Angling on ice at Ruedi |

Angling on ice at Ruedi

Ruedi Reservoir
Scott Condon
Aspen CO, Colorado
Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesFrancis Krizmanich uses a hand-powered auger to drill a eight-inch diameter hole in the ice on Ruedi Reservoir above Basalt. The ice varied from eight to 12 inches thick one recent Saturday.

BASALT ” Word of “good ice” is as eagerly awaited among certain fishermen as bonuses are among traders on Wall Street.

So once the surface of Ruedi Reservoir froze solid enough to support snowmobiles and people in late January, it instantly attracted a small but dedicated batch of anglers. Ice fishing isn’t for everyone, but those who partake are hooked.

“I invited a friend of mine and he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to give up a day of skiing for ice fishing,” said John Young, an Old Snowmass resident. “I’m not sure I want to give up a day of ice fishing for skiing.”

Young often fishes both days of winter weekends, some days at Rifle Gap Reservoir, near the town of Rifle, and other days at Ruedi Reservoir, in the Fryingpan Valley above Basalt. He had ice fished 15 times this winter by the first weekend of February.

He and his wife, Linda Vieira, have hauled scores of perch out of Rifle Gap this winter and Vieira earned a “master angler” designation from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for the size of some of the fish she landed during a January ice fishing tournament.

Young and Vieira hit the ice one recent Saturday at Ruedi along with their neighbors, Francis and Betsy Krizmanich. Young and Vieira have a favorite spot where a stream, apparently fed by a warm spring, trickles down a steep embankment into the reservoir. Young figured the churning action “super-oxygenates” the water and that attracts fish.

Krizmanich used a different strategy to pick a spot farther off shore, a couple of hundred yards from Young. Using an old topographic map of the area, he picked a spot that had a lot of geographic features before the area was flooded. He figured the lunkers hang out there.

Young and Vieira used a gas-powered auger to punch a half-dozen holes with an 8-inch diameter into the ice. Before Young was finished drilling, Vieira started pulling out 8-inch rainbow trout. She uses a small, specialized ice fishing pole, constantly wiggling or “jigging” it to make the bait attractive to the ravenous trout.

The Krizmaniches used a hand auger to drill several holes. They jammed anchovies and meal worms, among a variety of bait, onto their hooks. They set their poles in stands that hold them in place when they get a bite. Francis also set up some a couple of “tip ups” ” contraptions rigged to erect a flag when a fish pulls the line.

Both couples have portable ice fishing huts that they can quickly erect during cold or windy weather, but that Saturday was so mild that no shelter was necessary.

The scenery was stunning, dominated by the big, snow-capped peaks of the Continental Divide to the east. The sky was blue, the sun was warm and there were only five or so other fishing parties scattered within view on the vast expanse of ice. The occasional whine of a snowmobile was the only sound to break the silence.

“It’s like cross-country skiing. It’s a solitary, quiet, away-from-the-crowds thing to do,” Francis said.

The ice was consistently between 8 and 12 inches thick that day. The consistency that Saturday was more dense in places, requiring more pressure on the augers to get them to bite through the ice. Young had come out earlier in the week and drilled some test holes to make sure the ice was thick enough to be safe.

The strategy of Young and Vieira to hit their shore-side patch proved productive that Saturday. They hauled in several small trout, temporarily stashed the best of them in a net called an ice well that was submerged in one of the holes they drilled. After about four hours of fishing they picked the best eight fish to keep. Eight is the limit. They returned the rest of their catch, unharmed, to the water.

Betsy Krizmanich plucked a 14-inch lake trout from one of the holes at Young and Vieira’s camp, but returned it because they aren’t great eating, she said. Young later landed an 18-inch lake trout from the same area.

The Krizmaniches eventually abandoned their holes and tried their luck closer to the opposite bank on the north side of the reservoir. Their luck wasn’t much better there, but it was no big deal on the balmy Saturday morning. Being out on the ice in the warm sun was reward enough.

So what’s the trick to successful ice fishing?

“If we find someone who knows, we’ll tell ya,” he said with a laugh.

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