February 25, 2019
Story and photos by Jennie Hutchinson
The ice was 20 inches thick and it was the middle of January. I knew I’d have to bundle up to keep warm, but I was excited to spend the day fishing with family and friends.
Ice fishing that is. The kind of fishing that was described to me as “fun.” Of course, the people I was with will go fishing any day of the week. They live to fish. Snow and cold just mix it up a bit: A different set of clothing, another set of gear, and a new mode of transportation.
We decided to meet at Boysen Reservoir at Trout Bay Campground. Boysen Reservoir near Shoshoni, Wyoming is a state park and known for year-round fishing. There are 19,560 acres of water with 76 miles of shoreline. All I needed was snacks, water, and my camera gear.
Everyone had already set up the campers when I got there, and no one was around. I could see Rachel and Mike far out on the ice with their friends. An ice hut was going up and Amanda and Jason were drilling the holes and getting their tip-up’s ready. It looked like little towns on the ice. Each group had its chairs, huts, coolers, tools (auger, ice skimmer, bait, and lures) and beverages.
Mike explained about the line, weight, and bobber and how to determine the water depth. We were hoping to catch walleye, sauger, ling and catfish. They are all bottom feeders, so it was important to set the line right.
The sun was out, the sky was blue, and the snow was so white. It was breathtaking to see the expanse of the reservoir as it blended into the horizon of the Owl Creek Mountains in the distance. Winter has its own beauty with another set of colors from nature’s palette, and the light brings a new set of shadows and depth to the eyes.
I asked Mike and Rachel why they ice fish. They replied, “It’s something to do in winter. We don’t snowmobile or ski, and winters can get long in Wyoming. Ice fishing is a great way to get outside.”
It was just two years ago they made the investment in ice fishing equipment and they have been hooked ever since. Rachel and Mike always go together. Mike says, “It’s nice to have an extra hand while you’re setting up the lines.” Sometimes they invite friends to come along too. The law allows six lines per person while ice fishing. That’s a lot of work to set up and then put away! No wonder they bring along friends like me!
Every now and again someone would ride around and ask how the fishing was. There was no competition or jealousy in this group, just camaraderie that comes from the love of fishing no matter the temperature or weather. No one is in a hurry—unless they spot a flag up on the tip-up letting them know they’ve hooked one—and the conversation is light with lots of laughter. Sometimes there’s just silence as we stand around the fishing hole watching the shadows move or the sun go down.
Will I go ice fishing again? Sure I will. Maybe I will even put down my camera gear and actually fish next time. Fishing of any kind takes some patience, but what’s your hurry when you’ve got a view like this and a weekend in the middle of winter. I’m hooked.
I was glad I was with seasoned fisher people who know how to spot bad ice (pressure ridges, cracks, holes, and water flows). Be prepared and know how to be safe. The weather can change quickly, causing whiteout conditions on the ice. Go with friends and be smart.