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Ice Fishing 101: Chill Out and Reel in the Thrills

Colorado is renowned for its diverse and stunning natural features, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. During the winter months, nature lovers often enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, dog sledding, or simply taking a scenic walk in the snow. If you’re seeking a different, more serene activity, why not try ice fishing? It is a unique experience and rewarding adventure for the whole family, but there are several important things to know before you go. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice looking to embrace the winter chill, ice fishing in Colorado is definitely something to cross off your winter bucket list.

When To Go
Ice fishing season typically starts in late December and lasts until mid-February. The exact dates can sometimes vary depending on the year and changing weather conditions. More importantly, you want to pay attention to the thickness of the ice whenever you go. As a general rule, lakes freeze sooner the higher into the mountains you get, but if you’re planning on fishing at 8,000 ft. altitude or lower, especially early in the season or during a warm winter, research the area before you head out. 

Where To Go
Every year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife releases a Fishing Manual that covers the rules and regulations on ice fishing, as well as every spot you can go to and every spot where it is prohibited. The guide also includes maps of each area it recommends.

Popular destinations in mountainous areas like Lake Granby and Dillon Reservoir will offer diverse fish species, like trout, salmon, and perch. The San Luis Valley, with its high-altitude lakes, is another excellent destination, but for those near the Denver metro area, Cherry Creek Reservoir and Chatfield Reservoir provide convenient options for a quick getaway.

Safety Tips
There is probably no such thing as “safe” ice, but there are some guidelines anglers should consider before choosing a destination. Ice conditions can vary from lake to lake depending on what part of the state you are in. Another pro tip: a shallow lake will freeze faster than a deeper lake. You should always look for clear blue ice, and remember, new ice is stronger than old ice. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife also highly recommends always bringing an ice fishing safety kit whenever you go, in case you need to assist with a rescue or you find yourself under the ice. It’s important for you and your group to always have an emergency plan of action. 

What To Bring
Getting started in ice fishing is relatively easy. With just the basic equipment, anyone can get in the game. You should always have a bucket, a fishing rod and reel, bait and lures, a fishing line, an ice scoop, and an ice auger. Depending on your destination and the length of your fishing trip, you may need to bring extra items, so again, do look into your destination before you go.

Most importantly, don’t forget to pack your permit! Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers free fishing experiences for the kiddos, but adults 16 years and older are required to buy a fishing license. You can purchase day passes or an annual permit through Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website. 

Permit link: https://cpw.state.co.us/buyapply/pages/fishing.aspx

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