Catching ‘the big one’ — in winter, too: A guide to ice fishing in Grand County |

Catching ‘the big one’ — in winter, too: A guide to ice fishing in Grand County

While most people come to Grand County to ski or snowmobile, we have a large contingent of people also coming here to ice fish. If you’re up here skiing or riding and want to take a break and try ice fishing, it’s very easy to get started. There are tackle shops that will rent you all the gear you need or you can choose to hire a guide to help enhance your experience. 

First steps

Choosing the species to chase is a great first step. After that, choose your body of water. There are plenty of them, each boasting varying fish.

Wolford reservoir has a great salmon and rainbow population. Williams Fork has a few salmon, some large rainbows and is known for being a great lake tout fishery. 

Grand Lake is a great rainbow, brown and lake trout fishery. While ice fishing on Grand Lake, don’t be surprised to find yourself mesmerized by the beautiful scenery.

Lake Granby is a great rainbow, brown and lake trout fishery. Most people target lake trout on Granby and Grand Lake, leaving the rainbows and browns to a few people. 

Monarch Lake is a great brook trout, rainbow trout lake. The more adventurous people snow shoe to this lake and enjoy a very peaceful day on a beautiful lake. 

There are a few ponds just off the highway between Winter Park and Fraser that hold rainbows and cutthroat.

If you want to fish, but prefer a longer rod and casting, we also have plenty of open water in the area. 

Shadow Mountain spillway is a great winter brown trout fishery. Rainbows and salmon are also caught frequently. 

There is a pump canal entering Shadow Mountain Reservoir, it’s a great rainbow fishery. It also has salmon and brown trout in it.

The channel between Shadow Mountain reservoir and Grand Lake has restricted access. Fishing the public access areas can produce rainbows and brown trout. 

The best times to fish

Rainbow, brown and brook trout bite early and late in the day. Rainbows are probable the easiest fish to catch for a beginner. From first light until about 9 a.m. then again, the last hour of light in the evening. These fish cruise the shallows looking for bugs, minnows and crawdads to eat. Try fishing near shore in six to 10 feet of water, points and the backs of coves are the best.  A two-rod set up works well, try one with a small ice jig tipped with wax worms or mealworms. The other rod could have a small spoon on it, tip it with a grub, “Gulp” or a Maki plastic. Drop the ice jig about a foot from the bottom and let it sit. Drop the spoon to the bottom and start a lift drop sequence, pausing every couple strokes to let a fish bite. Switch colors or move if the fish do not bite.

Kokanee salmon like to eat early and late in the day, suspend over deeper water, sonar helps find the fish in the water column. A two-rod set up is a great choice here. Salmon like to hit bright colored spoons and jigs, tip them with grubs, white shoe peg corn or shrimp. Drop the jig down to the top of the fish on your sonar, then drop your spoon to about two feet below the jig. Start a lift, drop, pause sequence. If you do not have sonar try fishing 20 to 40 feet deep over 60 to 100 feet of water.

Lake trout will frequently bite all day, they bite very light, therefore I like to only use one rod while fishing for these larger older char. Tube jigs are the most commonly used jigs, spoons are very popular also. Tip them with a small piece of sucker meat. Sonar helps locate these fish in the water column. Fish in 30 to 100 feet of water. Try dropping your jig to the bottom and that a lift drop sequence, if you don’t get bit in 10 to 15 minutes raise the jig up a few feet and jig it again. Keep checking depths until you’ve covered the whole water column. 

Winter fishing can produce some of the most amazing fishing of the year. Dress warm, layer up and wear waterproof boots. When out on the lakes I like to bring binoculars to look over the hills for deer and elk. It is not uncommon to see large groups of animals wintering around our lakes. e

Bernie Keefe has been a fishing guide in Grand County for over 25 years. For more information, visit

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