Sean pulled this beautiful trout through the ice at Blue Mesa Reservoir!
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Fishing Tips of the Week
Winter Lake Trout
Granby Lake and Blue Mesa Reservoir are some of the best bodies of water to ice fish for Lake Trout in Colorado. Contour maps will help anglers identify good structure for lakers and you want to look for ledges, shelves, and points which will often hold deeper water. The most common method for catching them are white tube jigs tipped with sucker meat. Sucker meat provides an advantage because it puts a scent in the water. To ensure your jig head is creating the correct action in the water, rotate the knot to the back of the eyelet so it hangs horizontally in the water. Anglers can also use silver spoons to attract fish and the movement in the water will catch their attention and bring them in. If you have an extra rod stamp, you can then usually catch them on the rod with the jig and sucker meat! Lakers present a challenge for ice anglers because they can be found at various depths within the water column and are often moving through deeper water. This makes electronics, such as depth finders and flashers, important so anglers can see suspended fish and adjust the depth they are fishing in to increase their odds of landing a trophy. One of the reasons ice anglers are so inclined to target these fish is they are long-lived and can grow to extremely large sizes. (The state record was caught in Blue Mesa Reservoir, weighed over 50 lbs., and was over 44 inches long). Braided line is another good option when ice fishing because it doesn't stretch and helps anglers feel bites in deep water were normal line may not indicate a fish is taking the bait. These amazing fish are heavily targeted by anglers in the state so if you are catching and releasing them, reel them in slowly from deep depths. This allows them to expel air from their swim bladders and survive the trip to the surface. If you are going to keep them for dinner, killing them quickly will keep them from suffering and will also prevent the buildup of lactic acid in the trout's muscles which makes them taste better. You can use your metal ice scoop and hit the fish behind its skull to separate its spine and instantly kill it. Nate Zelinsky, owner of Tightline Outdoors, offered some advice for catching lakers. Nate says, "One of the most popular winter fish is the Lake Trout! Lake Trout can be found in a wide variety of fisheries in the mountain region and each fishery will be slightly different. Generally the Lake Trout population will be split in two maturity age groups. You will have younger fish in that 25 inch and less range hanging together and can generally find them in deep water 60 to 80 plus feet of water. You then see your mature fish, 25 inches or larger hanging together and pending the location you generally find them shallower than the young fish. Food dictates where you will find Lake Trout. The young fish generally live deep feeding on shrimp and other small item food sources. Your larger fish will be somewhat shallower feeding on a large food source such as Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, or Suckers. In almost every situation Lake Trout are feeding up while they are hunting. They get very aggressive and are aware of their surroundings. While Lake Trout fishing I generally give a location 20 minutes, if I'm not catching or seeing fish on my electronics in 20 minutes I move. I keep moving until I am on fish."
Ice Fishing Tips and Tricks
There are a few ice fishing tricks that can help you land more fish as we are leaving the early ice season at many bodies of water across the state. When jigging, most anglers are only moving their jig head in a vertical motion through the water, which can be extremely effective. On days when you are not having much luck with this vertical jigging motion, try moving the jig in a horizontal pattern through the water to catch a fish’s attention. You can accomplish this by holding your line and twisting it between your fingers. Then release the line and the jig will spin horizontally in the water, which can provide a unique presentation that, can capture a passing fish’s attention. You can also move your pole around the hole in a counter clockwise or clockwise motion which will also create a horizontal motion. Sometimes a change in presentation is all it takes! Another great technique is to use the bottom to your advantage and try to stir up soft, silt bottoms. You can do this by tying on a larger lure and dropping it until it hits the bottom and then repeat that motion. A weight can also be attached to the line and bounce it off the bottom for a few minutes which will stir up a cloud of debris. Then switch back to a smaller tungsten jig and put it back in that debris cloud. This movement in the water is a great way to bring in fish when it is later in the ice season and the action is slowing down. Another effective strategy is to dead stick and use live bait (if you are allowed to use it at that body of water) and it is best if you have an additional rod stamp. This is a good strategy on days when the bite is slow. You can then set one pole with a small jig and a minnow which will flash in the water as the minnow swims around. You can use a bobber or suspend the pole so you can see the bite. Put the minnow a little off the bottom and drill a hole nearby and jig a larger lure. Sometimes the presentation of the larger lure will get the attention of a fish and when they investigate they will actually take that live bait over the presentation that first got their attention. Anglers can also use a tip up which has a flag that will pop up if there is a bite. Another option is to attach a bell or sound producing device to alert you when there is a bite.