When the weather outside is frightful, it might be time to try your hand at ice fishing on one of the Laramie Valley’s numerous lakes.
Winter sports gain a lot of traction at 7,200 feet above sea level in a state renowned for its long cold-weather season, and fishing is no exception. While the Laramie River provides ample opportunities for fly fishing after the snow melts, the valley is home to more than a dozen lakes within a few minutes drive of Laramie, offering ample opportunities to reel in a record catch during winter.
West Laramie Fly Shop, 1657 Snowy Range Rd., is an abundant source for fishing gear year-round, but come snowfall, they stock their shelves with everything an ice angler might need.
To get you started in your newfound passion, Fly Shop Owner Brandon Stecht gave us some his most essential ice-fishing dos and don’ts.
Do: Check your safety gear
“Make sure you have safety spikes and ice cleats,” Stecht said.
Safety spikes can be jammed into the ice as a person falls through to prevent slipping beneath the ice. They can also be used to gain traction as a person is climbing out of the lake after falling in. Fishing with a companion is also advisable.
Ice cleats attach to your boots and help you gain traction while crossing the ice.
“With our wind around here, you don’t ever want to get out there and not be able to get back, because the wind is pushing you across the slick ice,” Stecht said.
Both items can be purchased at the West Laramie Fly Shop.
Do: Change your line
“Make sure you got sharp ice augur blades and a new line on your reel,” Stecht said.
While sharp augur blades make creating fishing holes easier, new fishing line can help you reel in more fish. Over time, fishing line can become brittle and snap on the edge of your ice hole as you bring up your catch, he said.
Do: Research the topography of the lake
“Anywhere on the water will work,” Stecht said. “But if you know the structure underneath the ice, fish tend to congregate around topography changes.”
But, he said anglers should avoid ice near aerators, which tends to be thinner and less stable.
“The go to lake is Hattie — everyone wants to catch a Hattie Fatty,” Stecht said. “But, Meeboer (Lake) has the best catch rate of the year.”
Don’t: Underestimate the ice
“Don’t assume the ice is the same thickness everywhere you’re at,” Stecht said.
Wyoming wind can open pockets of ice, which refreeze as temperatures drop, creating variable densities of ice throughout the lake.
Don’t: Miss opportunities
“Don’t assume one style of fishing is the only way to do it,” Stecht said. “Whether you’re jigging or dead sticking, make sure to switch it up.”
The more methods you try, the better your chances of catching fish, he explained.
Don’t: Fish the river
“Ice fishing the river is a bad idea in general,” Stecht said. “The Laramie River — we generally don’t fish in the winter until the water opens up.”
Anglers intent on fishing Wyoming’s rivers could try the Gray Reef and Miracle Mile sections of the Platte River. Both are within a couple hours drive of Laramie.
Whether you’re headed out to the Plains Lakes or the Platte River, stop in at the Laramie Area Visitor Center, 210 E. Custer St., to pickup some fishing maps and brochures about Albany County’s hottest fishing holes.