I have had a long time fascination with ice fishing – a 13 ½ year fascination, to be exact. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where lakes never freeze over, so the entire concept of ice fishing was foreign to me until I moved to Colorado more than a decade ago. When I was offered the chance to go ice fishing on Grand Lake this winter, I jumped at it.
Grand Lake is the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado, and it’s popular with fishermen and fisherwomen. As a bonus, along its shores sits the Town of Grand Lake, one of the most charming towns in the Colorado mountains.
We were scheduled to go fishing with Rocky Mountain Outfitters in late December, and after a big breakfast at the Fat Cat, we walked over to RMO to embark on our adventure. Our group consisted of my husband and I, and our friend AJ. All of us had been summer fishin’, but none of us had ever tried our hand at ice fishing.
We met up with Jim Gasner, the owner of RMO, who would be our guide for the day. Jim was born and raised in Grand County is a wealth of information on fishing and the area in general. My husband pestered him with questions the entire day, and he never failed to have a fascinating response.
If you’ve never been ice fishing before, hiring a guide is the best way to try out this sport. Jim had already set us up on the ice, drilled holes and got our poles and bait ready. He provided all of this equipment, we just had to show up, dressed warmly and ready to fish.
The snow was lightly falling and the sun appeared as a bright white globe behind the clouds as Jim transported us via snowmobile out on the ice. We didn’t even have to walk – now that’s service.
Our first attempts of the day involved trying to hook lake trout. This large fish, that swims deep in the lake, lives up to 60 years and can grow to 60 pounds, isn’t actually a trout. It’s a char, related to salmon.
Ryan and I sat next to one another on a sort of fishing sled, while the fish finder sat on the ice between our two fishing holes. AJ sat at the head of the sled fishing in his own hole without the help of the finder.
Here comes my difficult confession. Within a few moments of getting my lure down deep in the water, and with snow piling up quickly on my coat and hood, I got a bite. I yanked up hard, but forgot to reel at the same time. Let’s face it, I haven’t been fishing in several years and have never been a natural at the sport. Fortunate for this lake trout, which I’m sure was a fifty pounder, my lack of fishing coordination meant he avoided being hauled up into the cold for a round of pictures with the Mayor of HeidiTown.
For the next 15 to 30 minutes our fish finder continued to show blips of fish checking out our lures, but we didn’t get another bite. Jim eventually moved Ryan and I into the warmth of the fishing tent and AJ closer to shore to fish for rainbow trout at a shallower spot in the lake. Within minutes we heard laughter and whoops of success.
It’s amazing how warm the tent felt after sitting out on the ice. Unfortunately our unstated goal of catching the Guinness World Record lake trout was not to be. Closer to shore, however, and still out in the elements, our friend AJ was having continued success.
Soon, we were all three going after rainbow trout, and Ryan caught a beauty, while AJ’s count on the day was two. Sadly, by the end of our outing it was fish 1, Heidi 0.
Jim was a super down to earth guy who got all our jokes so we liked him immediately. He’s a great guide and not just because he baited my hook for me. He gave us all sorts of instruction, how to move the pole and he pointed out fish on the fish finder that we might have otherwise missed. I highly recommend booking an outing with Jim.
My strike out only means that I will have to go back and give it a try again, and I look forward to the opportunity, although I’m sure the fish in Grand Lake aren’t too worried.
Newbie tips for ice fishing:
1) Dress warm, and by warm I mean really, really warm. If you don’t have an awesome pair of Sorrell boots like mine, make sure you wear layers of socks to keep your feet toasty. A scarf that doubles as a face mask will also make your day better. The wind blows often on an open and icy lake.
2) Wear thin gloves, not big bulky ones. This makes it easier to maneuver your pole and reel.
3) Use a guide. If you are new to the sport, this is by far the best way to learn.
A big thank you to Rocky Mountain Outfitters for this guided ice fishing trip.
Find them online at Rkymtnoutfitters.com.
Like them on Facebook here.
Also, thank you to Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging & Events Center for providing HeidiTown accommodations during this visit. I highly recommend booking a Western Riviera property on your next trip. If you are traveling with friends or family consider the Lake House or the Tree House.
Find them online at WesternRiv.com.
Like them on Facebook here
This trip was sponsored in part by the Grand Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.