The recent cold weather has produced ice thick enough (on some lakes and reservoirs) to provide a stable base for those eager to get out on the ice and feel the tug of fish at the end of your ice rod.
I will attempt to provide some current information about several of our most popular ice fishing venues along with some important safety considerations that (although I do this most years) should be reviewed BEFORE going ice fishing for the first time this season.
As of December 24, 2019, the Soldier Creek side of Strawberry Reservoir has ice between four and six inches thick and reports indicate that rainbows are active and biting. A few rainbows in the five to eight-pound class have been caught. Some of them are reacting to tube jigs tipped with meal worms or night crawlers while others are eating Powerbait.
If you choose to use Powerbait, set the hook early to keep the hooks in the jaws of the trout rather than deep in their throats. If you plan to release fish that are hooked deep, please cut the line instead of using de-gorging tools.
Scofield Reservoir has safe ice but not in all areas as of yet. Fishing should be good for cutthroats, rainbows, and of course, chubs.
Many of the High Uinta Lakes have safe ice. Just be sure to be observant and remember that four inches of clear ice will hold most anglers while eight inches of cloudy ice should be used as a minimum thickness.
My wife, Jeri, and I tested some of our Christmas gifts at Moose Pond between Manila and Vernal along Highway 44. Even though the pond has been iced over for several weeks, it still only had five inches of clear ice. So, don’t assume that just because snow covers the ice on your favorite mountain lake it is safe to fish.
This latest cold spell gripping most of Utah (at the writing of this column) will definitely create more fishable ice in short order, but if you don’t see other ice anglers in the area you choose to fish, make certain the ice is thick enough for your party including sleds and gear.
When you’ve decided where to fish, let’s take a refresher course on safety while on the ice.
Your safety must be faced with checklist-like accuracy. The following is a short list of items needed each and every time you venture from shore.
Ice cleats or treaded snow boots. When snow is not present, ice cleats are crucial to your stability while traveling to and from the shore.
Waterproof boots. At time, slush covers the surface of the ice. Don’t get your feet wet while on the ice. Hypothermia isn’t a joke.
Ice Picks. These can simply be carried with you (in a breast pocket) in case you fall through the ice and need to get a hand hold to pull yourself out.
Rope and floatation device. Although rope might not help you when far from shore, you may be able to throw a length of rope to a companion should he/she fall through. And, a life jacket is always a great addition to your gear.
Remember that ice thickness may vary from area to area. NEVER assume that ice is the same thickness all over a lake.
Take polarized sunglasses and sunscreen and dress in layers. Be prepared for wind, sun, bone-chilling cold and summertime-like warmth.
Don’t stay on the ice for more than a few hours at a time, especially after dark, unless you have planned in advance to adjust to the brutal cold of night.
Though I don’t generally ice fish more than a handful of times year, I have decided to target burbot this year on Flaming Gorge so evening and night fishing are definitely in my winter plans.
If you are prepared, ice fishing can be a great way to spend time in the great outdoors. Watch the weather but (trust me) safe ice cometh.