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Freezing temperatures mean it’s almost time for ice fishing

Updated December 8, 2021 - 1:43 pm

Cold. Really cold. As in single-digit temperatures overnight kind of cold.

That is what the National Weather Service is forecasting this week in parts of Nevada, which means ice over cometh to central and northern Nevada. Popular fishing destinations will soon turn into hard-water fisheries.

To the far north, Wildhorse Reservoir in Elko County still had enough open water for boaters as late as Friday, but the coves were icing over. With daytime highs topping out in the low-20s, the open water is sure to freeze up quickly.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife stocked the reservoir with about 50,000 trout this fall, which means anglers willing to make the trip will find good fishing once the ice is thick enough to support anglers.

This reservoir also is a popular destination for perch enthusiasts. Wildhorse is located north of Elko on State Route 225. Far enough from Las Vegas that you will want to make a trip there a multi-day event. Nearby Wild Horse State Recreation Area has cabins for rent year-round.

By the way, that is not a typo, you will find the name Wildhorse spelled in both the single-word and two-word version in use for facilities surrounding the reservoir.

Another place to have on your ice-fishing radar is Comins Lake. Known for producing heavy-bodied trout that often reach into the 20-inch range, this lake is located 7 miles south of Ely and just four hours from Las Vegas. Its location makes finding comfortable sleeping accommodations an easy task, and you can always send your buddy into town for a warm beverage.

Comins freezes earlier and thaws later than other reservoirs, so the ice fishing season is generous. As of Dec. 2, Comins was already about 60 percent ice covered with open water still found along the north and west shorelines. Friday’s low is expected to drop near zero, so it will not be long before hard-water anglers can drop a line.

Cave Lake, just minutes away from Comins, is another popular fishery, but the water is being drained so repairs can be completed on the dam. While that takes the reservoir out of play for a while, it could be a boon to Comins anglers because NDOW salvaged the fish from Cave Lake and released them in Comins.

Closer to Las Vegas are Eagle Valley Reservoir and Echo Canyon Reservoir, located respectively in Spring Valley and Echo Canyon State Parks east of Pioche. They are only about 30 minutes apart, so it is easy to transition from one to the other if fishing is slow. When the roads are clear, these reservoirs are about 3½ hours from the Las Vegas Valley.

Ice is starting to form, but warm daytime temperatures have kept it on the thin side. While Friday’s low is expected to drop into single digits, daytime highs should remain just above the freezing mark during the coming week. Eagle Valley generally ices over before Echo Canyon and receives the most attention from anglers. It also produces some good brown trout through the hard water.

The reservoirs at Kirch Wildlife Management Area – Sunnyside to old timers – also provide excellent fishing when they ice over, but the ice fishing season is relatively short when it happens. Some years the ice never really reaches the point where fishing on these waters is a possibility, but they are good to have on your radar just in case.

Be sure to verify ice conditions before making the trip. Not even the biggest fish is worth a fall through the ice.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com

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