Fishing, cool as ice
Yeah, it's cold.
I get it.
But there's reason to get out and get up to Jackson Gulch Reservoir at Mancos State Park.
The ice fishing is hot.
So hot, that even this ice angler that's long laid dormant like Mount Rainier, was on fire Thursday morning.
While my ice fishing inactivity compared to Mount Rainier's dormancy, is, well, a bit of an exaggeration, I was surprised with how well I did.
I haven't ice fished since I was in high school more than a decade ago.
However, when Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager of Mancos State Park, Scot Elder, emailed me about the "fantastic" rainbow trout and yellow perch being hooked through the ice at Jackson Lake, I jumped (in spirit) at the chance to see for myself.
Nestled in the San Juan National Forest, the lake lies west of the snow-covered, jagged La Plata Mountains. A very picturesque southwestern Colorado setting, to say the least.
I parked on the dam and greeted an excited Elder, who also was eager to do some ice fishing.
Journal photo editor Sam Green and I trudged down a snow trail on the dam toward the ice. Elder led the way with a motorized ice auger on one shoulder and a bucket of tackle in his other hand.
The three of us were the only people on the ice, as we were shielded from the wind on the most peaceful of Colorado winter settings.
Elder pulled the cord on the ice auger and drilled away. Three fishing holes were carved through 10 inches of thick ice. At least four inches of ice is safe for people to walk on, Elder said.
I grabbed my small, light ice fishing pole and baited the jig head with a piece of work near the southwest corner of the lake.
Letting the bait sink to the bottom, the key was to gradually bob the bait up and down.
Just like that, Elder hooked a yellow perch. And, just like that, I hooked a yellow perch.
These small pan fish are very good to eat, battered and deep fried, of course. But it was catch and release for us Thursday.
Shortly after hooking a perch, Elder landed a rainbow trout.
Things were off to a good start.
I caught a couple more perch and then moved closer to the west bank, where Elder drilled more fishing holes.
It took a few minutes, but a school or pod of rainbows came through.
Elder caught another and I had one get off of my hook.
Elder caught another and I had one, or the same one, get off of my hook, again.
It appeared I was a bit rusty in setting the hook when fishing on the water surface.
One thing years of angling will teach a person, is patience.
I re-baited the hook and started bobbing my line up and down.
Again, the trout bit. But this time, it was mine.
The feisty rainbow trout felt like it was going to bend the rod in half. When I landed the rainbow, it was only a 10 to 12 inch fish. It was a satisfactory rush, nonetheless. But I couldn't help but think of the fight a 20-inch German brown trout would put up.
While we waited for that elusive trophy brown, the rainbows came in droves.
One by one, Elder and I were catching rainbows like Colorado Rockies Gold Glover Carlos Gonzalez catches fly balls.
Some rainbows were more colorful than others.
Some bigger than others.
And, some hungrier than others.
Minutes after a rainbow slipped out of Elder's hands back into the water with Elder's jig head still hooked in its mouth, let's just say, we got the jig head back.
I soon landed a rainbow with two hooks, the one of course not attached to fishing line.
In all my years of any kind of fishing, that was a first - to catch a fish right after someone else had just caught it.
I kid you not.
Elder and I couldn't help but laugh, as it was simply one of those enjoyable late morning, early afternoons out on the ice.
The trophy brown never came. But Jackson Lake lived up to its billing.
As Elder puts it, ice fishing at Jackson Lake is indeed a good way to "cure a little cabin fever."
With restrooms and potable water on site, ice fishing in Mancos State Park is definitely a good activity to do this winter, without having to hike miles into Sasquatch country, if you're into that?
I'm glad I took Elder up on his offer to go ice fishing.
It's one of the many perks that makes my job fun.