Ice fishing: ‘All you need is bait’ |

Ice fishing: ‘All you need is bait’

Charles Agar
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

People who love to fish don’t let a little bad weather get in the way, not even thick ice covering their favorite “sweet spot.”

Ice fishing, according to Richard Crager, longtime owner of Budget Tackle in Granby, relies on the very same instincts that send folks out to pull lunkers from area lakes and rivers in warmer months.

“If you’re a fisherman, any type of fishing is good,” Crager said.

Some ice fishing aficionados drag mountains of gear onto the ice, but Crager said just a few additions to any tackle box can get you started.

First, you’ll have to dress to stay warm, Crager said. And the most important piece of gear you’ll need to take up ice fishing is a pair of thick boots ” preferably with 1,000 grams of fill. He also suggests warm, insulating layers to stay toasty in low temperatures and wind layers to buffet heavy gusts.

“If you stay warm and dry that’s the main prerequisite because you have a good time,” Crager said, adding that shivering out in the cold just isn’t any fun for anyone.

Crager also recommends wearing a good pair of UV-protection sunglasses and using sunscreen out on the ice on sunny days because the snow glare can cause serious sunburns or even snow blindness.

Next, you’ll need a way to break through the ice. Whether you choose an expensive gas-powered ice auger or an affordable hand-powered model (it looks like an oversized corkscrew), once you’ve got a hole through to the water, now it’s time to tease the fish out into the frying pan ” and that’s the real art.

Some still use traditional ice fishing tip-ups, a low wooden tripod that suspends over a fishing hole. When a fish strikes, a flag tips up to alert the fisherman who reels in the catch by pulling in the line hand-over-hand.

Others use short jig rods mounted with spinning reels. You can place a jig rod on a handy rod stand next to a fishing hole, and some rod stands come with a handy flag that pops up like a tip-up when you’ve got a strike.

But what are fish hitting in winter?

Crager said fish bite on the same things they do in summer. Popular bait ranges anything from nightcrawlers to Powerbait, fish eggs, meal worms, wax worms or small fish, such as shiners, herring or suckers.

Others use lures to jig up and down and attract fish. Lures range in size from small spinners to larger four-and five-inch-long tube lures.

Fish are often ravenously hungry in winter months, and lots of ice fisherman land big catches ” anything from lake trout to pike ” and Grand County is one of the most popular venues for the sport.

Some local ice fisherman are secretive about their methods and prefer to fish off on their own, Crager said, but there’s also a good community of local fishermen who like to get out on the ice and socialize a bit ” a good place to pick up pointers.

Traveling by snowmobile and dragging large sleds loaded with gear, some fisherman set up elaborate camps on the ice, though regulations say fishermen cannot build permanent structures or leave temporary camps unattended overnight.

Putting up an ice hut for the day, though, is a popular to stay comfortable. Usually a low tent with two stools and two hatches to access fishing holes, ice huts are often equipped with propane heaters (open fires are not allowed). A hut not only blocks the wind, but the thick floor is insulation from the cold ice, and the roof also keeps fishermen out of the bright sun.

But when is it safe to go out on lake ice?

Crager said deciding when any ice is thick enough to walk on is up to each individual to decide. Ice thickness varies, and around any flowing water near pumping stations or along inlets or outlets, for example, ice can be thin or there can even be open water. He urged caution.

“It’s a personal decision to go out or not,” Crager said. “But if you see a whole bunch of people out in an area, you’re probably safe.”

Many beginner ice fisherman hire a guide to get started, and Crager can recommend a few skilled local fishermen.

Ice fishing is all about getting out with friends, Crager said. Upcoming fishing derbies bring fishermen from all across the county, and there is a good sense of camaraderie among the many weekend warriors who take to the ice on days off.

For more information or to pick up the requisite gear, stop by and talk with Richard or his wife Margaret Crager at Budget Tackle in Granby ” 225 E. Agate Ave. (970) 887-9344.

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