Ice fishing hot in Red Feather Lakes

On a sunny Saturday morning on Dowdy Lake in February, over 100 people are on the ice, hauling in a prodiguous catch of rainbow trout. The colorful huts, clothing and improvised camps give the scene the look of a boating regatta frozen in time and place.

Alison Goin of Masonville came off the ice with two 12-inch rainbows she was taking home. Her husband had gotten skunked. She appreciates eating wild trout, which are among the most natural and healthy of local foods — tasting especially fresh when taken from under the ice.

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A spokesman for a group of five men said they’d caught 50 or so using wax worms, meal worms and salmon eggs. They kept eight. Most of the fish caught were in the 9- to 11-inch range, stockers put in by the state Division of Parks and Wildlife. Now and then some brown trout are taken.

Two weeks later, the scene has moved to West Lake after a heavy snow blocked access to Dowdy. The ice was 10 inches thick or more and the snow cover made easy walking.

Rory Rice of Fort Collins, with his grandaughter in tow, was getting his gear ready. “This is a great place to bring kids. We usually get a lot of action,” he said.

A group of men from Loveland agreed. “It was really great yesterday,” they said, boasting that they had caught 20 fish each, but today they were down to a mere five each by noon. Another man, from Boulder, had caught 30 fish, including a few brown trout. A Boulder couple with a young girl were regularly pulling trout out of their three holes. “Our first time here,” they said as the girl promply landed a fish and showed it off proudly for the camera.

Different on Parvin
The scene is different at nearby Parvin Lake, as one lone man makes his way to the middle. This lake is devoted to research by the Division of Parks and Wildlife,stocked with fingerlings and retired brooders from the hatchery. Fishing is with artificial lures only — live bait is prohibited — and the limit for the lake is two fish. Parvin has a reputation for having large fish in it, such as the ferocious tiger muskies, but they are difficult to catch without a belly boat. An ice hole is the common fisherman’s answer to the belly boat.

At Parvin, anglers are asked to complete a log of the amount and type of their catch. Not all do, but the findings are revealing. “Kept two, released five, up to 18 inches,” wrote one fisherman. Another reported “two caught, eight released, up to 14 inches.” And a team of two recorded one catching seven fish up to 18 inches, releasing five, while the other caught and released four. All rainbows.

The ice on these public lakes usually holds until late March, sometimes longer. Anglers are advised to be prepared for dramatic and sudden changes in weather, including high winds.