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Your Guide to Ice Fishing in North Park

Your Guide to Ice Fishing in North Park

Roaring mountain rivers and tranquil lakes have called anglers to the mountains of Colorado as long as hooks have been tied to lines and there have been fish in cold waters to catch. Winter has begun in and with it comes the snow and ice fishing. North Park and Walden, CO have been a draw for serious fishermen for generations.  

Fishermen have been enticed here by the promise of sport fishing, from brook trout to browns cutthroats to tiger muskies. When the lakes freeze over, a whole other world of fishing opens up to those willing to find it. Some actually prefer ice fishing and for many it has become their obsession.  If you’ve ever been curious to start, here’s everything you need to know about ice fishing in North Park.

Getting Started with Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is fairly simple.  You don’t need to invest in a portable ice fishing shack, a 4WD truck, or high-dollar fishing equipment. As cold-blooded animals, fish are generally more sluggish in cold waters and don’t need the same type of equipment as a fly-fishing or even lake fishing rig. They spend most of their time down in the weed beds getting fat on beetles and shrimp until the ice melts in the spring.  It's a whole other game.

Here’s What You Need to Get Started:

  • A Valid Colorado Fishing License: These can be purchased online or an several service stations or businesses in Walden, CO.  
  • Ice fishing rod and reel: Built a little different than your standard fishing tackle, ice fishing rods and reels give you better control and drop your lures and bait down into your fishing hole. Since you don’t have to cast out to find the fish, this reel drops your line down to where the fish are feeding. Lower end rigs start at around $10.
  • Plastic Bucket: A piece of equipment that serves many purposes, the basic 5 gallon makes a great place to sit while you fish. Most body heat is lost from contact with the ground, and when your “ground” is a frozen lake, it’s especially true. Being up and off the ground helps you stay insulated.  Plus the bucket is a great way to carry your catch back to your car.
  • Cushion: You’re going to be sitting out in the cold for a while, so you might as well be comfortable.  A cushion not only insulates you from the cold, but can serve as an emergency flotation device if you or someone else fall through the ice.
  • Auger: Some fishermen hack a hole in the ice with a bar or saw, but even a hand auger will save you time and effort to drill down into the ice.  Chopping can turn your fishing hole into a slushy mess and create cracks in the ice. Be sure to cover your auger when not in use to prevent injury.
  • Warm dry clothes: You are going to be exposed to the elements.  Wind, snow, and even sunshine can turn a good day ice fishing into a cold and miserable experience.  Dress in layers for the weather and stay dry.
  • Boots: Keeping your feet warm and dry is critical.  A good pair of insulated, waterproof boots will keep you comfortable on the ice while you fish.


Other Equipment for Ice Fishing

As you get more into ice fishing, you might discover you need to upgrade your equipment. You don’t need to rush out and buy all of these things, but if you discover ice fishing to be something you really enjoy, they will make your experience a lot more comfortable.

  • Snowshoes: Snow that covers the lakes and trails leading up to your favorite spot are often deep. Snowshoes will let you access your spot without being hip deep in the snow on the way there.
  • Sled: Plastic toboggan sleds are a great way to haul your equipment onto the lake.
  • Ice hut: From inflatable or nylon shelters to wooden or fiberglass shacks on sled runners, ice huts keep the wind, snow, and sun off you while you fish.  Good huts also feature floors with hatch access to the ice and even propane heaters! Lake John Resort has ice huts for rent. Click the link to find out how to reserve your ice hut.
  • Camp chairs: An upgrade from sitting on a bucket, folding camp chairs are portable and comfortable as long as they stay dry.
  • Heater: Portable propane heaters are a good way to stay warm on the ice. Since North Park is at altitude, always check manufacturer specs to see if the heater is rated for elevations over 8,000 ft.
  • What You Don’t Need for Ice Fishing: You might have seen people ice fishing with their pickup trucks on the ice, but this just runs the risk of getting stuck ruining a day of fishing. The best plan is to just park your vehicle on the shore and walk in to your spot.

What Kind of Fish are Found in North Park?

For sport fishing, North Park is well-known among anglers.  One of our frequently asked questions is "what kinds of fish are found in North Park lakes and streams?" Species in the area include a wide range of trout, which are still biting in the winter months. Each year, the Lake John Ice Fishing Tournament shows just how big some of these monsters can get!

  • Brook trout
  • Cut-bow trout
  • Cutthroat trout
  • Sauger
  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout
  • Mackinaw trout
  • Tiger Muskie
  • Grayling
  • Stickleback and fathead minnows

 

How to Access Ice Fishing Spots in North Park

Many lakes in North Park can be accessed by any number of county roads which are plowed regularly throughout the winter season. Access is simple.  Once you arrive at the lake, park your vehicle (many sites have plowed parking spots), and hike to your spot on the lake. You don’t have to go out very far depending on the thickness of the ice.  Weed beds are typically close to shore.

Popular Fishing Spots in North Park

North Park has a wide range of different places to fish all year round.  Check out these locations for your next ice fishing trip this winter! Use this guide to verify legal limits, regulations, and other important information before you start fishing. Possession limits of 4 fish apply to most lakes, with the exception of Delaney Lakes, which are 2 fish total per license.

