of water like Alpine lakes and high mountain reservoirs, the opportunities for ice fishing are numerous. However, safety is of the utmost concern. Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends 4 inches of thickness to support an individual. Personally, I prefer the added security obtained from 6 inches of ice, especially when venturing out onto larger bodies of water.

Vail Valley Anglers guide Jim Mallos drills a hole for ice fishing.
Scott Cramer/Courtesy photo

The approaches to angling through the ice cover a variety of styles. Flashy lures, minuscule jigs and a real bite of bait have different presentations to enhance their productivity. Anglers that wander out onto the frozen surface benefit from having a little bit of everything to try. Experimentation is often needed to determine a productive approach.

Lures for ice fishing are on a smaller scale. Think about choosing a bite-size lure, one that trout can easily fit in their mouth. Small spoons like Kastmasters and Dardevle have a couple characteristics that enhance their presentation. Weight and flash are two characteristics of small spoons. Anglers jig, lift and let fall, the small spoons causing trout to be attracted to the dying minnow imitation.

Jigs come with and without “dressing,” meaning some jigs have feathers or hair tied to them, while others are plain lead heads with a naked hook exposed. The undressed jig heads come in a variety of shapes and styles with bright colors and painted eyes. Dressed jigs have light feathers or supple hair, both materials breathe in the water with life when moved or sitting stationary.

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Fly anglers have boxes full of nymphs that have crossover appeal and can be fished under the ice effectively. Small midge larvae and aquatic scud representations work incredibly well for ice anglers. Scuds jigged near the bottom will attract feeding trout. Olive green or bright orange colored scud flies are effective. Orange colored scuds are a dead scud; they change color after dying.

Other flies that work well are soft, hackled nymphs, small streamers or attractor patterns like prince nymphs or flashback pheasant tail nymphs. Small streamers in brown or black represent leeches that move through the water column with an enticing swimming action. Trout that eat a leech in winter take the fly with a little more vigor.

The last approach is with bait. Ice anglers have a large variety of choices for tempting trout under the ice: salmon eggs, powerbait of different varieties and the ever-popular earthworm. Nothing like the squirm of a red wiggler or hunk of thick nightcrawler to guarantee a tug from a trout. Mealworms are another super effective ice fishing offering trout go crazy for.

Anglers can sit over an open hole in the ice with a short ice fishing rod while working a spoon with a fast jigging action. Others may choose a weather fighting ice fishing tent, which also enhances an angler’s vision down into the water. And some anglers will use intricate setups with tip-ups that help set the hook on an unattended hole. The use of multiple rods to cover two ice holes at once is a popular approach. A rod in a rod holder bouncing rapidly over a hole in the ice 15 feet away can create some pretty exciting scrambles.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends four inches of thickness to support an ice angler.
Scott Cramer/Courtesy photo

Ice fishing is a fantastic way for a family to spend a gorgeous Colorado day. Prime ice fishing conditions have arrived. The security of thick ice and the addition of hungry trout combine to produce exciting early winter ice fishing adventures. Whether anglers choose lures, small flies or bait, the variety of opportunities for success make ice fishing a productive and enjoyable Colorado experience. Vail Valley Anglers provides professional ice fishing guides to lead you and your family to a stand out experience, building memories in the middle of your ski trip that won’t fade away.

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