Braving the ice

Doug Crowl

— Peace, serenity, the beauty of the landscape and a little excitement is what brings people out to the lakes in Routt County in the dead of winter for a little ice fishing.

So far, ice fishing has been pretty good this year in the two more popular spots in the county Stagecoach Reservoir and Steamboat Lake.

However, a warm fall is still having its effects on the ice.

“It’s been an odd winter,” Stagecoach State Park Manager Fred Bohlmann said. “We still don’t have people venturing across the lake.”

Normally by January, the so-called “black ice,” which is extremely strong, is plenty thick to fish on in most parts of the reservoir. But this year, Bohlmann estimated there are 4 inches of the not-as-stable “gray ice” on top of zero to 8 inches of black ice. Being in a spot with no or little black ice is not safe, he said.

Most of the reservoir has enough black ice for safe fishing, but ice anglers are encouraged to be careful.

The same situation also exists at Steamboat Lake.

“It just hasn’t gotten the good ice pack that we have had in (past) years,” said Ken Brink of Steamboat Lake State Park.

Along with a warm fall, Brink said warm winter weather also has been a factor. Earlier in the week, he read the temperature at the state park at about 43 degrees.

“That’s not seasonal,” he said.

A man who rode a snowmobile across the lake last week told Brink the ice was breaking underneath him when he crossed the middle.

Around the shores of Steamboat Lake, Brink said there are about 4 to 5 inches of good ice. However, he suspects that amount decreases toward the middle of the lake.

What most people don’t realize, Brink said, is that when ice on a lake is formed in the fall, it starts from the shores and moves to the middle. But in the springtime, the ice on the edge of lake is what melts first, while the middle of the lake stays thick and is safer to be on.

One week of good, cold temperatures will produce stable ice throughout the lake, he said.

Though ice conditions on the county’s larger bodies of water are unusual, that’s not stopping people from hitting the ice and having success.

“It’s really excellent for trout right now,” Bohlmann said of Stagecoach Reservoir.

He said anglers setting up on 8 to 15 feet of water are having the most success.

“We are seeing people limit out in a couple of hours,” he said.

Mealworms and regular worms are working the best, while Power Bait has been the last choice for anglers so far, Bohlmann said.

At Steamboat Lake, “they are knocking them dead,” Brink said.

The Swedish Pimple jig with a little Power Bait on it has been working really well for Steamboat Lake trout, as well as mealworms. Anglers weighting their line down to 6 to 8 inches from the bottom are finding the fish, Brink said.

“I have heard from a couple of different groups that they have done pretty well at Pearl Lake,” he added.

Pearl Lake, which is just a few miles away from Steamboat Lake in North Routt County, is only accessible in the winter by skis or snowshoes.

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