Outdoors: Ice fishing slows as winter wears on
In the warmer months, they are called the dog days of summer. For anglers, that phrase typically means it is hot, fish are deep and the catching can be slow.
Although there is not an official phrase marking the winter equivalent, it would be around the end of January.
The ice has been on most reservoirs and lakes for more than a month and the fish have reacted to the pressure by going to a tough-to-detect light bite or moved to remote locations.
"Ice fishing has slowed quite a bit, but people are still getting fish everywhere we have been hearing reports from," said Mickey Anderson with Fish Tech Outfitters.
And some waters are just getting ice thick enough to safely support anglers.
Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs, popular middle-elevation fisheries in Utah, slowly are building some ice sheets, but still also have open water. Fish Lake, a popular ice fishing destination for multiple species in Sevier County, also still is forming ice, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The southern end of the lake has ice up to 11 inches, but the middle and north end of the lake has some open water.
While there is no such thing as guaranteed safe ice, there is a generally accepted rule that there should be at least 4 inches of "new" or "clear" ice before anglers walk on the water.
Action at Strawberry Reservoir in Wasatch County, one of the state's most popular fisheries, ice or no ice, has slowed since it first iced over, but "has produced well this whole season," Anderson said.
He said the Soldier Creek side of Strawberry Reservoir had not frozen entirely by the end of last week and that it could be good fishing when, and if, it does happen.
Anglers at Strawberry need to be aware of the four-fish trout/kokanee limit and the requirement that only two can be cutthroat trout under 15 inches and only one more than 22 inches long.
Ice anglers hoping to catch more than fish might be interested in participating in the first Wasatch Back Quad-Fishalon ice fishing tournament being held at four Utah State Parks reservoirs.
The tournament starts Saturday at East Canyon State Park. The tournament continues with events Feb. 8 at Deer Creek State Park, Feb. 15 at Rockport State Park and ends Feb. 22 at Jordanelle State Park. Anglers can participate in any of the tournaments individually or compete in all of them and be eligible for a goal of $5,000 in prizes. Grand prizes for competing in all four days is $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 in Scheels gift cards.
Prizes also will be awarded at each of the four tournaments.
Day-of registration is available at the state parks for each tournament.
Yet another ice fishing tournament is being held Feb. 15 at Steinaker State Park. The fourth annual Steinaker Ice Fishing Derby has adult and youth brackets. Cost to participate is $15 for adults and $10 for anglers 16 and younger.
The ice fishing tournaments are weather dependent, of course.
Ice safety tips
• Clear ice is capable of holding more weight than cloudy ice. There should be a minimum of 4 inches of good clear ice before walking out onto the lake, and at least 6 or more inches before taking a snowmobile or ATV on the ice.
• Late in the season (March-April) is particularly dangerous as the ice deteriorates. The ice still may be relatively thick but may not hold as much weight as it is breaking down.
• Fish with a partner. If you go through the ice, it is very difficult to get yourself out of the water without help.
• Avoid having large groups of people and equipment in a small area.
• Never venture out onto partial ice conditions. Large sheets of ice can break away leaving you stranded.
• Avoid the mouths of streams and underwater springs that can create dangerous ice conditions.
• Carry safety equipment such as ice awls (picks) for pulling yourself out of the water and some rope to pull others out. It also is a good idea to wear a life vest under your clothing or carry a flotation pad that can be used as a warm seat cushion while fishing.
Source • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
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