Ice fishing in Colorado can be beautiful, but it’s important to plan to make sure all your bases are covered and that you can enjoy your time in the scenic Rocky Mountains. Here are the top 10 things you should consider before you head out on the ice. We’ll drop in some added info for beginners, but you can also read Ice Fishing for Beginners: 5 Things You Must Know Before Ice Fishing in Colorado.
Go During Peak Season
Peak ice fishing happens between December and February. Even though the lakes and reservoirs start to freeze over as early as November, you want a solid layer of ice to keep you out of the water. You’ll likely run into a lot of fishermen this time around, but you’ll still have the best odds of catching something by going during peak season. Besides, this is a great opportunity to meet other fans of the sport, share a drink, and gain some pointers.
Watch the Ice Depth
It’s easy to get excited about hanging out with your pals around a fishing hole, but that’s all way more fun with a solid layer of ice under you. Here are some recommended ice depths: at least 4-inches for a single person to ice fish. Between 8-12 inches for either a small, parked car or a larger group fishing in the area. At least 1-foot of ice is recommended for a full-size truck to stay above ground. Measure the ice depth before bringing out all your gear (or your friends!) onto the ice to prevent your gear from ending up in an underwater yard sale.
Know the Regulations
Colorado has regulations specifically for ice fishing that you should know and follow unless you want a visit from the warden, even when you’re just beginning. One regulation to keep in mind is having your fishing holes 10-inches in diameter or smaller. Any temporary structures you put up to keep warm and dry must come down by nightfall, even if you’re still hoping for fish. Ice fishing at night is completely legal, for those of you who never get cold, but you just can’t do it under a structure. If you’re lighting a fire, make sure it’s properly contained and completely extinguished before you leave for the day. There are a few other regulations that you should know before heading out, and you can find those here.
Get Your License
License fees help maintain public fishing areas and support our fisheries for healthy spawns. So, buying a fishing license is something like a contribution to better fishing every season. In Colorado, everyone older than 16 needs to have a license with them when they’re fishing. This goes for ice fishing, too. If you’re just going out for one or two days in the season you can buy them daily, otherwise, it’s better just to buy the annual license. Residents get a better deal, but out-of-state licenses are still fair considering what most states charge. For full details on Colorado fishing licenses, check out the Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Know What You’re Fishing For
Knowing what you’re fishing for will tell you how long of a line you need. Some fish tend to stay near the surface of the water during the colder months, while others will sink lower and swim near the lake or reservoir floor. You can switch your length when you reach your creel limit so you aren’t pulling up any more fish you’ve maxed out on.
Trout or Walleye have a daily creel limit of 4 and 5, respectively. Some fish, like Northern Pike and Whitefish, don’t have a catch limit, so fish your heart out and pack the coolers. Others, like certain species of Chubs and Stonecats, are endangered, so if you happen to catch any, let them loose as soon as possible and get your rig set for more pike! The creel limits and the endangered lists help to protect the ecosystems in Colorado’s waters, which only makes it better for fishing – so stay informed.
Prepare Your Gear
Ice fishing requires a bit more gear than your average summer trip or a simple fly-fishing outfit. You’ll want to make sure you have either an auger or a pick to get into the ice, though an auger will get you more time in the water. You’ll also want to bring a few buckets along, at least one for your catches and one for your tools. Though, the most important piece of gear you’ll want with you is a safety pack. You’ll want to bring ropes and a first aid kit so you can self-rescue if anything happens while you’re on the ice.
During the winter, fish require a lot less flashy lures to get them hooked. They’re not feeding nearly as frequently, so oftentimes a mealworm is enough to get them interested. Save the colorful lures for the summer months when the fish have more access to food.
Image courtesy of themeateater.com
Plan to Stay a While
Chances are, if you’re going fishing, you’re ready to play the long game. Make sure to bring a few chairs, a pot for coffee and snacks, and a radio to listen to the game, and whatever else you need to stay comfy. And remember, you’re fishing on the ice so you’re going to want to wear warm layers. Bring an extra set or two in case anything gets wet – wool or polyester is best; cotton will stay cold. Some other things to consider are a portable shelter to break wind, a face covering to keep your nose and ears warm, and hand warmers.
Plan Your Fishing Location
Most reservoirs will be ready for ice-fishing by January. Some popular reservoirs for ice fishing include Cherry Creek, Eleven Mile, Dillon, and Jackson Gulch. You can also try Lake Trinidad or Lake John for some great ice fishing in January. If you don’t mind a little bit more of a drive, you can find more ice fishing options near Breckenridge. Check out the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department’s up-to-date list of major fishing locations with their current conditions.
Plan Your Stay
Georgetown has quite a few inns, hotels, and bed & breakfasts for you to warm up and sleep comfortably when you’re not braving the cold. If you’re not looking to spend the night, but you want to fuel up before going out on the lake or warm-up afterward, there are plenty of restaurants in town to grab a drink and hot food.
No matter how long you’re planning to stay, or what you’re looking to catch, Georgetown, Colorado has something for everyone. We’ll see you on the ice!