  • Lake John: One of the most well-known lakes in North Park, this lake provides plenty of habitat for year-long fishing and succulent pink flesh from shrimp-fed trout. Lake John provides scenic views of the Park Range and Mt. Zirkle from its shores as well as ease of access from regularly plowed county roads. Lake John Resort also provides accommodations, permitted ice fishing huts for rent, and an annual fishing contest in January.
  • Delaney Lakes: One of a few Gold Medal lakes in Colorado, Delaney lakes is easily accessed and nestled at the base of the Park Range and Delaney Buttes, the scenery can’t be beat. Like Lake John, Delaney Lakes are stocked each year which keeps large populations of trout growing and maturing for prime sport fishing.
  • Big Creek Lakes: the Upper and Lower Big Creek Lakes are deeper lakes which are usually more difficult to access during the winter months. County Road 6W is being kept open until the town of Pearl for the winter, with access by snowmobile, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing providing access to 6A after it is snowed in.  Big Creek Lakes hold the state record for grayling, as well as being habitat for tiger muskie and mackinaw trout.
  • Michigan Reservoir and Ranger Lakes: Fishing is permitted on these lakes of the State Forest State Park.  Additional day use fees apply and road closures may limit access to some of these fishing spots. For more information, visit the Colorado State Forest State Park website.
  • Meadow Creek Reservoir: Not far from the town of Gould on HWY 14, you’ll find Meadow Creek Reservoir.  With a clear view of the Medicine Bow Mountains, Rawah peaks, and Clark Peak, Jackson County’s tallest mountain, the fishing and the scenery are incredible.
  • Joe Wright Reservoir: Near the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River close to Cameron Pass, you’ll find Joe Wright Reservoir.  This lake is stocked with arctic grayling, cutthroat, and other sport fishing trout.
  • Seymour Lake: Near the Spicer and Coalmont areas in North Park, Seymour lake is between Walden and Rabbit Ears Pass, which sits between North Park and Steamboat Springs.
  • Cowdrey Lake: Just north of Walden, CO and on the outskirts of Cowdrey, CO, you'll find Cowdrey Lake.  A prime area for sport fishing near the headwaters of the North Platte river, Cowdrey offers easy access and close proximity to services in Walden.

 

Hazards of Ice Fishing

Ice fishing poses many challenges, even for experienced anglers.  Falling through the ice is a concern, and besides possibly drowning, exposure to freezing temperatures can lead to life-threatening hypothermia. Exposure to the harsh condition of winter can lead to windburn and frost bite. 

Wear sunglasses to protect yourself from snowblindness, and don’t forget your sunscreen.  North Park lakes are all at high altitude which increases your exposure to UV radiation. Be sure to dress appropriately for extreme weather changes, and use the buddy system. Ice fishing is a lot more fun with friends anyway!  

Alcohol

Drink responsibly and remember that alcohol actually increases your chances of hypothermia because of dehydration and how it affects your body’s ability to maintain warmth. Impairment can also lead to accidents and injury on the ice.

Leave No Trace

As with any outdoor adventure sport, it’s important to practice leave no trace to limit your impact on the land and ensure a great experience for other outdoorsmen. Pack out your trash, clean up after pets, and dispose of human waste properly.

How Much Ice is Enough?

According to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, a minimum of 4” of ice is needed to support a typical adult. 6” is needed for a snowmobile and 8”-15” is necessary for a car or small truck.  As with any outdoor adventure sport, you should consider carrying a safety kit just in case of emergencies.  These can be used in case of injuries, accidentally breaking through the ice, or helping others in trouble.

Plan Your Ice Fishing Trip to North Park

Whether it is a few days of fishing, or you are competing in the annual Lake John Fishing Tournament, the best way to enjoy a fishing trip to North Park is by getting local accommodations.  Otherwise, the drive to this winter recreation paradise will be eaten up with driving.

Check fishing conditions: North Park Anglers provides a weekly fishing report for ice fishing in North Park.  Not only can you find out what the ice thickness is for several lakes in the area, but you will also find out what types of bait and lures for each area are getting consistent strikes.

Places to Stay When Ice Fishing in North Park

Lake John Resort: an obvious choice for being one of the closest places to stay for Delaney Lakes, Lake John, and even Big Creek Lakes.  Lake John Resort has cabins, suites, and RV parking within walking distance of Lake John year round!

Camping: Winter camping lets you get access to some of the high-country lakes.  Whether you are skiing or snowshoeing in, or trekking in on snowmobiles, camping is a great way for die-hard anglers to fish some of the more remote areas.

Where to Stay in Walden, CO: At the center of Jackson County, Walden gives you a great jumping off point for places to fish in North Park. Here is a list of hotels that you can book for your next stay!

Places to Eat on Your Ice Fishing Trip

To warm up after leaving the ice, you might want to check out some of these great places to eat in North Park.

  • Rita’s Cafe, Walden, CO
  • Howling Coyote Mexican Inn, Gould, CO’
  • Rand Yacht Club, Rand, CO
  • The 10th Frame, Walden, CO
  • River Rock, Walden, CO
  • Stockman Bar, Walden, CO
  • Four Winds Pizza, Walden, CO

*Winter Hours are Subject to Change, especially depending on weather.

Come to North Park for Your Next Ice Fishing Adventure

North Park has been a fisherman’s paradise for generations, all year long.  With Gold Medal lakes and streams, world-class sport fishing, and breathtaking views, you’ll find yourself wanting to come back year after year.  

Ice fishing can be an incredible experience and many people fall in love with it simply because of how fun and easy it can be. Whether you are a weekend warrior or looking to win cash prizes at the local fishing tournament, North Park ice fishing has what you are looking for.  We’ll see you there!

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