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Wyoming Fishing News Back to Wyoming Fishing News
Fishing can be hot on the cold ice
12/31/2016
Credit:
Utah DWR
Fishing can be hot on the cold ice
Winter is one of the best times to catch fish

Part 1
Editor's note: The story below is the first in a four-part series about a fun activity to do in Utah in the winter ice fishing! The series explains the benefits of fishing through the ice and provides tips to get beginning anglers started. Experienced anglers should learn something too.

Read other parts in this series:

Part 1 Fishing can be hot on the cold ice
Part 2 Basic equipment equals fun ice fishing
Part 3 Depth is key for ice fishing
Part 4 Great ice fishing, close to home
Did you know that fishing through the ice is a great way to catch fish and beat the winter blues?

Kids of all ages enjoy ice fishing.
Kids of all ages enjoy ice fishing.
Photo by Scott Root

It's true those "crazy" people you see standing on the ice aren't so crazy after all. They've discovered a fun way to get outside, breathe some fresh air and catch lots of fish.

Randy Oplinger, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says ice fishing provides advantages you won't find during other times of the year. "And the fishing can be really good," he says.

You can stay updated on where fishing is best in Utah at wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots. Two additional websites www.bigfishtackle.com and www.utahwildlife.net also provide updated ice fishing information.

A cheap and fun way to fish

Oplinger says there are several reasons you should consider fishing on a frozen lake, reservoir or pond this winter:

If you've stood on the shore in the warmer months, wishing you could fish the same areas those in boats are fishing, ice provides the way. If you're willing to walk, you can reach any part of a lake or reservoir you want to fish. "The entire body of water is open to you," Oplinger says.
Catching fish in the winter doesn't require the skill level needed to catch fish during other times of the year. Just drop your bait in front of the fish, and wait for the fish to take it. "Ice fishing is great for beginning anglers," Oplinger says.
You don't need expensive equipment to catch fish through the ice. A short rod and reel, some hooks and sinkers, wax worms or meal worms, an ice auger or a digging bar, and a large spoon or something you can use to scoop ice chunks that form in the hole you're fishing, are all you need to get started. "All of the gear you need shouldn't cost more than $100," Oplinger says, "and it could easily cost less."
If you like to fish with lures, you may want to include some small jigs and ice flies in your tackle box too. Oplinger says chartreuse or red tend to be the best colors to use when fishing through the ice in Utah.

Because you can drill two holes close together, ice fishing is a great way to double your fun by fishing with two poles.
In addition to catching fish, it's easy to talk and socialize with those you're fishing with. Just drill your holes close together, and have fun. "The chance to relax and have fun on the ice, with your family and friends, is one of the many aspects of ice fishing that anglers really enjoy," Oplinger says.
Great! But how can I have fun if I'm cold?

Temperatures can be cold during the ice-fishing season. But that doesn't mean you have to be cold. You can stay warm simply by dressing for the conditions.

Oplinger says one piece of equipment anglers often forget is a pair of insulated, waterproof boots. As the day warms, slush can develop on top of the ice. "Having a pair of waterproof boots will keep your feet warm and dry," he says.

Also, wear your clothes in layers. That way, if the day warms up, you can remove a layer and still stay warm and comfortable.

Sounds great. But isn't it hard to drill a hole through the ice?

One thing that surprises many first-time ice anglers is how easy it is to drill a hole through the ice.

If you have a hand auger with a sharp blade, you can drill through six to eight inches of ice in about a minute. "If you're using a digging bar," Oplinger says, "try to find some holes that were recently drilled. There's a chance the ice in those holes won't be very thick."

Digging bars cost between $5 and $10. Hand ice augers cost about $50.

Awesome. But how do I know if the ice is safe to walk on?

Most anglers wait until the ice is at least 4 inches thick before walking on it.

Ice is usually thinnest near the shore. Before you walk very far, Oplinger says you should drill or dig a test hole to see how thick the ice is. You may also want to drill or dig some additional holes as you walk out.

If the ice is at least four inches thick in the test holes you drill or dig close to shore you can be almost certain that the ice farther out is at least four inches thick, or thicker.

Ice cleats and ice spikes

Ice cleats and ice spikes are two ice-related items you may want to consider buying:

Ice cleats strap to the bottom of your boots. The cleats will give you better traction as you walk on the ice.
Ice spikes are two short pieces of metal. They're often attached by a short cord that you can drape over your neck.
If you fall through the ice, you can pull yourself out by jabbing the spikes into the top of the ice near the edge of the hole. Once the spikes are jabbed into the ice, use them to pull yourself out of the hole.

Part 2

Next week's story will focus on the equipment you'll need to catch fish through the ice.