Schiess: Frozen lake gives ‘coldfooters’ earlier than expected fishing
With ice depths varying from six to four inches on Ririe Reservoir, coldfooters going for kokanee, perch and trout are looking for a longer ice fishing season than the last two years have provided. Normally the reservoir freezes up mid-January, but this year the area near the Juniper boat ramp froze over in late December.
A few ventured on the ice two days before New Year’s Day with limited success, but by last Monday fishermen could get out where the kokanee roam. A group of experienced fishermen worked a large school in 60 feet of water with most limiting out before noon. They were not grumpy old men. Each had a smile on his face as they created salmon music on the ice.
“I could not believe they stayed under us for an hour and a half,” said Mike Corey of Idaho Falls as he caught his last salmon of the day. “I think having up to four fish on at the same time in the group kept them biting and in the area.”
With the bitter cold weather last week, the ice grew rapidly; but with the warmer temperatures and fresh snow predicted, extreme care needs to be taken. Where the ice is dark or cracks have developed, the ice can be thin and dangerous.
Fishing has been poor to very good for those working the deeper water this past week. This year the Department of Fish and Game increased the limit from six to 15 per day, so limiting out will be more difficult, but allows those that find a feeding school to fish longer.
Kokanee are being caught from 15 to 30 feet below the ice on pink jigs or ice flies tipped with mealworms, wax worms, a piece of nightcrawler or flavored corn about eight inches below a flasher. Most kokanee are running smaller this year than in the past with most averaging from nine to 11 inches with a few larger and some as small as six inches. The key is to wait them out but be ready for hot action when a school comes through. Jigging the lures increases the odds of harvesting these land-locked salmon.
The trout can run up to 16 inches and usually come in singles and are deeper than the kokanee, running about 30 to 50 feet below the ice. Last week an eight pound rainbow was taken near the Juniper boat ramp. Perch are one of the targeted fish on Ririe, and are usually caught on the bottom where the water is 20 to 40 feet deep.
A couple things are to be remembered about Ririe. It is a county park and a fee is required to park there. On weekdays the fee is $3 while on weekends and holidays there is a $5 charge per vehicle. Also the ice is very slick and cleats should be worn to protect fishermen from falls.
This weekend if you chose to try Ririe, look for a group of old gray-haired men on the ice. They have fished it for years and usually will help beginners. Once they catch their limit, they may even offer their hot holes for you to use. They have learned one thing – be kind to the kids because they will soon be their doctors, lawyers, ministers or nurses; or are already caring for the old-timers.
“There are plenty of fish for everyone,” Dennis Youngerman of Idaho Falls said. “They just need to find out how to catch them.”