The Frosty Lures of Ice Fishing

Ice fishing takes place throughout Canada, Scotland, Russia and Scandinavia, but you don’t have to go to Norway to see it. Just look to your right as you’re passing through Georgetown along I-70 in the winter, and you’ll probably see folks frostily fishing. Harvey Gap Reservoir, near Rifle, Crawford Reservoir near Hotchkiss and Lake Granby are other popular ice fishing spots. Throughout Colorado, fisherman catch trout, kokanee salmon, mackinaw and northern pike from our frozen lakes.

Experienced ice fishermen say there’s nothing like heading out onto the frozen lake at dawn with your gear and a warm thermos of coffee. Rick French, Roaring Fork Lifestyle’s publisher, comments, “When I tell people I like to ice fish I get this strange look.” French says that the person wondering why he wants to sit on cold ice all day isn’t taking into account the preparation that goes into staring into that little hole. “That preparation includes identifying the type of fish you seek, assembling the right equipment, dressing for the weather, taking the right anti-freeze and searching for the right spot to drill your hole in the ice,” French says. “All that leads to the reward of enjoying the peacefulness of being the only person dumb enough to freeze his cookies off sitting on a big sheet of ice all day staring into that little hole ice waiting for that little fish to bite!”

The contrast between a peaceful camp-out on the ice and the thrill of catching a big fish makes ice fishing a sport of extremes.

There are many different ways to fish a frozen lake. Some anglers travel light, just setting up a folding chair, while others erect elaborate shelters, complete with heat and battery-generated electricity. Some fishermen use tents; these have the advantage of folding into small packages that can be easily carried over the shoulder.

Fishing sleds are also popular. They not only help to transport fishing gear, bait and accessories, but also make it easy to quickly move to where the fish are biting.

There are three basic ice-fishing methods. The spear-fishing technique requires a fisherman to set up a decoy in a hole drilled through the ice. When a fish rises to the surface to check out the decoy, the fisherman must employ a great deal of skill to quickly spear the fish. Because fish normally rise to the surface only for a split second before disappearing into the murky depths, this takes patience and great reflexes.

The second type of ice fishing is the “tip-ups” method, where a fisherman sets up trot lines around a hole in the ice. The least hands-on type of ice fishing, this methods depends more on the desirability of one’s bait than on skill as an angler. For this reason, many beginners choose to start out using the tip-ups method.

The third type of ice fishing is called “light fishing.” This is a very effective technique using a short fishing rod and lure. Once a fish has gone for the lure, a fisherman pulls in the line by hand, rather than reeling it in as one would with regular fishing methods. Light fishing is more challenging than the tip-ups method. It’s also more exciting, as bringing in a fish by hand requires patience, strength and cunning.

Whichever type of ice fishing you try, remember to always put safety first and use the buddy system out on the ice. It’s also important to be vigilant against weak spots in the ice, and it goes without saying, bundle up well to stay warm out on the lake.

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