Posted December 12, 2013, 4:20 pm
Winter is one of the best times to catch fish
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. Part two: Basic equipment equals fun ice fishing
Don't put your fishing gear away yet. If you do, you might miss some of the best fishing of the year.
Winter is a great time to fish for yellow perch and brown trout in Utah.
Photo by Scott Root, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
That's right — those "crazy" people you see standing on the ice at waters across Utah aren't so crazy after all. They know a layer of cold ice means hot fishing in the water under the ice.
"You can set your watch by it," says Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "When ice starts to form, the fish under the ice get very active. And they're eager to bite."
Luckily for anglers, the eagerness the fish have to bite often continues through the winter.
You can stay updated on where fishing is best in Utah this winter at wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots. Get the most up-to-date ice conditions by following us on Twitter.
A cheap and fun way to fish
Cushing says ice helps anglers several ways:
Cushing calls ice "the great equalizer."
"In the winter," he says, "you don't need a boat or a float tube to reach certain parts of a body of water. If you have a rod and a reel, and you're willing to walk, you can reach any part of the water you want to fish."
If you like to fish with lures, you may want to include a few ice flies and small jigs in your tackle box too. Cushing says chartreuse and red tend to be the best colors to use when fishing through the ice.
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.
Cushing says if you have a hand auger, you can drill through six to eight inches of ice in about a minute. "It'll take a little longer if you use a digging bar," he says, "but not much."
Digging bars cost between $5 and $10. Manual ice augers cost about $50.
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.
Cushing 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.
Sounds good. 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 out, Cushing says you should dig or drill a test hole to see how thick the ice is. You may also want to dig or drill some additional holes as you walk out.
If the ice in your test holes is at least four inches thick, 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:
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.
Next week's story will focus on the equipment you'll need to catch fish through the ice.
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