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Ririe reservoir froze over and the ice is thin, but if you’re willing to take a risk, the fishing is decent

Living the Wild Life

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Photos: Bill Schiess |

On Dec. 30, ice fishermen got one of their wishes: Ririe Reservoir froze over from the dam to the beginning of the canyon near the powerline. But the ice is extremely dangerous. The major snowstorm on New Year’s Day covered the thin ice, insulating it from the freezing cold night temperatures.

Near the boat ramp at the Juniper Campground, the ice is about five inches deep, but 50 yards away from the bank, the ice thins to about two inches deep. Dark areas where water has seeped through to ice and refrozen is about four inches deep.

“On New Year’s Day, we had six fishermen on the ice and the water came up through their holes making it slushy under the snow,” Bob, the manager of the campground said on Thursday. “We even had one person walk from the boat ramp down to the summer docks. He was mighty lucky to make it, I think.”

On Thursday, nine of us ventured out on the ice with several fishermen going out across the snow covered in two to two-and-a-half inches ice. I chose to fish an area where fishermen had fished the day before and enjoyed the solid four inches of ice. It was not where I wanted to fish for kokanee, but I felt it was safe.

The water was only 52 feet deep, too shallow for kokanee, but with perch showing up on the bottom, I could enjoy them. I caught eight between nine to ten inches long and did not see any schools of kokanee wander through. Several other fishermen were successful with perch and a few trout. None of the desired kokanees showed up, but ice fishermen are the eternal optimists.

The two fishermen that went out beyond the rest of us had a scare. They had set up 10 rods on the two-and-a-half-inch ice and after about an hour of fishing, the ice around them settled about an inch. With water gushing up through their holes, they quickly gathered their equipment and headed for solid ground. All of the other fishermen who were fishing on the snow soon had two inches of slush to contend with.

Last winter, the cold-footers had the worst kokanee fishing on Ririe that they can remember. Very few fishermen maxed out and the Department of Fish and Game did not have an answer for why the fishing was slow. The kokanee ran larger than they usually do and large schools were tough to find. The summer fishing also turned out to be slower than normal, but in the late summer, some limits were caught near the mouth of the canyon by fishing about 70 feet below the surface.

Most of those fish have spawned and died with fishermen anxious to get out to the deeper water to see what is there. With predicted temperatures in the single digits with winds, the ice should continue to grow. Ice fishermen must be patient and willing to wait while the ice deepens before venturing too far from the shore.

For me, I am going to give it a week or two before I try it again, and then I will only go where I see evidence that someone has been there before. Some of us are praying for cold temperatures, and that gets us in trouble with some of our heat-loving relatives.

Henrys Lake is closed for the season. Island Park and Mackay have plenty of ice, but both are reportedly slow and I am waiting for reports from Jackson Lake. Good luck to all and be safe. It is too cold to go swimming. Expect a full report when we can get to the deeper water.