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Lake: Horsetooth Reservoir
Fish: Cutbow Trout

Open water fishing an iced lake for my birthday! (Ended with a visit from the rangers)

Post By: eholm      Posted: 1/17/2024 4:31:18 PM     Points: 17793    
After spending the past several days hunkered down indoors during the arctic cold-snap in which my location got to about -20F and ďfeels likeĒ -30F, I knew I wanted to go fishing on my birthday.

Ice fishing would have been a natural choice, but my top choice was to fish my favorite local lake: Horsetooth.

The past few days took its surface from completely open to about 70% ice capped. As a reservoir with highly fluctuating water levels, ice fishing is prohibited. With the perimeter iced, shore fishing wasnít an option either.

So I set out to get my kayak onto the water. It took about an hour to get onto the water, which is reasonable considering how much effort I sometimes put into reaching a fishing location.

Due to the cold temperature, fishing was tricky. I knew my usual braided line would ice up too much, so I spooled a couple reels with 12 pound fluorocarbon. Due to its stiffness - no doubt exacerbated by the cold - it just wanted to pop off the reel, and I spent a ton of time out there trying to keep my line untangled.

Ultimately I wasnít able to fish efficiently in the conditions, but I was lucky enough to catch 3 trout. The first couple of rainbows were only about 12-13 inches, although I would say they punched above their weight. Then - the birthday fish that I was hoping for! A 22.75 inch beautiful male cutbow weighing in at close to 5 pounds!

It would be the last fish I landed today, but a spectacular sunset was still to come, along with cool reflections on the ice. Getting back to shore was a bit of a task, and getting up the bank was an even bigger one.

By the time I finally got my kayak up onto the road in the dark, there were two park ranger vehicles pulled up behind my truck with their lights blazing. Apparently a concerned citizen had seen me out there.

I donít blame whoever called it in, as I might have done the same! Itís a potentially deadly situation for someone ill-prepared. Thankfully I was well prepared and never felt in danger. Even more thankfully, the rangers were very cool about it. One of them even gave me his card and said to call the station to give them a heads up if ever I go kayaking in such conditions (so they know I donít need to be rescued).

Then home to a lovely evening with the fam, a great way to celebrate another year!
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: Jan. 17, 4:32:29 PM     Points: 17793
A few more pics from the dayÖ
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: Jan. 17, 4:33:55 PM     Points: 17793
Ok just a few moreÖ
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: Jan. 17, 4:34:44 PM     Points: 17793
Well I better include the sunset tooÖ
 Reply by: Troutbisquits      Posted: Jan. 17, 5:41:22 PM     Points: 2507
Good stuff eholm. Are you from FOCO? Horsetooth is an awesome place. When they put trout in there, they can get pretty big. Haven't fished it in a few years, but sems like a good year class going on right now. I grew up in Laporte and used to love the smallmouth fishing there.
 Reply by: SirGreg88      Posted: Jan. 17, 6:29:51 PM     Points: 399
Thats a great birthday outing and a very nice birthday rainbow. My wife gets on me about fishing after dark, long treks to my destination, ice fishing alone or bad weather. She would really freak knowing I broke ice to launch a kayak all by myself with few or no other fishermen around!!!! I kinda (barely) agree with her. I used to play football in high school and college---along with boxing, skiing and MMA. Falling down was a piece of cake. Now I trip on a rock while hustling to the lake and get skinned up with a painful bruise or two. Tore my first rotator cuff at the SkunkMile in an awkward fall which shouldn't have injured anyone. Just be careful. All good!!! Great pics also!!!!
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: Jan. 17, 9:33:19 PM     Points: 17793
Troutbisquits - thanks! I live in the foothills west of town. I do think thereís a good class in there currently! Sometimes I think twice about posting fish pics from my home water, not wanting to add fishing pressure, but itís been known to produce good fish for decades so itís no secret. And the other reason I donít worry is because itís such a tricky body of water to fish. I put in a lot of time on it, and it humbles me regularly.
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: Jan. 17, 9:43:57 PM     Points: 17793
SirGreg88 - thanks! Yeah it was definitely not a trip that would be easily made by most people, nor would I recommend that others attempt it. It required the fitness to scramble up and down the icy rocky bank with my gear, and the paddling skills. One cool thing about this trip was that my wife actually drove across the dam twice while I was out there and saw me! So it was a walk in the park compared to some of the places I fish (like [log in for link] ) I do carry a garmin inreach on those ones so she can track me. As each birthday passes, Iím aware that my time to do these things is limited.
 Reply by: SirGreg88      Posted: Jan. 17, 11:03:52 PM     Points: 399
E, Oh that was you! I just hit the LINK. Ya this is nothing for you. On to Masherbrum!!!
 Reply by: nparker      Posted: Jan. 18, 9:00:13 AM     Points: 2374
Thanks for the detailed report. Some of the Larimer rangers seem to be unfriendly at times. I assume they were not too happy to be called to a non emergency. Not your fault. Also, I have found the the credit card kiosks used for passes do not work. I am glad that you had a good birthday anyway. You earned it.
 Reply by: IceAngler86      Posted: Jan. 18, 2:19:56 PM     Points: 564
Very cool trip! Especially for a "winter" birthday! Thanks for sharing the pics eholm! Glad you caught a couple for all the efforts!
 Reply by: Wreckstar      Posted: Jan. 18, 5:35:22 PM     Points: 5490
Happy Birthday my man! Nice to meet you the other day in person.
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: Jan. 18, 7:51:39 PM     Points: 17793
Thanks nparker and IceAngler86! Wreckstar, it was great to run into you on the ice! Keep getting out there!
 Reply by: Hawaiian Punch      Posted: Jan. 19, 8:14:41 AM     Points: 11535
Nice way to get the most out of shrinking open water . . . .well done,very nice looking trout,happy birthday . . .I'd rather fish than have a party.

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