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A six-pack of Nevada waterways that make winter anglers work a bit harder for their catch.
Photo: Dini Esplin
News anchor Tom Brokaw once said, “If fishing is a religion, fly-fishing is high church.” If that’s the case, then ice fishermen—the most devoted and patient of all anglers—are surely monks. Luckily for those monastic men and women, Nevada is home to a hallowed few frozen temples of the tackle box.
Despite the state’s desert reputation, the ice at Cave Lake, Comins Lake, Eagle Valley Reservoir, South Fork Reservoir, Wild Horse Reservoir, and Wilson Reservoir is generally safe through much of the winter, and the water below it produces fish that make the long, cold hours worth every numb finger and toe.CAVE LAKE
Perhaps the most popular ice-fishing destination in Nevada, Cave Lake sits 15 miles southeast of Ely via U.S. Highway 93 and State Route 486. The main attraction of Cave Lake State Park, the reservoir is a favorite fishery in all seasons and produces wild brown trout and stocked rainbow trout.
The angler-centric organization Take Me Fishing recently named Cave Lake State Park to its list of the top eight state parks in the country, due in no small part to the lake’s reputation as a stalwart location to drop a line.
The lake’s winter ice can reach up to two feet thick during the coldest part of winter thanks to its high altitude (7,300 feet) and abundant shade provided by the imposing ridges of the Schell Creek Range. During Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, Cave Lake hosts the White Pine Fire & Ice Show (see slideshow here) January 19-20, 2013. The event features an ice- and snow-sculpting competition on the lake’s frozen surface followed by an exceptional fireworks display. Fishermen take the lake back in force the following weekend during the Ely Rotary Club’s annual Cave Lake Ice Fishing Derby.COMINS LAKE
Just off Highway 93, a few miles south of Ely, Comins Lake was created in 1953 to facilitate a highway realignment. Today, the shallow 410-acre reservoir is a frequently visited eastern Nevada fishing hole that produces brown and rainbow trout, and invasive Northern Pike. Cold winters produce ice of a safe thickness to fish, but warm afternoons can make the shoreline ice very soft.
EAGLE VALLEY RESERVOIR
The southernmost of Nevada’s ice-fishing destinations, Eagle Valley Reservoir in Spring Valley State Park owes its occasional winter ice to its diminutive size (65 acres at capacity), relatively high altitude (5,836 feet), and the deep, shaded canyon it occupies. Though challenging to reach when winter snow blocks S.R. 322 from Pioche, the lake produces sizeable rainbow trout to make up for the added effort of accessing it.SOUTH FORK RESERVOIR
Nevada Magazine blog contributor and ice-fishing skeptic Jay Dudley was won over by the fishing at South Fork State Recreation Area (read his story at nevadamag.blogspot.com) when friends convinced him to give it a try in March 2010. Perhaps Dudley was impressed by the lake’s ease of access from Elko and Spring Creek (16 and nine miles, respectively, via S.R. 228, S.R. 227, and Lower South Fork Road) and by the plump two-pound brown, cutbow, and rainbow trout that anglers reportedly pull from beneath the ice. Typically slower to freeze and faster to thaw than neighboring ice-fishing destinations such as Wild Horse and Wilson Reservoirs, South Fork’s ice-fishing season usually spans January to February.WILD HORSE RESERVOIR
The centerpiece of Wild Horse State Recreation Area, 67 miles north of Elko via S.R. 225, is Wild Horse Reservoir. A popular year-round fishing destination, the lake’s high altitude (6,205 feet) and latitude make it one of the state’s beloved ice-fishing destinations. Most anglers at Wild Horse pursue rainbow trout, but the lake also holds German brown trout and yellow perch.
Winters at Wild Horse are among the coldest in Nevada, and though the ice varies from year to year, it is generally safe to fish from December through March. The annual Wild Horse Ice Fishing Derby is scheduled for February 16-17, 2013—weather and ice conditions permitting.WILSON RESERVOIR
Perhaps the hardest to reach of all of Nevada’s ice-fishing destinations, Wilson Reservoir’s unpaved access road is occasionally rendered impassible by winter storms. Anglers who endure the 90-mile one-way trek from Elko by way of S.R. 225, S.R. 226, and various dirt roads are rewarded with what the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority calls “great trout fishing” and all the solitude their hearts desire. Fishermen are encouraged to call the Bureau of Land Management’s Elko District Office for road conditions before trekking to Wilson.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Cave Lake State Park
PO Box 151761
Ely, NV 89315
Eagle Valley Reservoir
Spring Valley State Park
HC 74 Box 201
Pioche, NV 89043
South Fork State Recreation Area
353 Lower South Fork #8
Spring Creek, NV 89815
Wild Horse State Recreation Area
HC 31 Box 265
Elko, NV 89801
Bureau of Land Management,
3900 E. Idaho St.
Elko, NV 89801
WORTH A CLICK
Elko Convention and Visitors Authority
Fish the West
Nevada Department of Wildlife
Though the ice at all of these lakes is generally thick enough to fish starting in December or January, conditions can vary greatly, so much so that Cave Lake State Park had to cancel the White Pine Fire & Ice Show and the Ely Rotary Club’s annual fishing derby this year. Inquire locally for up-to-date ice conditions, and be prepared to change ice-fishing plans on short notice.