LOCATION: St. Vrain State Park, CO
When we first started this blog I was adamant that I was only going to discuss fly-fishing. But as winter sets in here in Colorado and the amount of open water dwindles I’ve revisited my convictions and decided there is no harm in expanding my horizons. And when Crystal told me about a free ice fishing clinic that was being held by Colorado Parks and Wildlife I decided to check it out.
Unbeknownst to me, Colorado Parks and Wildlife puts on dozens of events all year long aimed at educating the public about hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. A full list of these events can be found here and if you’re from Colorado I strongly suggest you check out the list and see if any of the events strike your fancy. I hadn’t been ice fishing in probably 20 years so I figured it was about time I give it another go.
The event was held in St. Vrain State Park, which is a collection of ponds and campgrounds and is a great location for family outings. The ponds are home to several species of fish including; large and smallmouth bass, pike, crappie, blue gills, walleye, catfish, carp, perch, and rainbow trout. The regulations and limits vary pond to pond, some allow bait others only artificial lures, so be sure to check with a ranger or read the park’s regulations before heading out.
The clinic was held on Sandpiper Pond, which is stocked with around 20,000 rainbow trout every year. Needless to say there were a lot of fish being caught. A lot of fly-fishing purist hate the idea of stocked trout and in some cases I whole-heartedly agree. However, watching the faces of all the children around me light up as they pulled in another trout, made me happy this little pond was full of hungry farm raised fish.
The clinic began with an intro lead by a District Wildlife Manager who laid out the basic safety tips and the proper equipment needed for ice fishing. After this brief intro we were lead out onto the ice where another 5 or so Colorado Parks and Wildlife employees were waiting to get us equipped and fishing. The rangers had already predrilled about 20 holes for us and had chairs, poles, jigs, and bait ready and waiting. They also had a few fun gadgets for us to play with including underwater cameras and sonar. I left these toys for the young ones and set about catching fish the old-fashioned, ice fishing way; blind luck.
This method didn’t work so well at first. After about an hour on the water ice I was one of the few people who had yet to pull in a fish.
I switched from mealworms to powerbait, switched jigs, and switched holes and still came up empty. When I moved to my fourth spot I finally found the fish. The fish weren’t overly aggressive when going after the bait and a great deal of patience was necessary when setting the hook. I missed several fish due to setting the hook too early or not setting it hard enough. In the end I pulled in two nice rainbows and lost two more right at the hole. But regardless of how many got away I had an absolute blast.
Being out on the ice brought back some wonderful memories of ice fishing with my grandfather and my father when I was just a little kid. I can’t thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife enough for putting on this free clinic and I encourage all of you to check out their events page yourselves. Ice fishing isn’t the involved, overly complicated, thinking man’s pastime that fly-fishing is but it can still be an incredibly enjoyable way to spend the day. Until next time, happy fishing!
– A. Egli