Ice getting thick enough for ice fishing at state parks in the Yampa Valley |

Ice getting thick enough for ice fishing at state parks in the Yampa Valley

Russell Cook drills a hole in the Stagecoach Reservoir ice during the 2014 Steamboat Great Outdoors Ice Fishing Tournament at Stagecoach State Park. (Photo by Ben Ingersoll)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ice fishing season is kicking off in the upper Yampa Valley.

Ice that is 4 inches thick is suitable for one person and his or her gear, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. At 5 inches, ice can support a small, spread-out group of people.

Parks and Wildlife does not recommend driving any vehicle on the ice, but at 6 inches, ice can hold an all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile. At 9 inches, ice is suitable for a small vehicle, and for pickups or SUVs, ice must be at least a foot thick.

“The most important thing is to remember that no ice thickness is considered safe,” said Andrew Dean, a senior park ranger at Stagecoach State Park. “You want to check the conditions yourself before you head out, rather than someone else’s description of the conditions.”

He said the best way to check ice thickness is to drill test holes every 10 to 15 yards as you venture onto the ice surface until you’re satisfied that it’s safe to travel across.

“It’s better to separate out and drill your own hole, rather than cluster all together,” he said. “In the next couple weeks, if temperatures continue to trend like they have been, we should see the ice pack thickening rapidly.”

Early season ice anglers have been fishing on Steamboat Lake for about two weeks, said Kelly Cook, the park’s administrative assistant.

The ice there has reached 3 to 4 inches in thickness with about 6 inches of slush on top of the ice.

“Fishing has been excellent for the people willing to brave the slush,” she said.

Pearl Lake is deeper, Cook said, and has 2 to 3 inches of ice on top of it, which is not a suitable thickness to walk on. Once the lake freezes further, Cook reminded visitors to bring a pair of snowshoes, as lake accesses are not plowed.

Steamboat Lake has some poles available for use at the park.

Stagecoach Reservoir has just reached 4 inches of thickness in its coves, Dean said. Stagecoach has fat tire bikes, ice fishing equipment, snowshoes and kids activity backpacks available on loan by calling the visitors center.

If you’re still clinging to your spin rod, bank fishing is still possible at Elkhead State Park between Craig and Hayden. Christian Barnett, park operations intern,  said the lake is still mostly open water, and ice is just beginning to form at the dam.

Winter events at nearby state parks

Stagecoach State Park

• First Day Hike
10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1
Join the park for its annual First Day Hike, a guided snowshoe hike along Stagecoach Reservoir. Limited loaner snowshoes are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

• 8th annual Ice Fishing Tournament
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5
Steamboat Fishing Adventures presents the eighth annual Ice Fishing Tournament at Stagecoach State Park. Entry is free for kids age 15 and younger.

• Moonshoe
7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20
The moonlit snowshoe hike will provide beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains from the overlook trail. Afterward, stick around for a bonfire and hot chocolate. Glowsticks and limited snowshoes provided. Bring warm clothes, flashlights and snowshoes if you have them.

• Debunk The Winter Funk
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Parks and Wildlife is providing a cool way to shake off the winter doldrums and “debunk the winter funk” with a variety of free outdoor, family activities at Stagecoach State Park’s Marina area.

Steamboat Lake State Park

• Ice Fishing Clinic
10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
Learn about ice safety, how to handle your catch and how to cook your fish with recipes to make after a successful fishing trip. Fishing equipment will be provided. Space is limited, so RSVP by contacting the Visitors Center at 970-879-3922.

• First Day Hike
1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1
Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at Steamboat Lake State Park.

Yampa River State Park

• First Day Hike
Time TBD Tuesday, Jan. 1
Celebrate the new year with a first day hike at Yampa River State Park.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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