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Local Life

Ice fishing is winter highlight along Front Range

Anglers have opportunity to hone different set of skills


There’s a lot to know to have a successful ice fishing trip, but one thing is really important to know, particularly for first timers — ice is noisy.

Stepping out onto Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake Park for one of its ice fishing 101 courses, instructors are quick to calm first timers when the sounds of the ice moving and cracking starts occurring.

“I tell people that it’s never 100 percent safe going ice fishing, ut as long as the ice is at least 3.5 to 5 inches thick, you should be fine,” said Luke Wilson, one of Bear Creek’s rangers. “And these sounds are actually good — it’s the sound of ice expanding.”

During the winter months, there are places along the Front Range and in the mountains where anglers can still engage in their favorite hobby — Bear Creek Lake Park, Chatfield and Cherry Creek Reservoirs, and Evergreen Lake.

“The ice is not monitored for safety and fishing is entirely at the anglers’ own risk,” said Drew Sprafke, park supervisor of Bear Creek Lake Park. This is a constant at most ice fishing lakes. “All state fishing laws apply and are enforced, including bag limits, fishing licenses, no ice fishing holes over 10 inches in diameter, and no vehicles are allowed on the ice.”

One of the draws for ice fishing aficionados is the simplicity, the challenge, and how inexpensive the sport is.

“You don’t need a whole lot to have a good time ice fishing,” said Austin Parr, manager of Discount Fishing Tackle, 2645 S. Santa Fe Drive in Denver, which is a regional hub for fishing equipment, guided tours and regionally specific tackle. “There’s a lot of good access for fishers in the area, and I love the challenge of trying to catch different fish in these lakes.”

Some common fish that anglers are on the hunt for include rainbow trout, yellow perch, walleye and saugeye.

Some of the basic equipment necessary for ice fishing include a small snow shovel, a scoop for removing ice, a spud bar or ice chisel, and the requisite fishing gear — a fishing rod, reels, and tackle. Those looking for a more advanced experience can splurge on everything from underwater cameras and digital sonar to ice huts, personal heaters, and GPS devices.

“For safety, we recommend you don’t go ice fishing alone, or if you do, be sure to tell someone when and where you’re going,” said Tony Dymek, with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “People also need to think about warmth. In addition to warm clothes, fishers may want to think about heaters. Being warm makes the difference between a positive fishing experience and a negative one.”

The internet has become a major help to ice fishers, as they now can check ice conditions at lakes before they head out, and they can download lake maps that provide information on depth locations. Different fish species spend their time at different depths, and anglers hoping for a particular catch can benefit a lot from these maps.

“My favorite part of ice fishing is targeting specific fish, like walleye,” Parr said. “You want to look out for drop-off points and structures in the lake that fish might hang out in.”

As with many outdoor activities, if parents get their children hooked on ice fishing young, it can become a lifelong passion.

“My son Rider has never been ice fishing before, but he’s big into other kinds of fishing, so we wanted to give this a try,” said Travis Jackson of Broomfield, who was out on Bear Creek Lake during the park’s class. “He already thinks he’s a big-time fisherman, so this is a great way to spend time with him.”


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