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Joe’s Fishing Hole

Joe's Fishing Hole: Perfect ice fishing weather this weekend

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Lindsey Lesmeister

Elko angler Lindsey Lesmeister with a very nice trout she caught through the ice at Wildhorse Reservoir this week. Trout fishing has been good with fish averaging between 15 and 20 inches. Perch fishing has been good for numbers and just fair for size.

While daytime highs have been above freezing, even in the 40s on some days, the overnight lows have been low enough to help area waters build up some extra ice. The downside is that with the warm sunny afternoons it is making for some slick walking conditions.

The sun and warm temperatures are also melting the snow on shore so snowmobiles and pull sleds may not be an option unless you can drop the sleds off right at the water’s edge. Anglers should also be wearing some form of traction devices on their boots to keep from taking a tumble.

Finally, the big swing between 40 degrees on a sunny day to mid-teens during the pre-dawn hours causes pressure ridges. They are starting to form at Wildhorse and may also be forming at other waters. Pressure ridges are weak spots where the ice buckles during the expansion/contraction cycle of the large temperature shifts. Stay away from them.

The upside is that afternoons on the ice are very pleasant and the fish have been cooperating for the most part. This weekend is calling for highs around 40 and light and variable winds in the Elko area and pushing 40 at Wildhorse. Perfect weather for ice fishing.

WILDHORSE As of Thursday, Jan.13, Wildhorse had nine to 11 inches of ice near the state park boat ramp. Anglers report good ice around the lake. There is a skiff of snow on top to help walking, but some slick spots are starting to form. The contrast between very warm afternoons and very cold nighttime temperatures is starting to build pressure ridges. These weak areas of ice should be avoided. Very little snow on the shore. Fishing for trout has been fair to good in water that is six to 12 feet deep using PowerBait or worms fished about halfway down in the water column. Trout have been averaging 15 to 20 inches. Perch fishing has been fair to good for numbers and just fair for size. The larger perch generally are deeper in the water column, often 25 to 35 feet deep, the best fishing for the larger fish is further from shore so anglers do need to head out from shore into deeper water. For perch fish within a foot of the bottom in 25 to 35 feet of water using small plastic jigs tipped with a piece of worm. A slight jigging action occasionally helps. The State Park Campground is open on a first come first served, with the loop closest to the boat ramp having been plowed for campers. Biologists expect good fishing through the ice this winter for both trout and perch.

SOUTH FORK RESERVOIROn Thursday, January 13, the lake was ice covered with four to five inches of ice with no snow on top making it very slick. South Fork is notorious for variable thickness of ice and while four to five inches is okay for walking on, please drill test holes as you venture onto the ice. No recent reports of anglers fishing here.

JIGGS/ZUNINO RESERVOIR

Almost dry and no fish.

WILSON RESERVOIRNo recent report but expect similar conditions as at South Fork. The road to Wilson is 4WD only with the snow and mud.

RUBY LAKE NWRHarrison Pass is closed so anglers will need to access the Refuge through Secret Pass. The Ruby Valley Road is sloppy and muddy in places so drive carefully. There is plenty of open water for fishing in the collection ditch and fishing has been fair to good depending upon the day. With the cold water conditions fish deeper areas and springheads where the water is a bit warmer. Chironomid patterns such as zebra midges, Yankee buzzers, chromies and ice cream cones should work. Other flies such as Leech patterns, balanced leeches, crystal buggers, #14-16 hare’s ears, and #16-18 PT nymphs and chironomids under an indicator are recommended. Egg patterns can be effective this time of year here. Spin anglers should be using small spinners in black or olive with contrasting yellow or red colors. No recent report on ice thickness at the boat ramp in the south marsh, but it was five inches or so a couple of weeks ago. With the ice growth in the area it has probably gotten better. Just drill a test hole or two as you venture upon the ice.

JAKES CREEK/BOIES RESERVOIRJakes Creek has approximately eight inches of ice and there were indications of anglers fishing, but no recent reports on how fishing is.

COLD CREEK RESERVOIRCold Creek Reservoir was salvaged so that water control structure could be fixed to prevent leaking. When the control structure is fixed, the reservoir will be filled and NDOW will begin rebuilding the fishery in spring or summer of 2022 depending upon water conditions.

CAVE LAKEThe water levels continue to drop at Cave Lake in an anticipation of renovation efforts on the dam in 2022. The lake is closed to fishing at this time. NDOW conducted a fish salvage in December and moved some very nice brown trout ranging in size from eight to 25 inches into Comins Lake. A few of the larger brown trout were pushing seven pounds. Cave Lake is closed to fishing due to shorelines that are very soft and dangerous due to the complete saturation of the soil as the lake is drained. By draining the lake it should shave a couple of years off the re-building of the dam and cut costs tremendously. It will also make the project much safer for those performing the work.

COMINS LAKEIce is best at the south end with approximately nine to 12 inches of good ice. Thinner at the north end. It is starting to get slick in spots. Anglers report good fishing for 15 to 18-inch rainbows on night crawlers. A few anglers also appeared to be doing well using PowerBait. Soft plastic jigs tipped with a worm should also be effective. Pike anglers have had some success using artificial minnows jigged through the ice for 12 to 18 inch fish. Anglers, please note that NDOW has placed radio tags in several Northern Pike. These pike will have an orange floy tag near their dorsal fin and a small antenna (~ 7 inches long) coming from their stomach. Please return these fish to the water for research purposes. All other pike should be humanely dispatched.

ILLIPAHAt last check the road into the lake still hadn’t been plowed and with the warmer weather expect springtime muddy road conditions so it is 4WD only into the lake. Throw in a set of chains and a shovel so that your fishing trip doesn’t get cut short by getting stuck on the way in. Expect six to 10 inches of ice here but be sure to drill test holes before venturing too far onto the ice. Like the other lakes in the area expect slick conditions on the ice. The usual nightcrawlers or PowerBait should work here as well as dark colored soft plastic jigs tipped with a worm.

ANGEL LAKE

The road to Angel Lake is closed for the winter and the lake is ice covered and there will be no more fishing reports until late spring or early summer depending upon snowfall this winter.

ALPINE LAKES

Alpine lakes are frozen over and there will be no more fishing reports until late spring or early summer depending upon snowfall. Travel into the high mountains at this time is not recommended due to avalanche conditions.

STREAMSNot a lot of change from last week though flows have dropped in streams north of I80 and stayed the same south of I80. Expect springtime driving conditions with frozen roads in the morning but muddy on the way out once it warms up. Access is iffy to many of these waters. Anglers need to go into Idaho to access the Bruneau and the Jarbidge. Shorelines are slippery and can be dangerous with ice, snow and mud. With colder water temperatures expect stream fishing to be slow. Fish the deeper pools and slower water where the fish hang out this time of year to conserve energy. As of January 13, the East Fork of the Owyhee near Mountain City was flowing at 45 cfs, the Bruneau River is showing ice but expect flows around 20 cfs, the Jarbidge at 7.1cfs, Salmon Falls Creek at 57 cfs, Lamoille Creek at 3.3 cfs, the South Fork of the Humboldt between 8 and 15 cfs, Cleve Creek at 4.7 cfs, Steptoe Creek at 2.3 cfs and Kingston Creek at 2.7 cfs.

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