Without question, 2019 has turned into a marvelous year for ice anglers and snowmobilers. The ice on most of our local reservoirs has been thick, safe, and plentiful. However, amid the excitement to enjoy the ice, there is a growing concern that I will try to address in today’s column, as we discuss some very promising angling opportunities.
First, the ice on Deer Creek is thinning and with all the up and down temperature moves in the past week or two (in my opinion) it is not very safe to be out on the ice.
The fish have been active and reports of nice catches of rainbow and brown trout tempt anglers to push their luck on staying safe. Please don’t take chances. The very best way to ruin a great winter of ice fishing is find yourself, friends or family members breaking through the ice and struggling to survive the catastrophe.
Flaming Gorge is also experiencing a truly great ice pack. Anglers are still enjoying close to 10 inches of very clean, safe, ice in several areas of the massive reservoir, and reports are generally positive for catching smaller lake trout (under 25 inches) and large rainbows (18 to 20 inches). Small tube jigs in white, glow white, and various shades of green on 1/4-to 1/2-ounce weights are all producing at some point during the day or night.
The difficulty is that as water in the reservoir begins to rise, the shoreline ice recedes making it more difficult to reach safe ice from shore. In fact, many anglers are foregoing getting on the ice and are fishing open water from the shore in areas near the dam and on the Wyoming side of the reservoir near Antelope Flats, and the Spring Creek area. Remember, whenever there is current present, one spot may have 10 inches of ice, but literally 50 yards or less away, you could see ice just a couple of inches deep. Take along ice picks, a long, heavy rope, and perhaps even a long board (to allow you to make it from the shore to safe ice).
Finally, even though you might find incredible ice conditions, slush can be anywhere. Flaming Gorge is notorious for producing four to five inches of slush over the top of eight to ten inches of safe ice. Slush is tough to deal with unless you wear knee-high rubber boots.
Strawberry Reservoir is fishing as well as it has all winter long. Anglers are catching cutthroats and rainbows almost at will in some reports. But, once again, although an average of 12 inches of ice covers the reservoir, slushy conditions rule the afternoons.
Of the three reservoirs discussed here, Strawberry is the clear winner for the safest ice, and fishing reports that should make it a great choice to spend the last few weeks of ice angling in the early part of 2019. The best depths in which to fish the last couple of weeks have been between 10 and 15 feet below the ice and you may want to target flats rather than points.
Here is a quick rundown of popular baits and lures reported in just the last few days. The Maniac Custom Lures’ Cut’r Bug in Glow Orange or even the standard Pearl White seems to be the most popular bait, using smaller than usual weights 1/32 or 1/16-ounce darter heads (a type of jig head). Tiny spoons such as Swedish Pimples, Kastmaster or P-Line versions are working too.
Tip your spoons with a tiny piece of nightcrawler or a mealworm (people are finding it difficult to procure waxworms right now). The final part to the bait and lure equation is to use garlic or crayfish scent on all your presentations. The trout in Strawberry love the taste and smell crawdads.
Though the catching might be great, don’t let the excitement to be out on the ice overshadow the need to stay safe while ice fishing. Don’t become another statistic and please be careful out there.