Sheridan: Ice fishing opportunities for trout and other popular game fish abound in Northeast Wyoming. Although most of the ice on these waters is not yet safe to fish through, good ice is expected to form soon.
Muddy Guard Reservoir #1 south of Buffalo is likely to produce some nice trout this winter. At Muddy Guard, all trout less than 20 inches must be immediately released. The possession limit is one trout. No bait is allowed, artificial flies or lures only.
Healy Reservoir will again provide good ice fishing for yellow perch. Other species include Snake River Cutthroat trout, splake, largemouth bass, walleye and perhaps some small tiger muskellunge that were stocked in late 2012.
Lake DeSmet is notorious for developing pressure ridges and pockets of unsafe ice, through which vehicles may fall. Driving on ice is not recommended on any lake, particularly Lake DeSmet. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and yellow perch will provide much of the action for ice anglers at Lake DeSmet this winter. An occasional large brown trout or walleye is a possibility as well. Anglers may use commercially produced live minnows at Lake DeSmet and Healy.
Many alpine lakes and reservoirs along the east side of the Bighorns provide excellent ice fishing. Willow, Park, and Kearny reservoirs, Sibley Lake and Tie Hack Reservoir provide good winter fishing. Anglers need to be aware that the water level at Tie Hack may fluctuate, making ice unstable. Lake trout are available at Kearny Reservoir and Twin Lakes.
According to sampling data, there are decent numbers of 12- to 16-inch walleye and abundant 8- to 10-inch crappie in Keyhole Reservoir. There is also the possibility of catching a legal, 30-inch or longer, northern pike. Along with Lake DeSmet, Keyhole is one of the Wyoming waters where special winter ice fishing regulations are in effect. It is legal to use hand lines, set lines, poles or tip-ups provided no person uses more than six lines.
A less well-known ice fishing spot in northeast Wyoming is LAK Reservoir near Newcastle which offers a good variety of fish such as walleye, tiger muskellunge, smallmouth bass, as well as an occasional brown trout.
Check ice for thickness before venturing out onto it, and continue to check every 100 to 150 feet. Clear ice four inches thick is usually safe for fishing. Clear ice is stronger than cloudy ice (often called white ice), which has frozen, thawed and refrozen. White ice can also include air bubbles or be formed from frozen snow. White ice is much weaker than clear ice. For white ice, double the recommended thickness.
Low water temperatures can be life-threatening. Hypothermia is a serious risk for anyone who falls through the ice. Ice fishermen should know how to recognize and to treat hypothermia and should always have dry clothing and hot liquids close at hand.
Don’t forget to buy your 2013 fishing license and conservation stamp prior to going out next year. A lifetime fishing license or conservation stamp makes a great gift for the angler on your list. Check current regulations each year and before fishing any unfamiliar water. Ice fishing is a great opportunity to take a young person fishing. Be safe and have fun ice fishing this winter.