SHERIDAN — With temperatures plummeting this week, the winter outdoors season has arrived. While that closes off several recreational activities, it also opens the door for several new ones.

With that in mind, here is a quick overview of what you need to know to enjoy the ice fishing season in the Sheridan region. Sheridan-region Wyoming Game and Fish Department Public Information Specialist Christina Schmidt said anglers sometimes forget to renew their fishing licenses when the calendar year changes over in January.

As of January 2019, Schmidt said fishing licenses are valid for 12 months from their purchase date, meaning people who recently obtained a license will not have to purchase a new one at the start of 2020.

 

Safety tips

Andrew Nikirk, a fisheries biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said he usually does not consider ice fishing until the ice on a body of water is at least six inches thick, and said anglers should wait until there is a minimum of four inches of ice before fishing.

“Some folks are a little more aggressive and will push two and three inches but it is certainly not recommended,” Nikirk said.

In addition to being mindful of the strength of the ice, Nikirk said anglers should always bring a friend on ice fishing trips. He recommended they also bring rope, personal flotation devices and a set of ice picks — worn around the neck — in case someone falls through the ice.

And, of course, temperatures will be frigid during the winter and Nikirk said anglers should be sure to dress warmly.

“Most of all, it’s common sense,” Nikirk said. “If it doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t.”

 

Gear

The bare essentials for ice fishing, Nikirk said, are: a hand auger or spud bar, an ice-scoop, rod and reel, assortment of jigs and lures, bait and a five-gallon bucket — useful for both transporting gear and sitting on, he noted.

More advanced ice anglers may carry more advanced gear, he noted, like power augers, sonar flashers and underwater cameras. Those tools are expensive, however, and unnecessary for ice fishers who are just starting out. Protection from the sun while ice fishing is often overlooked, but critical, Nikirk said. He said anyone planning an ice fishing trip should be sure to bring along sunglasses and sunscreen.

“My worst sunburn ever was from a day of ice fishing,” he warned.

 

Ice fishing locations in the Sheridan Region

Schmidt noted that regulations vary at different fishing locations and encouraged anglers to familiarize themselves with the rules at their chosen venue before taking to the ice. Nikirk suggested several fisheries with a wide array of species available for the catching.

Lake DeSmet — DeSmet is well-stocked with trout, perch and “the occasional walleye.” DeSmet is one of two local ice fishing locations where ice fishers are allowed to have up to six lines in the water; regulations limit anglers to two lines at most ice fishing venues in the Sheridan region.

Keyhole Reservoir — Fishers can expect to find walleyes, crappies, perch, northern pike and catfish at the Keyhole Reservoir. Keyhole is the other local venue where anglers can have up to six lines in the water; regulations limit them to two lines at all of the remaining locations.

Healy Reservoir — Healy is stocked with perch, largemouth bass and tiger muskie.

Sibley Lake — Anglers can expect to find trout under Sibley Lake’s icy top.

Tie Hack Reservoir — Fishers will also find trout at Tie Hack.

Kleenburn Ponds — The Kleenburn Ponds are home to trout, perch, crappie and catfish.

Muddy Guard Reservoir #2 — Anglers can expect to find trout at Muddy Guard Reservoir #2.

He added that Muddy Guard Reservoir #1 is also available to ice fishers but said the area has special regulations. Anglers are only permitted to use flies and lures while fishing at Muddy Guard #1 and are limited to catching only one creel fish, which must be over 20 inches.