Casper angler Matt Hahn can’t remember a time in the last decade when he waited to ice fish until after New Year’s. Until now.
Unusually warm weather pushed Wyoming’s ice fishing season off later than normal in much of the state.
“It seems like the Sweetwater Arm on Pathfinder is usually fishable by the first or second week in December, and this year it didn’t have fishable ice until New Year’s,” said Hahn, the Casper regional fisheries supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Most of the rest of the state has been similar. But now that cold temperatures have arrived, and stayed relatively consistent, ice fishing season is on.
Try some of these spots, recommended by Game and Fish biologists across the state, for a late start to what should be a good season.
After a handful of slow years, Boysen Reservoir is fishing better than it has in more than a decade, said Paul Gerrity, Lander regional fisheries biologist.
“I’ve gotten some exceptional reports in this past week of people catching a lot of fish,” he said. “Most of the fish they’re catching are 3-to 4-year-old walleye and sauger and a lot of good-sized perch.”
Trout numbers are also the strongest they’ve been since 2008, at least according to the department’s gill-netting surveys.
Anglers can try Ocean Lake, which is currently boasting the second highest walleye numbers in the last decade.
“Ice was late to Ocean Lake and Boysen,” Gerrity said. “That cold snap we got a couple weeks ago helped.”
Anglers in Wyoming’s northeast corner should head to Keyhole Reservoir or Lake DeSmet, said Sheridan regional fisheries supervisor Paul Mavrakis.
Keyhole has strong perch, walleye and crappie populations that should provide plenty of opportunities for ice fishermen.
While Lake DeSmet just froze in the last couple of weeks, it should be fishable, he said.
“In Muddy Guard One the ice is really good and people are catching nice fish there, but they can’t use bait on that one,” he said. “They have to use jig lures or something.”
Flaming Gorge Reservoir is struggling with ice this winter.
“We really need a good shot of cold air at some point, which doesn’t seem to be in the forecast,” said Robb Keith, fisheries supervisor in the Green River region.
But once it does ice over, he predicts the fishing should be as good or better than recent years. Anglers should also think about targeting smaller lake trout.
“We’re starting to come to the realization we have a high abundance of small lake trout, so lake trout that are 18-22 inches, so we’re really going to promote the harvest of those fish,” he said. “We have 28-inch fish that used to be 5 to 6 years old and now are 9 to 10 years old. It’s a lot like brook trout in the small mountain streams.”
Anyone interested in derbies to help keep the invasive burbot populations in check can register for the Burbot Bash Jan. 26 to 28 and the Burbot Classic Derby on Feb. 3 to 4, both on Flaming Gorge.
Fontenelle Reservoir is capped with ice and fishing well for rainbow and brown trout. The Ding the Ling Derby will be Feb. 10 to 11.
If you want to catch walleye, head to Pathfinder Reservoir, Hahn recommended. Alcova Reservoir is better for trout, primarily rainbow and Bear River cutthroat.
But if you’re looking for really big trout, Hahn said to try Goldeneye Reservoir west of Casper. The numbers aren’t as high as some places, but the fish are big.
When Glendo Reservoir has ice strong enough for fishing, anglers can expect good crappie populations.
“They school up in the winter time, so you have to move around until you can get on a school,” Hahn said. “There’s a ton of them in there now.”