Even with the risk of breaching, Wyoming winter anglers love ice fishing
Angel Smith loves ice fishing so much that even a fatal fall through the ice didn’t stop him from coming back.
The danger inherent in ice fishing caught up with him a few years ago when he fell through the ice and into freezing water. Despite the horrific experience, Smith told Cowboy State Daily it gave him an opportunity to educate others.
“I used it as an opportunity to teach others on my YouTube channel how to get out of the water and get back on the ice if the ice breaks,” he said.
“It was very scary, but if you know what you’re doing and you take the right precautions and you have the right equipment, there’s no reason to be afraid. I wanted to show that to people and it was a good opportunity to do that,” added Smith, who lives in Cheyenne.
He hosts the YouTube channel “Everyday Pikachu Hat Fisherman,” named after his habit of wearing a stocking cap modeled after the beloved Pokémon character.
Need the right ice
Ice fishing draws hardy people to the frigid weather every winter, although the use of ice shanties sometimes mitigates the harsh conditions.
To avoid deadly spills in icy water, like what Smith endured, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recommends waiting until the ice is at least 4 inches thick.
Ice quality is also important.
“Avoid cracks in the ice and large-scale cracks that can appear on the lake,” Game and Fish advises. “Clear ice is stronger than cloudy or white ice, which has frozen, thawed and refrozen.”
“We are in high season”
Despite an unseasonably warm December, a recent drop in temperatures has the ice fishing season in full swing, avid angler Christopher Rice of Laramie told Cowboy State Daily.
“We’re in peak season. Right now it’s between 6 and 8 inches of ice,” he said. “I really waited until the last minute for it to freeze.”
Rice, who owns Gem City Custom Rod and Flies, mostly ice fishes in Laramie Plains lakes. The recent Hattie Lake ice fishing run went well, he said.
“There were about 300 people there,” Rice said.
He added that as in the warmer seasons, fish during the winter are more active during the morning and evening, so these are the best times to get out on the ice.
For those who want to continue open water fishing with fly rods or spin casting gear, there are still some opportunities, Rice said.
“The Miracle Mile area is still open, and fishing conditions there are good,” Rice said.
The Miracle Mile is part of the North Platte River near Casper and is known for its excellent trout fishing.
Satisfaction with teaching others
What’s the appeal of walking on ice and hanging out for hours during the worst time of the year?
Chris Bobo of Casper, who travels throughout Wyoming ice fishing, told the Cowboy State Daily he enjoys the challenge.
For Bobo, the appeal of ice fishing lies not only in the quiet communion with nature, but also in the anticipation of exciting possibilities — the challenge of beating a fish, the exhilaration of the first strong pull on the line, and the fulfillment of teaching others his skills. skills.
“I want to meet new people. It’s a great feeling living life on the water where there’s a huge community of ice fishermen,” Bobo said.
Bobo enjoys teaching others how to ice fish. The satisfaction of seeing someone catch their first fish under the icy surface is a reward in itself, he said.
“I definitely like to see people succeed,” Bobo said.
He hosts a YouTube channel, Bobo’s Fishing Adventures, where he shares ideas, tips, and excitement for ice fishing adventures.
He also runs an ice fishing Facebook group to help foster a place for enthusiasts to share the joy, challenges and triumphs of their pursuit.
“I try to make it fun for everyone and keep everyone safe. I hate seeing people get hurt on the ice,” Bobo said.
Despite his brush with fate by going through the ice, the danger inherent in ice fishing is part of what has kept him in the game, Smith said.
“The reason I think a lot of people do it is because of the risk. It’s the thrill and the adrenaline rush,” Smith said. “It’s a risk when you go out there on that ice, but that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it.”
Trout are a mainstay
Trout are one of the most popular species caught by ice anglers in southeastern Wyoming, Rice said. There are also pike, perch and a few other species, and even suckers can be pulled from the freezing water.
Bobo has set state records for catching suckers while ice fishing.
He broke the Wyoming longnose sucker record when he landed a fish from the North Platte River in 2021 that weighed 2 pounds, 4.5 ounces. The following year, he broke that record by catching a 2-pound, 11.3-ounce fish that was 1.5 inches longer than the first fish.
Rice said suckers are not good table fare. He caught one during the Hattie Lake Run and chopped it up to use as bait for more desirable species, a common practice.
“I wouldn’t eat one of these things if my life depended on it,” he said.
Great for kids
Ice anglers also said educating the younger generation is part of the fun of ice fishing.
“My son enjoys it, and watching it makes me enjoy it even more,” Rice said.
In 2020, Smith dedicated the entire year to teaching kids the art of ice fishing and fostering a new generation of anglers. That same year, he also set a goal to grow the ice fishing community.
“I set a goal in 2020 to try to get 100 kids fishing, and I ended up teaching a lot more than that,” Smith said. “I also wanted to grow a positive, responsive fishing community where we help and support each other.”
Despite Wyoming’s notoriously frigid winter winds, getting out on the ice with friends and family is always worth it, Rice said.
“Some of the biggest trout I’ve ever caught have been through the ice. Ice fishing is another opportunity to catch quality fish,” he said.
Mark Hines It can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.