by Justin Brenner, Angler's Covey Guide
As the sun takes a higher plane in the late spring, warm chinook winds blow and start to melt the icy edges of our favorite lakes and reservoirs. This is the ice-out phenomenon. Breaking out of their winter lethargy, trout will cruise the warmer shallows in search of food. Although the unpredictable spring weather conditions can be for the hardy, the rewards can produce some of the largest trout of the season.
Trout this time of year can be extremely voracious! They’ve been stuck under the ice for months with limited hatches. The melting of the ice pushes oxygen into the water driving trout to put on the feed bag. A few of the best places to start are inlets, shallow coves, northern shorelines, and wind prevailing shorelines.
Inlets that have open water can be very productive. First, these areas are the most oxygenated portion of the lake. Food from the stream or river will also attract trout to inlets. This combination -- richly oxygenated water with an abundant food source -- brings a crowd. Lastly, inlets are the entrance and exit to the spawning grounds. Trout will tend to congregate around inlets before, during, and after the spawn. Egg imitations can be a good idea along with baitfish, leech, scud, chironomid, and crayfish patterns. Stripping or suspending these imitations around territorial spawners can be deadly!
Coves and windblown shorelines are also a good bet during and after ice-off. They can be especially productive spots when they are among the only areas that are ice free. I’ve had phenomenal days when the ice was barely melted from the edge, maybe 30 feet or so, and could cast my indicator and rig onto the ice and slowly let it drop off the edge. On occasion, after hooking up with a bruiser, I’ve had to hold my rod tip underwater to reduce the risk of breaking off on the ice edge.
A good rule of thumb during ice-out is to keep working the shoreline till you find trout. Once you find fish, the chances are good that there’s more around. Particularly with spring spawners, they tend to pod into groups. For the first few weeks, it’s probably wise to leave the boats and tubes at home. Most fish will be within casting distance from shore. This
can be the most magical time of year and possibly your best chance on some of the biggest stillwater trout of the year. There's really no need to be to the lake at sun up. As the water warms during the day, the afternoons can often times be the best times.
Good luck and also be prepared for what may be lurking out from underneath the ice. We have heard from the folks at Colorado Parks and Wildlife that opening dat for Spinney Reservoir is April 1st - so mark your calendars and get ready for an amazing start!
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Early season stillwater Fundamentals-Classroom