Lake John a top state ice-fish­ing des­ti­na­tion

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Terry Wick­strom Join Terry every Satur­day at 8 a.m. for all your out­door in­for­ma­tion on Terry Wick­strom Out­doors FM 104.3 The Fan.

An ini­tia­tive by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to bal­ance the preda­tor prey re­la­tion­ship in the North Park lakes may have re­sulted in Lake John be­com­ing one of Colorado’s pre­mier ice­fish­ing des­ti­na­tions for this sea­son.

Lake John, just ou­side of Walden, hap­pens to have one of the fastest growth rates for trout in Colorado (about an inch per month in the open-wa­ter pe­riod). It is a fairly weedy lake with abun­dant for­age in­clud­ing scuds, fresh­wa­ter shrimp and min­nows.

Re­cently the min­now pop­u­la­tion ex­ploded. This has re­sulted in fat, healthy trout. It does, how­ever, present some prob­lems. With so much to eat, the fish can be­come very dif­fi­cult to catch. And even­tu­ally the min­nows can out­com­pete the smaller trout for the other food sources.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife de­vel­oped a five-year plan for the North Park lakes. A part of that plan for Lake John was heavy stock­ing of trout. Dur­ing the past year, about three times as many trout as usual have been stocked. Late fall and into this win­ter, the plan seems to be work­ing. The num­ber of min­nows seems to have di­min­ished and an­gler catch rates are sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing.

While the ice cap on Lake John was about six inches ac­cord­ing to the Dec. 20 fish­ing re­port, CPW says to use cau­tion while walk­ing on the ice. Lake John is one of sev­eral Colorado lakes that al­lows mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles on the ice when con­di­tions are right.

“Things are get­ting to the point where I think we’re on sched­ule for peo­ple to be driv­ing trucks on it by the first of the year, for sure,” said Bill Wil­cox from Lake John Re­sort.

The real draw at Lake John is the di­ver­sity of year classes of trout and qual­ity of the fish. Even the very small trout stocked ear­lier this year are a good “catch­able size” pro­vid­ing con­stant ac­tion and there are al­ready re­ports of sev­eral fish in the 6- to 8-pound range.

“The fun thing is, the ac­tion is there now,” Wil­cox said. “It’s not a dull wait, where it’d prob­a­bly be good for even the kids to come up.”

Th­ese fish are fat and healthy. Don’t be sur­prised if the mon­ster you think you have on the line turns out to be a 14-inch foot­ball. Th­ese fish can pull for their length.

“The wa­ter is gin clear, you can see the bot­tom ab­so­lutely like look­ing through a pane of glass,” Wil­cox said. “If you’re just not see­ing fish then it’s time to move, but that rarely is the case.”

No one par­tic­u­lar tac­tic seems to be the best and Wil­cox says don’t be afraid to change your pre­sen­ta­tion if you’re not catch­ing fish. Two pre­sen­ta­tions to try are a gulp min­now on a jig head or a spoon like a Swedish pim­ple.

If you need some bait or a snack, stop by the Lake John Re­sort. While you’re there, have a cup of cof­fee and get a few tips from Wil­cox on what’s been work­ing re­cently. In fact it’s not a bad idea to rent one of the cab­ins at the re­sort and use it as a base to fish the en­tire North Park area. If you just want to fish Lake John, the cab­ins are a very short walk from the wa­ter.

There are also ice fish­ing tour­na­ments held an­nu­ally on the North Park lakes. The Lake John Cow­dery Tour­na­ment is a two-day event from Jan. 14-15. The Delaney Lakes Tour­na­ment is on Feb. 4.

For in­for­ma­tion on cur­rent con­di­tions at Lake John, go to lake­john­re­ or

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