It can be tough to make it outdoors during a typical winter, let alone one when a pandemic is limiting space on the slopes. Enter ice fishing: a social-distance-friendly diversion that can be done on 616 bodies of water—all of them on public land—in Colorado. Wondering how to get started? We answer a few questions you might have about the frigid sport.
What’s the easiest way to learn how to ice fish?
Before blowing potentially thousands of dollars on gear you may never use again, find out if you like the activity during a guided expedition. Ice Fish Winter Park takes people on four-hour trips to Williams Fork Reservoir, starting at $285 per person (poles and other equipment included). It will handle the hard stuff, like setting up a warming hut, drilling holes with an auger, and deciding what bait to use. You’ll get to focus on the fun part: hooking lake trout.
Is there some sort of ice fishing community I can get involved with?
Englewood-based nonprofit U.S. Ice Fishing Association keeps a list of events held throughout Colorado at usifa.org. This month, there are two tournaments for beginners—one at Boyd Lake in Loveland (January 16) and another at Cherry Creek Reservoir in Aurora (January 30). To participate, all you have to do is buy a ticket ($90) and show up in warm clothes. Event organizers will provide free rods and set you up at one of the fishing holes they’ve already drilled—each 45 feet apart. Even if you don’t catch anything, you might land some free gear in the raffle.
Say I like the guided expedition and the tournament. How do I do this safely on my own (i.e., without falling through the ice)?
After obtaining a fishing license, download the Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) Fishing app for up-to-date information about weather and ice thickness at various lakes. You should still look for blue ice, which usually indicates a body of water has reached the desired four inches of thickness (anything less is unsafe) and remember that density isn’t always consistent. CPW recommends drilling test holes every 30 feet until you reach the center of the lake, where the water is deepest and the biggest fish swim. As far as gear goes, you’ll need warm clothes, cleats for your boots, an ice-fishing-specific rod (typically shorter than normal poles) and lures, an auger, and a compass in case weather disorients your sense of direction.