Lake John a top state ice-fishing destination
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 lakejohnresort.com or cpw.state.co.us.