The cold weather that defines Steamboat Springs winters does more for outdoors enthusiasts than coat the slopes of Mount Werner.
Fishermen haven’t wasted the chance to get out on the recently frozen-over lakes in the area and by all reports already are hauling in some fish worthy of massive tales.
“The ice fishing is going very well right now,” said Kimi Hollwedel, an administrative assistant at Stagecoach State Park. “We’ve heard some good reports.”
Stagecoach Reservoir was stocked with 50,000 trout last month, and that has helped the cause, she said.
Ice fishing is starting at lakes across the region, and those keeping an eye on the water say the ice is thick at Stagecoach Reservoir and Steamboat Lake.
Senior ranger Brent Lounsbury at Steamboat Lake State Park said the northern Routt County lake was a little slow to freeze over this winter but was solid even at the beginning of the month.
It took 45 minutes and a chain saw for him to clear the 36 square feet of 8- to 10-inch-thick ice necessary to put on an ice rescue demonstration early in December.
“It’s been pretty cold since then, so it’s probably quite a bit more than 8 inches now,” he said.
Stagecoach, meanwhile, is reported to have at least 6 inches across the lake. Two solid inches may be enough to hold a 160-pound man, Lounsbury said, but the more there is, the safer fishermen can feel.
Still, he said the ice is never really safe.
Those hoping to pull a few cold ones from the waters would be safest wearing life jackets, he said. He also suggested that fishermen keep with them a set of spikes attached to a rope — even something as simple as sharpened screwdrivers can be a lifesaver.
“The problem people have when they fall in is the surface of the ice is slippery, so they can’t pull themselves out,” Lounsbury said. “I was out on Pearl Lake the other day, and I took those with me. It’s just a good idea if you have to go out there, especially if you’re going to be by yourself.”
Spiro’s Tradin’ Post in Oak Creek is one of few retailers in the county that cater specifically to ice fishers.
Virginia Paxton, who owns the business with her husband, Bill Paxton, said the season has been strong so far.
“It started a little later this year, maybe a week or 10 days, but there are a lot of people out there, and they have been catching some real nice trout,” she said.
An ice auger is one of the main requirements for ice fishing, she said, and they’re available starting at $40. A special, shortened fishing pole is also often preferred, but she said those are just like the bait: to each his own.
“The shorter poles have a little more flexibility to them, but everyone is just different,” she said. “All fishermen like different things. For bait, some use worms, some waxies and some mealies.”
Steamboat Flyfisher owner Steve Henderson said he hasn’t had the chance to hit the ice but has heard the same glowing accounts everyone else has.
His store will rent an ice auger, but he wasn’t quite ready to drill through the ice yet himself.
“We’re still doing fly-fishing,” he said. “We had three full trips out today, and I know some guys went right downtown. There’s still a lot of fly-fishing to be done.”