By: Mike Ainsworth
In town for a skication in the Rockies I took an opportunity to go ice fishing on Colorado’s Stagecoach Reservoir. Stagecoach is a popular and productive destination in the Steamboat Springs area and I’d heard that fishing was good this winter. After spending a few hours on the ice the trip didn’t disappoint. I literally have no idea how many trout we caught, but do know the number was upwards of 50 and we didn’t fish long. Action was non-stop.
In addition to some walleye and pike I was told that browns were available, but rainbows are the dominant cold water species. On this afternoon trip we only caught rainbows. On the other hand, we caught piles of them. The bows were anywhere from 12-20 inches and all the trout were healthy. They aren’t malnourished, that’s for sure. We even caught a number of holdovers, which had stunning colors.
The ice fishing was excellent and the techniques we used were simple. We used six-pound test and employed a 1/8-ounce chartreuse jig head and small white tube (I’m not sure the exact size, but you can see it in the photo). With just the jig action wasn’t hot. Meanwhile, when we tipped them with Pink Shrimp, Chartreuse Anise and Red with Glitter Fire Balls bites were plenty.
The purpose of tipping the jigs was to add scent to the hardware. Tipping ice fishing jigs with various bait is standard practice. We use the Fire Balls for trout all the time where I’m from and I knew the scent was everlasting. The guide we went with normally tips his jigs with night crawlers. Meanwhile, I went to a local sporting goods store, bought the Fire Balls and tipped them throughout the trip with great success.
Speaking of scent I knew where were a lot of crawfish in the lake and brought a bottle of Mike’s Extra Strength Crawfish Oil to lube my jigs with. I think the guide was surprised how well the scent worked, but given the amount of crawdads in the lake it didn’t surprise me. Some of the larger trout have to be eating crawfish. We alternated between the crawfish oil and Fire Balls to make sure the fish didn’t get conditioned to the baits.
While I’m not here daily I don’t believe getting on the water at first light is imperative. We didn’t start until 2 pm and kept busy reeling fish in until sundown. Our guide had a fish finder to locate where the trout were in the water column and most of them were near the bottom. We fished in 15 feet of water and found most of the action to be within the bottom third.
*Special Note: Ainsworth was guided on this day by Yampa Valley Anglers. To book a trip with them please visit https://www.yampavalleyanglers.com.
Editor’s Note: Guide Mike Ainsworth travels the world to catch fish of all sizes. When home in Washington he operates First Light Guide Service. To learn more about his guided trips please visit www.firstlightguideservice.com.