Local fishing still kicking through the wintry weather
Steamboat Springs — There’s a reason snapshots of some of the biggest fish reeled in from local waters also feature deep snowbanks in the background and bundled-up anglers.
“You get a chance at some of your biggest fish sometimes in the winter because these fish are opportunistic if they see something they want,” Straightline Sports guide Mike Maroney said.
As temperatures drop like they did in a big way on New Year’s Eve, the water temperatures in places like the Yampa River and the Stagecoach Reservoir tailwaters follow. Unlike in the summer when species’ metabolisms are high and the energy levels are at a peak, the winter slows everything down, leaving lazier fish willing to go after what is already there.
Like Straightline experts, Steamboat Flyfisher owner Johnny Spillane said he and his guides tend to take their clients to the Sarvis Creek area as well as the tailwaters by the Stagecoach dam. There, they’ll eye primarily rainbow and brown trout species in more stagnant areas.
“Generally, you’re fishing slower, deeper water, working bigger holes for longer periods and small flies,” Spillane said. “All the bugs you get in winter are tiny — some black stone flies or little midges, stuff like that.”
Fishing of all kinds is one of the hottest outdoors activities for locals and visitors during the summer, when fish in the Yampa and nearby reservoirs are more willing to feast in rapid water.
But it certainly doesn’t stop in the winter, especially in the later months of February, March and April. Fish tend to be less picky and school together in the colder winter waters, meaning if you land one, you’re likely to get more in the same area, Maroney said.
That doesn’t mean winter angling is without the thrill of the challenge, Maroney added. The fish may not be as choosy, but they also aren’t eating quite as much. With a slower metabolism in cold weather, they won’t seek food all day.
Winter fishing also can spell a brief break from vacation skiing. Spillane said Steamboat Flyfisher gets about a half-dozen guided-trip bookings per week this time of year, numbers that will pick up significantly a few months from now.
“We get a lot of folks who came to Steamboat not necessarily knowing they were going to go fishing, but then they see people fishing or see the great river we have right here, and they’re curious about it,” he said.
The fully equipped guided experience — offered by all outfitters in town, including Steamboat Flyfisher, Straightline and Bucking Rainbow — can be done on public and private waters leased by the businesses. In the winter, it often includes a snowmobile trip in, particularly with the private waters south of town and near Stagecoach.
With open waters like Stagecoach now frozen over, ice fishing — and guided ice fishing — also are available. On top of landing a large fish, ice fishing can net a bucket full, making it an enjoyable experience for adults and kids alike.
The annual Steamboat Great Outdoors Ice Fishing Tournament will be this Sunday beginning at 9 a.m.
“It can be a lot of fun, especially if you have little kids,” Spillane said about ice fishing. “It’s a really easy way to catch a bunch of fish.”