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Ice Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park

Blog by: Tom McInerney 12/17/2015
I recently (but before this big snow along the northern front range) went ice fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park with Turner (Cichlidfish) and James. Turner won last yearís RMNP trip in the Winter Giveaway. We werenít able to connect over the summer, but he said heíd like to ice fish it. So we set it up. Snowshoe up to Lake Haiyaha, drill some holes, catch some trout.
The morning down in Loveland was warm and calm. But about 20 minutes into the canyon strong wind and lots of snow had us thinking twice. We kept on and the weather improved. By the time we got to the trailhead there was little snow and even less wind. Good signs.
I donít consider myself old yet, think Iím relatively in shape for a guy in his early 30s, but I think these young fellas mustíve thought they were with gramps with how often I had to stop to rest and catch my breath. Past Dream Lake, we were the first ones to be breaking trail that day with several inches of new snow. But even after Turner took the lead, I was still asking for breaks. Itís a different hike than during summer.

So we finally get there at 10am. Dead calm wind. Couldnít believe it. It stayed like this for most of the day too. Incredible, Iíve never been to Haiyaha without at least a 10 mph wind. Weíd lucked out and picked the right day. I was also a bit surprised when Turner pulled a flasher out of his pack.

We got started near the outlet. I noticed the lake was down about five feet so we started a bit further out. First hole was right over a boulder, but eventually found some holes at 8, 10, and 20 feet. James spotted a fish so we dropped some lines and waited for some large Yellowstone cutthroats. Well, if youíve been to lake you know the fish can be finicky and the same holds true for winter.

After a couple hours and a few more holes, all we had to show were a couple marks on the Vex and some real light bites with no fish to hole. I also forgot that the lake was down, tried to put a hole in near the outlet and hit a boulder ruining one of my blades. Turner had even warned me earlier that day. Well I didnít have a sharpener or extra blades (lesson learned, new gifts added to wish list) and the rest of the dayís holes were hell.

I was thinking of use the last few hours for going back down to Dream at least get these guys on a few fish. Dream almost always produces though catching anything bigger than 12 inches is rare. Turner had the idea of fishing the inlet before we left, James and I kept at it where we were. After James made some avian friends and a couple of other snowshoers and skiers gave us a wave, we heard a cry from across the lake. Turner had found them.

While we didnít catch a ton of fish, the guys were able to bring some really nice Yellowstones to hand through the ice above 10,000 feet in the Rockies. Fishing with these guys was a blast. They out-fished me and out- look forward to doing it again this summer with them and the winner of the current giveaway. I love fishing the Park. Itís still a good option right now. Sprague if you donít wanna hike, Dream if you want a short one, and Haiyaha for something tougher, but some bigger fish too. Take the extra five minutes and try the inlet on the other side of the lake. I glad Turner did.

Tips: I use smallish (size 16-20) nymphs or ice jigs: zebra midges, pheasant tails, small finkees and/or glo-jigs. Remember you can use three hooks at a time, I usually separate them by 8-12 inches and use a ~3 foot leader of 5x or 6x flouro because the water is so clear, but it's not entirely necessary. I've caught fish on just the same pound mono. I also like to put a small size 10 or 12 wire-worm as the bottom fly to help get the other light weight stuff down. Please debarb your hooks.
Dress in layers. I just wear a base and outer shell on the hike up, you will get hot and sweaty. As soon as I get there, I "air/dry" out for a bit, then throw the insulating layer on, drill some holes to build the warmth back up.

Blog content © Tom McInerney
Blog Comments
Cichlidfish, CO   12/18/2015 2:17:04 AM
It was a blast!!!!! Thanks again for taking us!
pikeNcolorado, CO   12/18/2015 6:39:09 AM
I will be in the park tomorrow with some friends. Hopefully we have the same success. Good read and info.
bron, CO   12/18/2015 6:58:30 AM
That would be a really memorable trip Tom! Thanks for sharing this. Hope we win a trip with you in the giveaway!
Tom McInerney (opencage), CO   12/18/2015 7:17:03 AM
Turner, glad you guys had fun. Looking forward to this summer. bron, that would be cool. All trips are fun, and icing the park is just a blast like Turner said. Folks asking what you're doing or just surprised to see anyone fishing it all. pike, good luck up there!
pikeNcolorado, CO   12/18/2015 8:15:51 AM
One more thing to note if anyone is coming up this way over the next few days. Winds have been really bad up here. Come prepared for extreme winds and low wind chill factors.
Ajax5240, CO   12/18/2015 9:44:46 AM
Looks like a cool adventure! Thanks for sharing the experience with us!
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